Detailing the woes GM is facing in providing health care to only 160,000 current workers, but 1 million others, Jeff Jacoby provides a microcosm of the problems the citizenry would face should health-care fall under the purview of the government.
GM’s hourly workers undoubtedly have a sweet deal — who wouldn’t love health insurance that comes with a $0 deductible and no premiums? But such sweet deals drive up the cost of health care for everyone. When somebody else is picking up the tab, there is little incentive to economize — that is as true of medical care as of anything else. The price of prescription drugs, hospital stays, and medical procedures has skyrocketed in part because tens of millions of Americans are insured through their employers with low-deductible medical plans. Why not run to the doctor for every minor ailment when the out-of-pocket cost to do so is minimal? Why inquire whether a procedure can be performed less expensively when it’ll be covered by insurance either way?
In no other area do we rely on insurance for routine expenses or repairs. Auto insurance doesn’t cover oil changes; no one uses homeowner’s insurance to repoint the chimney. That’s because most of us pay for those policies ourselves, and therefore get only the insurance we really need — generally against catastrophic events, like a car being stolen or a house burning down.
Only when it comes to health care do we expect insurance to cover nearly everything.