Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Reppert on HMOs

“This is a paper that was given at a right-to-life meeting, and it is a case against an Oregon-style assisted suicide law. But look at what it says about the role HMOs play in protecting the sanctity of human life. The death panels are already a reality.”


This is Reppert’s argument for Obamacare?

1.To begin with, this has nothing to do with HMOs, per se. If some states have assisted-suicide laws, then that’s a “service” or “medical procedure” which health-care providers will be required to offer their patients.

The answer to that problem is to have a Federal ban on assisted-suicide.

2.Reppert is also overlooking the instrumental role of gov’t in the rise of HMOs. So how is that an argument for an even more expansive role for gov’t in healthcare? Case in point:

We should remember that HMOs did not arise because of free-market demand, but rather because of government mandates. The HMO Act of 1973 requires all but the smallest employers to offer their employees HMO coverage, and the tax code allows businesses – but not individuals – to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums. The result is the illogical coupling of employment and health insurance, which often leaves the unemployed without needed catastrophic coverage.

While many in Congress are happy to criticize HMOs today, the public never hears how the present system was imposed upon the American people by federal law. As usual, government intervention in the private market failed to deliver the promised benefits and caused unintended consequences, but Congress never blames itself for the problems created by bad laws. Instead, we are told more government – in the form of “universal coverage” – is the answer. But government already is involved in roughly two-thirds of all health care spending, through Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs.

For decades, the U.S. healthcare system was the envy of the entire world. Not coincidentally, there was far less government involvement in medicine during this time. America had the finest doctors and hospitals, patients enjoyed high-quality, affordable medical care, and thousands of private charities provided health services for the poor. Doctors focused on treating patients, without the red tape and threat of lawsuits that plague the profession today. Most Americans paid cash for basic services, and had insurance only for major illnesses and accidents. This meant both doctors and patients had an incentive to keep costs down, as the patient was directly responsible for payment, rather than an HMO or government program.

The lesson is clear: when government and other third parties get involved, health care costs spiral. The answer is not a system of outright socialized medicine, but rather a system that encourages everyone – doctors, hospitals, patients, and drug companies – to keep costs down. As long as “somebody else” is paying the bill, the bill will be too high.



  1. So, what is the answer. Back to the good old days? "Didn't have no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight." We have to keep costs down, and what that means is going to be that people who can't afford health care won't get it.

  2. I don't think Reppert reads your posts anymore. Reads the title, builds up a straw man, and sets it on fire.