According to Byron York, Republicans are gearing up to defund Obamacare. Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee want a vote on a budget amendment to defund the president’s government healthcare plan but the Senate Republican caucus remains “deeply divided” about such a move, which of course the Democrats oppose. Whatever the politics involved, a case can be made that Obamacare deserves defunding. Consider for example the conditions.
The nation has been suffering the worst recession since the 1930s, with high unemployment, the deficit outpacing GNP, trillions in unfunded liabilities and entitlements on shaky ground. Those are hardly the conditions to launch a vast new entitlement, especially one based on legislation that some legislators didn’t bother to read, and which will impose fathomless costs and onerous regulations. And how Obamacare will actually work in practice remains an open question.
Suppose, however, that the Republicans succeed in defunding Obamacare, and suppose that helps reduce the deficit. Congratulations would not necessarily be in order because when they called the shots the Republicans failed to achieve reform of the employer-based health care that is a legacy of World War II, just like the government’s practice of withholding income tax from workers’ paychecks. As John C. Goodman notes in Priceless: Curing the Health Care Crisis, the current system distorts the market and makes it hard to find out what any procedure actually costs. If a worker loses her job she loses her health care, and can’t shop for a better plan in another state. Government mandates make plans expensive. Workers don’t really own their own healthcare and certainly wouldn’t under Obamacare.
Instead of a grotesque government system like Obamacare legislators should decouple healthcare from employment, liberate the marketplace, and let individuals select the plan they believe best meets their needs and budget. This type of reform has not been tried and found wanting. Rather, politicians find it politically incorrect and leave it untried.