OPINION

The Obamacare “Fixed Menu” Dilemma

A volunteer counselor with Insure Central Texas explains health insurance options, Tuesday,  Oct. 1, 2013.

A volunteer counselor with Insure Central Texas explains health insurance options, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.  (AP)

This week, Americans got their first taste of the new health care exchanges and while many may not like it, their options are limited. Much like a restaurant’s “pre-fixed menu,” the Affordable Care Act – also referred to as ACA or Obamacare – offers limited selections based on what the government believes Americans need with few a la carte options. 

Would we allow such government intrusion when it came to selecting our meals? We all agree food is a necessity, and that all Americans, in fact, people all over the world, should have access to it. However, operating a federally mandated food program – a “Government Food Court” of sorts – would seem excessive. While it may seem like a stretch, the comparison is similar to the model used by the Affordable Care Act.

A government-run solution is not the answer. It is unjust to our younger generation, cripples our elderly and poor in a broken Medicaid system, and robs Americans of their free will to purchase insurance plans.

- Jorge Lima

Under this hypothetical plan, government-run food courts would open in every state under the premise that this would be the best way to ensure food availability to all. At the Government Food Court, the government would create fixed menus and dictate what food is served. Sure, some variety would exist. We could still have the hot dog vendor, the pizza stand, maybe even a fast-food counter (if those are still permitted); however, each plate would have to comply with certain pre-requisites, and may even force restaurants to serve items their customers do not want. 

The poor and elderly would be provided with food free of charge, but would be limited to specific stands. The young would be enticed in and asked to pay more for a plate of food filled with items they don’t crave. All others would also be asked to pay, lured by the promise of a subsidy available only after sharing your personal information between a number of agencies to determine your share. And if you think you don’t need the Government Food Court and plan to just purchase food when and where you want, you’d have to pay an annual fine – one that goes up each year you go it alone.

Sound ridiculous? Well, this is the concept behind Obamacare, only we replaced health care exchanges with food courts. At least in the food court example participants would presumably eat. Under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no promise you will actually get health care – only health insurance. 

There is no denying our country needs quality health care. Americans want to be able to see a doctor when they’re sick and they want to know that an emergency room visit won’t send them into an unending debt spiral. The problem is that the solution coming from the White House does nothing to satisfy this need. 

Obamacare is one of the largest government spending programs in history with an estimated $1.3 trillion in coverage spending over the next 10 years — not including the billions more that both the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services are estimated to spend in administrative implementation costs. And even after spending $1.3 trillion, more than half of today’s uninsured will lack health insurance within 10 years’ time. 

The truth is, ObamaCare is simply the government forcing you to purchase an insurance card — whether you like it or not. There’s no improved health care system. In fact, we see the opposite effect with more doctors turning away from a career in primary care and individuals losing their preferred plans.

A government-run solution is not the answer. It is unjust to our younger generation, cripples our elderly and poor in a broken Medicaid system, and robs Americans of their free will to purchase insurance plans. Real reform should unleash the market and break the ties of cronyism between our government and big health insurers — allowing individuals to make real choices, correct medical service prices, and ultimately encourage our health care providers to innovate and provide better quality health care. 

Do we need a solution to our health care system? Yes. But big government is not the answer. I would rather make my own choices in a free market than be spoon-fed by the government. I don’t always want to eat at the food court.

Jorge Lima is the Policy Director at The LIBRE Initiative, a non-profit organization that advocates for policies that advance economic prosperity for Hispanics in the United States. Follow him @jorgeandreslima.

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