The Health Care Spectator

No Free Lunch After All!

The key ingredient in the free market pie.

By 12.10.13

Abri le Roux (Flikr Creative Commons)
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The late, great Milton Friedman used to say, there's no such thing as a free lunch. The ancient Romans had another pointed saying: "Quod erat demonstrandum," meaning, roughly, remember now what I told you, doofus?

To put it another way, is there room for surprise in the report that high deductibles may contribute to making Obamacare something less than the divine blessing its authors meant it to be? For all the comforting promises out of D.C., relayed to the general public with profound sweetness, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Someone always pays. To believe otherwise is a) to believe money grows on trees, or b) not to care, so long as someone else picks up the check.

Obamacare's underlying philosophy is b ). In other words, a Democratic Congress, at the instigation of the White House, planned all along that good old Peter would pay Paul in the name of good old income redistribution.

Quod erat demonstrandum. According to a comparative study by HealthPocket Inc., there's a reason bottom-of-the-line "bronze" plans sold under Obamacare are bottom-of-the-line. You pay less up front in purchasing one of these plans because the real costs come later. In all but two of the 36 states participating in the federally run marketplace, the average individual deductible is $5,0812 a year. This compares with an average of $3,589 in 2013. The "typical" cost of a baby born through normal delivery — $6,150 — "would be almost entirely an out-of-pocket expense for a person holding a bronze policy" with deductible at that level, explains the Wall Street Journal.

You might, at certain income levels, receive federal help for premiums or deductibles. That still leaves hundreds of thousands of us, as the Journal notes, faced with the Hobson's choice of buying a higher-cost policy — "silver" or "gold" or "platinum" — or scraping by with less medical care to avoid unreimbursed services.

It is not that Congress and the White House invented deductibles — ceilings underneath which the client pays before reaching the level at which the insurance company payments kick in. The pretense here was all along that Obamacare would level access to health care, the federal government, with its superior knowledge, figuring out the level of necessary care. The White House's steady, on-message assurances that we could keep our existing doctors and hospital plans were designed as white noise to drown out concerns about the true cost.

A society bred up since the 1960s to understand government "benefits" as magically paid for by magical "others" was supposed to look the other way as D.C. passed the hat to the middle class types that Democrats always portray as oppressed.

Boy, are they oppressed now, bearing upon their backs nearly the whole burden of funding Obamacare in the absence of enough "millionaires and billionaires" to make the program possible. Who took away the free lunch?

Consumers who formerly were entitled to shop around for the premium-deductible combination that best suited their needs and pocketbooks have been told — the truth is on the table at last — to shut up and do things the government's way. Consumers can't even abstain from purchasing a policy. Big Brother has his eye on them — the doofuses who doubted his free-lunch promises all along, as well as those who gobbled each promise with chocolate sauce.

No economist ever spoke more inspirationally than Friedman in behalf of choice as the key ingredient in the free market pie. We choose at the risk of being wrong, as also on the hope, the expectation of being right; such was his notion.

"Free" never meant privileged to walk the check at the house's expense. It meant free to work and plan and plan and work. The present White House doesn't much care for either of those avenues of personal expression. The present White House can do the planning, thanks, and announce the results.

Work? There's another foreign concept. Maybe the "1 percent" can do whatever we need. We get that impression, don't we?

COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM

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About the Author

William Murchison is a Dallas-based columnist for Creators Syndicate. His latest book is The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson.