|Orrin Hatch Turns Out
To Be A Latter Day Liberal
March 25, 1997
The prize for the most hateful remark of the year has just been
won by Senator Orrin Hatch. The chance of anyone matching it in the
remaining months of 1997 is remote.
I'm referring to his statement that he will be the chief sponsor
of Ted Kennedy's KidCare bill in order "to prove that the Republican
Party does not hate children." In one sentence, he thus branded his
fellow Republicans with an ugly stigma, and then had the colossal ego
to assert that only his personal alliance with Kennedy can erase it.
Hatch made his announcement under the auspices of the Children's
Defense Fund, the left's premier lobby for the "village," i.e., the
government to raise children instead of parents. Hillary Rodham
Clinton was chairman of the board from 1986 to 1991, and Donna Shalala
from 1991-1993, and longtime CEO Marian Wright Edelman started her
career as a protege of Bobby Kennedy.
Hatch explained his action by sanctimoniously asserting that "we
have a moral responsibility" to provide coverage for the most
vulnerable children. We're already doing that; it's called Medicaid.
Yes, many children, who are not eligible for Medicaid, lack health
insurance, and it's not hard to figure out why. Their parents don't
think the insurance they can buy is worth what they have to pay for it.
This would not be a federal problem except that a Congressional
mistake is what makes health insurance so expensive. Congress is
responsible for the federal tax law that grants tax deductibility only
to health insurance plans owned by employers, but not to plans that
allow individual employees to own their own health insurance, control
their own health care spending, or set up their own plan.
This means that (a) there is no incentive to hold down costs since
people think that "somebody else is paying for it," and (b) it breeds a
culture in which people don't expect to pay for health care.
So, the officers of big corporations enjoy gold-plated, fee-for-service health insurance prepaid with tax-deductible dollars, employees
of big corporations have prepaid tax-deductible back-of-the-bus managed
care, but the waitress, the part-timers, the self-employed, and the
millions who work for small firms that lack company plans can buy
health insurance only with after-tax dollars.
The cost to the individual of privately-purchased health insurance
is exorbitantly high because (1) it must be bought with after-tax
dollars, (2) the market is distorted because there is too small a pool
of the uninsured seeking to buy individual insurance, and (3) it is
subject to state mandates, which require insurers to include coverage
for many conditions that may not be of value to the individual.
The system of giving preferential income-tax treatment for health
insurance to bosses but not to lower-wage or part-time workers is
unjust and discriminatory. There is no more reason why your boss
should own your health insurance than your automobile insurance.
The correct solution is to move toward a system in which
individuals can own their own health insurance and be treated by
federal laws at least as well as corporations are treated. This can be
achieved by Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) -- owned by individuals.
MSAs are the best solution to all the problems connected with health
care: uninsured Americans, portability, affordability, preserving your
right to choose your own doctor, pre-existing conditions, job lock,
gatekeepers, capitation, deductibles, co-payments, paperwork, long-term
care, Medicare going bankrupt, and even the decline in real wages.
The MSA feature of the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill passed last year
will not have all these good results because it is hemmed in by
restrictions. That bill is insulting to the American people because it
makes MSAs available to only 750,000 out of 250,000,000 Americans, a
factor that limits the market too drastically to allow a fair test.
In 1994, the American people decisively rejected the grandiose
Clinton plan for the Federal Government to be the manager, the
financier, and the regulator of the health care industry. What we are
witnessing now is an attempt by Kennedy, Clinton and Hatch to enact the
same plan incrementally, starting with children.
Let's not lose our perspective. Children are the healthiest
segment of our society. Contrary to Hatch's extravagant rhetoric, most
of the children who lack health insurance are not "scarred for the rest
of their lives."
When I was growing up, my family had no health insurance, or even
a family doctor. I personally never saw a doctor (except an optician
to get glasses) until I was 25 years old and pregnant with my first
child. I never had any of the so-called preventive-care examinations;
I never had any vaccines. I had all the childhood diseases without
ever seeing a doctor.
Part of the plan to promote KidCare is an attempt to dictate
health care, mandate vaccines, and enter everybody's medical record on
computers. This is unacceptable in a free society. Parents should
have the freedom, as well as the responsibility, to make their own
decisions about their children's health care.
Congress's alleged responsibility to provide health care for all
Americans, or even for all children, is a totalitarian idea. If
Congress feels the urge to dictate the purchase of health insurance,
Congress could do that efficiently at no cost to the taxpayers by
mandating that a portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit be spent for