For the third straight time, the Democratic presidential debate in Houston led with a discussion of health care. As Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., put it: "Every one of my colleagues on this stage believes in universal health care."
Booker’s statement prompts this question: Why should government get involved in health care for Americans who do not require government assistance?
Most Americans believe the government should provide a "safety net" for the poor. It does this with assistance such as food stamps. However, you do not hear anyone calling for an expansion of food stamps to cover all Americans regardless of whether they are rich or poor. So why is that the case with health care?
The federal government, through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – more commonly known as food stamps – provides assistance to low-income people. The government does not make the food or control the price of food. It does not dictate what foods people should buy. And the government provides absolutely no food assistance to the majority of American households.
This is a "safety net." It is designed to make sure the poorest among us have food on their table.
There seems to be broad agreement that food stamps are a good way to address the nutritional needs of our poor. In health care, we have something similar. It is called Medicaid. It provides funding for medical services for low-income and disabled people.
We also have Medicare, which provides health insurance coverage for older Americans. So the government already has programs in place to take care of the health of our poor and elderly.
Until President Obama came along, there seemed to be rough consensus that this was the right way to ensure America took care of its poor and elderly.
Most Americans were, presumably, in a position to take care of their own health care. Most accomplished this by working in job that provided health benefits, buying their own insurance, or relying on a parent or spouse's health insurance plan. Others chose not to buy insurance and to pay for care as they received it.
Obama and his fellow Democrats insisted that every American have government health care or private insurance, and thus devised ObamaCare, which expanded Medicaid to cover more Americans.
In order to cover everyone else, for the first time in our nation’s history the federal government made it illegal not to purchase a particular product: in this case, health insurance. Yes, even if you paid tens of thousands of dollars for your child to become a doctor who could take care of you for free, you still were legally obligated to buy health insurance.
Now health care is again front and center for Democrats. They say ObamaCare is not enough. They insist America must provide free health care for every single American, old and young, rich and poor.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., criticized former Vice President Joe Biden’s plan in the last debate because it only covered 97 percent of Americans! For his part, Biden proudly announced that under his plan the government will tell drug companies what they can charge for drugs.
With government now involved in everyone’s health care, we are seeing the adverse effects. Everyone is now on government health care or mandatory insurance, and insurance premiums cost the same regardless of a person’s heath, destroying much of the free market in health care.
Where are the menus of services with prices at the doctor’s office? They are not there because people do not care what the cost is because they don’t pay it!
The government and insurance companies are in the middle, determining what and how much to pay, but never sure about what services the doctor or hospital actually provided. Fraud, therefore, runs rampant. Patients have no incentive to shop for better pricing, and doctors have no incentive to provide it. Patients similarly have no financial incentive to avoid doctor visits by maintaining a proper diet and exercise.
As a result, we have runaway increases in the costs of health care. The Democratic solution? For Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others on the stage, it is to put the final bullet in what is left of the free market in health care. Progressivism has taken over the Democratic Party. It no longer believes in free markets.
History shows that if government would get out of the way and allow the free market to do its thing, there is no telling what solutions would emerge for health care. New technologies utilizing the Internet, cell phones, Skype, and artificial intelligence would be fully exploited. Competition would bring down prices, as we have seen in areas of medical care not covered by the government or insurance companies.
Sanders complains that America is "the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care to all people." America also is the richest country on Earth. Has he ever considered that the two may be related? It is precisely because America does not hand over control of large sectors of its economy to the government that we have had such economic success.
Why is a safety net insufficient for Democrats? Is it about control? Is it about destroying free-market capitalism wherever they can? Is it in pursuit of a liberal utopia where everyone is treated the same?
We do not know. The question was never asked.