A Little Radicalism Is Good Medicine

Ramesh Ponnuru has an interesting pice in Time on why the GOP’s health care platform represents a radical shift. Instead of health care being something that you get through your employer, many of the Republican plans would see health care as something you have—just like auto insurance, life insurance, or homeowner’s insurance.

That’s the way it should be. The only reason we have the system now is because the tax system forces it—there’s no economic reason why risk pools have to be so small or why health coverage shouldn’t be portable from job to job. Losing your job should not mean losing your health insurance. Moving to a new job shouldn’t require you to have to think about what coverage you’ll get. People who work from Mom’s Apple Pie Bakery should have access to the same level of care that someone who works for Microsoft has.

The Republicans need to push back on health care, because despite all the hew and cry, it’s a winning issue for them. Even after years of scurrilous attacks, polling shows a market-oriented approach being more popular, winning over the Democratic plan 49-40%. When confronted with the options of having a federal bureaucracy or having real choice, it’s not hard to figure out why Americans tend to choose the latter. The last thing we need in this country is more bureaucracy in medicine.

Emphasizing personal choice is key to this issue. The electorate is justifiably upset at the status quo in which the HMO bureaucracy makes health care more expensive and harder to get. The huge rise in health care costs in this country is due to the fact that we have an unworkable system: the Democrats want to make that system bigger, the Republicans want to fix it. Instead of forcing everyone into a federalized Mother of All HMOs that combines the efficiency of the DMV with the caring service of the IRS, it’s a much more attractive option to give people real choices.

Put the only way something like this will get passed is if the GOP is willing to fight for it. The Democrats are promising the moon, but giving us more bureaucracy. Nobody (other than Democrats, who take it as an article of faith) really believes that things run better when the government takes them over. Healthcare is no different. The GOP has the right policy, but they have to have the political will to see that policy enacted. That will mean actively fighting back against all the pressure groups backed with special interest cash who are invested in the broken status quo.

It’s a battle worth fighting, both politically and on behalf of the American people who need real choice in health care. The question is who will be willing to lead that fight?