Northwood University

In Defense of Capitalism & Human Progress


Why ObamaCare Equals One-Size-Fits-All by Richard M. Ebeling

A growing number of Americans have been shocked and appalled with the lies and arrogance surrounding the Obama Administration saying to them, “You can keep your health insurance – as long as the government thinks it’s the right one for you and everyone else in society.”

The presumption behind this government argument is that Americans are too uninformed or too ignorant to make these decisions for themselves. The “experts” in Washington must determine the alternatives and set the priorities that best serve the “real needs” of the citizens of the country. And we should be thankful to them for doing this for us.

But in fact we should not be surprised by this being the outcome of political control of the health care of the nation.  It follows logically from the very nature of government planning.

Diversity is the Hallmark of a Free Market Society

In a free society each individual makes his own plans about the goals he decides to set for his life and how best to use the income and resources at his disposal to achieve them.

In a society as complex and diverse as our own, it should come as no surprise that people vary widely on the things they desire to give meaning and happiness to their lives, and their judgments about the best they to accomplish them. Furthermore, not only do people differ in what they consider important, but also they evaluate differently the trade-offs worth making to get them.

Two individuals may consider that having some type of health insurance is something essential to have to meet their families medical needs. But they may vary greatly in what they consider worth giving up to get it.

A couple with small children may consider a more comprehensive health insurance policy with a higher premium and lower deductibles worth paying for, even if it prevents them from having the nicer, but more expensive house with a bigger monthly mortgage payment.

The career-oriented couple who decide not to have children, or to postpone that decision until they are professionally more established, may prefer a health insurance policy with a much lower premium but higher deductibles because they would prefer to have the money to invest in their “dream house” or to have the money to take those exotic but expensive vacations while they are still young.

While, on the other hand, a third person may have spent the money for a DNA profile, found out that he is not prone to any inheritable illness, eats “right,” exercises regularly, works in a low-risk occupation, and decides to have no health insurance with the intention of covering any medical expenses as they come along.

The Free Market Serves the Wants of Everyone

The advantage and the benefit of a free market economy, is that all three of these individual health care planning decisions (and many others) can be simultaneously accommodated to meet these preferences. With each person or family paying (or not paying) for what they consider the health care planning that best fits their circumstances and desires.

Businesses make profits by fitting the nature and qualities of their products to meet the demands of the consumers from whom they earn their revenues. Go into to any clothing or shoe store or any supermarket with it’s huge array of foods and ingredients from which to select, and we see before our eyes the diversity of tastes, preferences, likes, and desires that are served and satisfied all at the same time. Then add to this all the “niche” industries and businesses that also cater to those who have “minority” or “eccentric” wants and wishes to be fulfilled.

Conflicts about goals to pursue or differences about the best means to use to attain them, are minimized in a free market society precisely because each individual and family is at liberty to decide these things for themselves, and to find willing sellers to satisfy their “profile” as the means of earning profits.

Government Means Compressed Conformity

But once government takes on “responsibility” for any or all of these matters, the system is soon compressed into either a “one-size-fits-all” or a much narrower set of options compared to a competitive free market.

Individuals are no longer planning these things for themselves, but instead the government must now design a single plan for everyone, and to which and within which everyone in the society must fit and be made to conform.

The government must decide what is the minimum coverage that any or most health insurance policies must contain, as well as what are the “reasonable” deductibles and range of premiums the citizenry will be expected and allowed to pay.

In other words, the entire country must conform to a single scale of values imposed by the government, with that government determining what are the acceptable options and trade-offs to be permitted to all the members of the nation.

The natural human diversity of a complex society is straightjacketed within a politically compressed bureaucratic conformity.

Special Interests and Government Regulation

Furthermore, how do the government and its elite cadre of “experts” decide what is to be mandatory for all health coverage, and how and by whom it will be paid for?

It is the very nature of modern democratic pressure-group politics that every special interest group circles around those in political office who have the power to legislate and regulate the bestowing of privileges and favors for some at the expense of others in society.

Thus, every special interest that has an ideological axe to grind or is after some financial benefit that others will be forced to pay for will lobby and try to influence how the legislation is written and the regulations are implemented.

This has been no less true in the case of the over 2,500 pages of legislation that makes up ObamaCare. The checkerboard of special benefits, favors and subsidies that all who were able to put in their “two cents” into the writing and “interpreting” of ObamaCare is what, now, the entire country is being made to conform to and fit within.

The Only “Fix” for ObamaCare is Repeal

There is no way to “fix” the Affordable Care Act. There are no modifications or “tweaks” that had make it “fairer” or more “workable.”

It is the inescapable product of government imposition of one set of ideas and values about what is presumed to be good for everyone and the options and coverage that each is to be allowed or denied.

The only real “fix” will be repeal of ObamaCare, and reforms that eliminate government from the entire health care industry. The only long-term workable alternative is a completely free, competitive market for medical care and health insurance.

Dr. Richard M. Ebeling is professor of Economics at Northwood University. He was formerly president of The Foundation for Economic Education, was the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, and served as vice president of academic affairs for The Future of Freedom Foundation.