Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Second Thoughts On Health Insurance Reform

Speaker of the state House of Representatives James Amann has introduced a cautionary note into the discussion of universal health care.

"If you think we're going to conquer the world next year and get everybody covered,” Amann said, “it would be a miracle. I'm sure the governor would love to sign that bill. I think if we concentrate on the kids with a program we have called HUSKY, which is one of the best in the nation, improving that and creating more access and more prevention, we can at least conquer that [this] year."

State financed “universal health care” always presents problems involving unintended consequences. A federal universal health care program would drive insurance companies from the field; unable to compete with a compelled tax supported system, they would simply go out of business. This would present problems also, possibly for Connecticut since the insurance industry is still fairly strong here. For instance, how would we recover the taxes lost by the disappearance of one of Connecticut’s strongest industries?

But state financed "universal health care" presents a different set of unintended consequences. Once you create a state financed out of the box alternative insurance system, you are encouraging insurance providers to dump their problems into the box. You cannot prevent this without establishing a permanent regulatory structure that will monitor business and provide sanctions for companies that dump problematic clients into the box, and that requires regulations, penalties and additional staff to monitor compliance, all costly. Then too, if the insurance companies do not wish to be muscled by Connecticut regulators, they can always follow Allstate’s example and pull up stakes, moving into a more business friendly arena. Amann’s hesitation, before plunging off the cliff of a comprehensive state sponsored “universal health care” plan, is an indication that the legislature, dominated by Democrats, may be sensible of unintended consequences – which is good, because once you’ve opened the lid on the bottle and set the genie free, it’s just hell getting him back in.

It is said that Amman has a touch of the conservative in him; where he contracted this disease no one knows, certainly not from reading leftist bloggers or just out of journalism school quasi socialist political commentators. Perhaps it is ingrained. There is something in the atmosphere of the state that lends itself to caution and second thoughts. At first thought, robbing a bank is a relatively effortless way to acquire capital. But, on second thought, your mom would lose her respect for you; and, then too, the police do not always sleep.

Gov. Jodi Rell also seems to be somewhat blighted with the disease. One cannot imagine her sitting beside a guillotine darning socks while the heads of the high and mighty roll into the basket. Neither she nor Amann are revolutionaries – so called Big Thinkers, throbbing with subversive ideas. Rell’s opponent in the recent gubernatorial election, the estimable John DeStefano, Mayor of New Haven, was a Big Idea guy. He was returned to New Haven after presenting his program to the public in wearisome detail. That program included so called “property tax reform” and measures to insure the end of so called “sprawl.” DeStefano is now fighting crime in New Haven, where homicides are up over last year by 35%.

Sometimes it is enough to hold your ground – to do ordinary things well, which, come to think of it, might serve as an excellent definition of the conservative ethos. Radicals tear down the present shambles to the foundation and build up; conservatives improve.

In 1933, Henry Mencken wrote approvingly of President “Silent Cal” Coolidge: “We suffer most, not when the White House is a peaceful dormitory, but when it is a jitney Mars Hill, with a tin pot Paul bawling from the roof. Counting out Harding as a cipher only, Dr. Coolidge was preceded by one World Saver and followed by two more. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge would hesitate for an instant? There were no thrills while he reigned, but neither were there any headaches. He had no ideas, and he was not a nuisance.”

Not a bad legacy.
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