Undoing the Wrong Things You Done

Published September 1, 2001

Since I began writing on health care social policy, I have tried hard to give the benefit of the doubt to those who claim to stand on high moral ground in defense of their intentions to provide for the “greater social good.”

But the history of what their intentions have wrought is troubling.

Wage and price freezes of the World War II era established a dysfunctional system of employer-based health insurance. The employees of large companies saw substantial tax relief, while individuals and small business owners saw none.

When I was thirty, Medicare became the law of the land. Even then I had mixed feelings about the plan, publicly warning “this is going to create a moral hazard, cost a bundle in taxes, and create a bureaucracy for the establishment of medical rationing to senior citizens.”

Then came Medicaid, an expansion of the health care entitlement mindset. Surely, I wrote, “we must be aware of the ‘unintended’ consequences this will have on everyone.”

Over the years, the notion that health care is a “right” captured the mind and soul of politicians who saw constituents as voters supportive of bigger government. The health care welfare rolls exploded as a laundry list of bad social policy grew in response to the moral hazard. Not surprisingly, so did the negative, presumably unintended, consequences.

Over time, one perverted health care law after another was passed and layered on top of previous law, succeeding only in suffocating the free market to the point it no longer functions efficiently. This has happened so many times in my lifetime, I cannot help but view the original enabling law as a Pandora’s box.

Wake-Up Call

There was a short period, around the time of the 1986 Catastrophic Health Care Act, when I began to think it was simply ignorant people who incrementally sliced away our freedoms like so much bologna.

I thought reasonable people understood if you deliberately shoot yourself in the foot a second time, the consequence is exactly the same as the first. Still, I thought, these are “unintended” consequences resulting from the actions of well-meaning people with a bad case of myopia.

Then came the Clinton years and the mother of all health care reform.

I finally woke up to the statist health agenda. Here I was, giving the benefit of the doubt to people who were not the compassionate folks I thought they were.

If they are actually standing on the moral high ground, how did they justify their legislation which, for each of the eight Clinton years in office, led to an uninsured population increase of a million a year? How do they explain eight million “unintended” consequences?

The defeat of Clinton’s Health Security Act was on one hand a temporary stay of execution and on the other hand the continuation of the bologna approach to national health care: one slice at a time.

Clinton kept his promise when he said, “If what I tried before won’t work, maybe we can do it another away.” The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is now recognized as a third of the original ClintonCare package and sets a dangerous precedent for the federal regulation of laws once in the state domain.

HIPAA expands the federal right to invade our medical privacy, creates burdensome and expensive private administrative procedures, and creates self-funding fraud and abuse provisions . . . and adds insult to injury by calling for the creation of an Orwellian identification system for every man, woman, and child.

Intended or Unintended?

I am having a little difficulty connecting with some pretty savvy folks. These sensible people have come to the conclusion the “unintended” consequences are deliberate actions intended to destroy the free market in order to make way for a national single-payer health care plan. Looking at our history of health care, one can’t help but pause and consider that possibility.

As of this writing I am not convinced, but my mind is open to the possibility. If I am wrong, not only are our health care liberties in jeopardy, but so is everything else—because a government that controls the supply of a nation’s medical services, controls life. From what I know about the consequences of government-run health care, those with political power and high social standing get the best, first. The rest get what’s left, last or if at all.

Taking this one step further into the conspiracy zone, what happens to the person who refuses to toe the government line? Will he or she simply not get the medical care needed to stay alive and active? It has happened around the world before and, if left unchallenged, it can happen again . . . here.

It also raises another, maybe more appropriate, question regarding the integrity and intelligence level of the people who claim to be conservative. Either I do not understand the meaning, or the meaning has been used to camouflage wolves wearing sheep skins.

If HIPAA is one-third of ClintonCare, that means there are still two-thirds out there. The time has come to undo the “wrong things you done,” not by passing more laws, but by repealing the laws that allow for increased government intrusion into the free-market and diminish our liberties.

Call Us

I recently heard House Majority Leader Dick Armey speak at a Cato conference on HIPAA. In introducing his address, “Just Gotta Learn from the Wrong Things You Done,” he candidly told the audience, “I wish I had never voted for it [HIPAA].”

For now, I reserve the right to hold onto the notion that the mess that is our health care system is the result of unintended consequences. I urge Dick Armey and the rest of Congress to enlist the aid of any number of qualified and truly conservative policy experts to make sure whatever reforms they are considering won’t have similarly dangerous unintended consequences.

And for good measure and balance, they should pay heed to a few libertarians as well, read Health Care News, and call The Heartland Institute in the morning.