THE BLOG
10/06/2010 05:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Colorado Amendment 63: Freedom Is Too "Haphazard" for Bell Policy Center

In a recent Denver Post op-ed, Bob Semro of the Bell Policy Center writes that Amendment 63 would "move Colorado to a less protected, more haphazard health care system where people pay directly for services rather than having health insurance." What Bob Semro called "haphazard" is really personal freedom. The freedom to pay for medical care and insurance according to your best judgment, rather than the judgment of government authorities.

What a crazy idea -- people paying for a product or service directly. This is the "haphazard" way we buy cars, food, electronics, car insurance, clothes, you name it. It's called being a paying customer, where providers strive you satisfy you by catering to your needs and keeping prices low.

Medical care in this country is different. Most people buy insurance or a health plan through their employer. They don't pay for medical care directly, but through their health plan. In neither case are patients the customers.

As I've explained in the Daily Camera earlier this week:

Mandatory insurance will not remedy rising medical costs. Medical care and insurance prices soar because insurers, Medicaid, Medicare have replaced patients as paying customers for routine and discretionary care. Thanks to mandated insurance benefits, a pro-insurance tax code, and Medicare and Medicaid, most health plans are prepaid health care rather than insurance. Patients don't care about prices or lower-cost treatment options. Doctors have an incentive to exaggerate diagnoses that justify costly treatment.

Semro writes that "Improving health care in Colorado will require us to find ways to hold down costs while making sure more people have health insurance." But costs, well, prices actually, stay low when patients are the customer. Again from my Daily Camera article:

Prices stabilize or decline when patients pay directly for treatment. Examples include cosmetic surgery, refractive eye surgery, and like it or not, abortion. Meanwhile, prices of high-deductible insurance have increased less than comprehensive prepaid plans.

As for "making sure more people have health insurance," politicians should remove costly mandated benefits that make it so expensive and allow people to buy more affordable policies in other states. This would make insurance affordable for millions of uninsured Americans.

Semro also does not like Amendment 63 because it would "tie the hands of policymakers who want to reduce costs by expanding health care coverage in Colorado." Yes, and this is a good thing. "Reducing costs by expanding coverage" is code for turning health insurance into a tax, or compulsory charity. Mandatory insurance doesn't mean just any kind of insurance, but policies loaded up with mandated benefits and minimum copayments and deductibles. All of these drive up premium prices and force many people to buy more insurance than they'd otherwise want. This "cost-shift" or hidden tax is larger than that from the popular scapegoats, the uninsured.

Semro continues with Orwellian Newspeak. Amendment 63 would prohibit government from forcing you to buy an insurance plan designed by politicians. It also protects your right to pay cash for medical care. But Semro claims Amendment 63 "will obstruct the ability of Coloradans to make decisions about their health care." Nonsense. Amendment 63 does just the opposite. It obstructs the ability of the Colorado politicians and bureaucrats to make decisions about your health care.