The Washington Post doesn’t understand insurance, or markets

The Washington Post has an editorial on the Supreme Court hearings on ObamaCare that gets a passing grade on Civics, but a flunking grade on understanding of insurance.  They wrote

There was, in some of the conservative argumentation over three days, a distressing undertone of me-firstism. Congress wanted to “capture” young people, attorney Paul D. Clement argued on behalf of the states objecting to the health-care plan, because they are “the golden geese that pay for the entire lowering of the premium.”  Well, yes, that is how insurance works

No, it’s not.  If you buy Term Life insurance, you pay a different, and much lower, rate if you’re 25, than you do if you’re 45, or 65.  And yo pay a much higher rate if you’re a smoker  If you buy auto insurance, you pay a much higher rate if you’re 18 and have no tickets or accidents, than if you’re 25, 35, or 45 also with no accidents or tickets.  Insurance is about pooling risk, it’s not about transferring costs from the politically favored to the politically unfavored.  For that you have government.  As Mr. Carvin pointed out during arguments of the individual mandate, “since the founding, whenever Congress has imposed that public responsibility on private actors, it has subsidized it from the Federal Treasury. It has not conscripted a subset of the citizenry and made them subsidize the actors who are being hurt, which is what they’re doing here.”

The Democrats writing ObamaCare didn’t do that, because (as the Post editorial notes) they wanted to hide the cost of their actions from the American people.  That’s not “insurance”, that’s fraud, dishonesty, and normal operating procedure for the Democrat Party.

Then there’s their defense of “health care is special:

Mr. Verrilli, in fact, had a persuasive response: The health-care market is different from all others because virtually everyone, like it or not, will become entangled in it. You can choose not to buy a car; you can’t necessarily choose not to be hit by one. If you end up in the emergency room, you will be cared for, as federal law demands. The government, already deeply involved in regulating the health-care market, has a legitimate interest in encouraging you to prepare for such an eventuality.

(Bold face added).  Apparently the Washington Post editors are unaware that everyone has to buy food, and so is entangled in the “food market”.  So I guess that Congress can force us to eat broccoli, or at least force us to buy it.  They’re also unaware that everyone has to get around, and so is involved in the “transportation market” (sorry, but if podiatry, urology, and ophthalmology are all part of the same “market”, then so are cars, buses, and shoes).  Further, they seem to have decided that since the Federal Government has imposed market distorting regulations on the health care market, this expands the Constitutional limits on the power of the Federal Government in the health care market.  This is a flawed argument.

Ending on a high note, they did get one thing right:

But we also think there’s a kind of cynicism, or at least intellectual laziness, in asserting that this is an easy or obvious call — that no justice could possibly strike down the mandate out of honest, reasoned conviction. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. had his hands fulldefending the mandate, not because he’s a bad lawyer, but because it’s not an easy question.

If the federal government can force young adults to buy health insurance that they do not want, then what can’t the government do? That was the challenge from the mandate’s opponents. Liberal justices tried to come up with other cases where the government forces citizens to take affirmative action — to have pollution controls installed on their cars, to drive faster than 45 mph on the freeway. But no one has to buy a car, and you can choose to stay off the interstate.

Well, mostly right.  Contra Justice Breyer, while Congress has used the spending power to force states to establish a 55 MPH speed limit, it did not pass the limit itself, did not enforce it, and has never ordered a minimum speed limit (which is what Breyer needed, since he was claiming the Federal Government had the power to order people to do things, rather than to refrain from doing something).

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