04 March 2010

Speaking of Congress

And our milquetoast congresscritters, here is the letter I wrote to the damnable fool I'm presently stuck with as my voice in congress:

Congressman Murphy,
Mere words cannot express how bad an idea it is for the government to get further involved in health insurance. Why can't we strip the incentives for people to obtain insurance through work (which started because of federal interference in wages); allow for the cost of health insurance premiums to be deductible and allow people to buy insurance wherever they would prefer?
The "race to the bottom" argument against such allowances is laughable, because it would merely prove that individuals and firms prefer to conduct business with as few regulations as possible. Doing otherwise because people will choose cheap insurance or choose poorly is paternalistic, condescending and beyond the purview of congress' enumerated powers.
Further, requiring people to buy insurance or be faced with sanction, property confiscation and (ultimately) imprisonment strikes me as a diminution of liberty without due process. Notwithstanding the lack of authority granted to congress by the people (the sovereign, remember?) even to provide, much less mandate, health insurance in the enumerated powers. Since you've passed the bar I'm going to assume you've at least read Article I, Section 8 of the constitution.
Representative Pelosi's stance that the interstate commerce clause allows such action is also laughable. The commerce clause was intended to insure the free flow of commerce between the states; not for congress to use as a cudgel or to shape the country into some Utopia.
This is misguided and beyond what congress is allowed to do. You represent yourself as a "blue-dog" democrat. How can you, in good faith, vote in favor of this legislation when you must know that this will cause the federal deficit to expand far beyond where it already is? You know very well that the CBO scores are couched in language that says the bill will only be deficit neutral given certain rosy projections based on numbers supplied by congress and not by an independent, third-party auditor and on promises made by the current congress that future congresses will not be beholden or held to.
Please, realize that you and your brethren are acting with extraordinary hubris and extra-constitutionally; stand up and vote against this bill. If not, then at least meet with your constituents; face their questions in open fora; explain yourself.



Claudio said...

What if someone gets sick ... I mean really sick ... leukemia for inatance? The insurance company can do a bit of cost accounting and raise their premiums or drop them? what if someone gets sick after being layed off? If only the old and sick get insurance it doesn't work. If people don't have insurance and they get sick shall we not treat them? Bankrupt them? The commodity does not always have to be monetary. Yes it costs money and health care needs to be delivered in as efficient a way as possible. But the real valuable commodity is health. I feel that we as a society have an obligation to ensure that people are provided with an assurance that if they get sick they will be cared for as well as is possible and not have the rest of their lives ruined in the process. I'm not sure that the proposal being pushed through congress is the best possible path, but I'm pretty sure that the one we are on is horrible and we need to change it. What is going through seems to be better than what we got to me and I'm all for trying it. I also am very sure that a system that sells health to make money is not working now and I'm extremely dubious of it ever working. I also believe that there needs to be regulations to protect those that are vulnerable. I don't think that is paternalistic but humane.

Sean said...

Disagreeing with the proposal likely to pass soon in congress, doesn't mean I'm happy with the status quo. But there are many smaller steps that can be taken which may help the situation, even dramatically, without infringing on individual liberty--perhaps even restoring it a bit--and with congress acting in its proper role.
If the current system is found lacking, I fear that further congressional meddling will only serve to make it worse.
Health insurance companies, faced with more competition, may be more responsive to customer needs.
Current reality is hardly as bleak as it is portrayed, for example the oft cited figure of 47 million uninsured is perhaps technically correct but fails to account for illegal immigrants and people otherwise able to pay for insurance or eligible for existing programs and simply not enrolled. The actual number of chronically uninsured and uninsurable is around 3.5 million. A large number but just over 1% of the population.
Allowing people to purchase their own policies and take them wherever they want (portability) would certainly help by having the customer as the consumer. Conversely experiences in New York and Massachusetts show that community rating (everybody pays the same rate) and guarantee issue (requiring companies to issue a policy to someone regardless of medical history) don't work very well.
If we're going to keep the incentives for people to get healthcare through work (which is, to me, self-evidently a bad idea), then why not allow small businesses to band together to buy group policies? That is currently forbidden and would continue to be. But under the plan that's going to pass, small business owners would have to pay a penalty if they were to offer better health insurance rather than higher wages. Unless, of course, those "cadillac plans" go to union or government workers. How is this fair? Who would this help? Especially if small businesses have to fold?
States can prohibit companies from dropping current participants who develop serious and/or chronic illnesses. Some states have, most haven't. Wouldn't it make more sense to find out what each state does and maybe have the citizens of that state petition for such a rule? Must every single thing become a federal issue?
I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the profit motive, either. Doctors are and should be well-paid. Developing medical equipment requires tremendous capital investment, the firms that do this need to be compensated for the investments made and to encourage further development. Removing the price mechanism, while seemingly desirable, would have terrible consequences.
Assuring everyone care if they get sick, which we all will, absolves people of personal responsibility while increasing moral hazard. But if states, counties or municipalities want to experiment and figure out ways to deliver such care, I'm all for it. But it must be remembered, there is no such thing as a free lunch. This must be paid for.

Sean said...

Then, if all goes well and it seems to be a good idea for the federal government to employ such a system, then by all means do it; after passing a constitutional amendment allowing the congress to do so. Where is the problem with that?
One last point, one of the reasons that the plan has lost support is that many people simply don't beleive the president when he says that "if you like the insurance you have now, you'll be able to keep it." Perhaps because they know he's wrong (or lying).
I take the point that something must be done, I agree entirely. That doesn't mean that the feds are the ones that should be doing it. They should be making things easier rather than more complex.
I apologize for going on so long. It's late and I hope I don't come across as glib.