When a woman is dumping her boyfriend she may break it like good news, saying she'll always cherish him, and loves him enough to set him free. That's my reaction on seeing a WSJ report on Rudy Giuliani's healthcare proposals.
Though he'll release details later this summer, he wants to "free" tens of millions of Americans from employer based insurance and move them to the individual market "to give them more coverage choices." Mirroring GWB's "ownership society" he tells Americans "It is your health, you should own your own insurance."
At present it's the 60% of Americans covered by employer insurance who are the best off, and polls show they like their employers to use their collective purchasing clout to arrange insurance. Instead, Rudy is extending GWB's approach by wanting them to shop for their own care. According to another WSJ report this approach as it applies to the much hyped Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) is already starting to falter.
Of course, more choice to consumers can work well if it is structured properly, as in Edwards' or even Romney's plans where insurers cannot refuse insurance coverage or charge higher rates from sicker patients, and yet the overall pool of members remains viable because everyone including the healthy are forced to buy insurance. But Rudy opposes such compulsory insurance coverage.
Even worse, Rudy doesn't address the biggest problem of how to take care of the 47 million uninsured. Delinking insurance from employers and making it portable does little more than scratch the surface, and Rudy is silent about subsidizing or paying for coverage of those who cannot afford it. The tax breaks he offers for individual coverage have little meaning, especially for those who pay little or no taxes. And as I mentioned in an earlier thread, even for those who do, you get at most a $31 tax break for every $100 you spend on healthcare, so how will you come up with the remaining $69?
His "market forces" argument also is meaningless when you among other things (a) disallow the government from using its purchasing power to negotiate drug prices with companies who have monopoly power in selling them (thanks to their government enforced patents - they find no irony in the strong government role in enforcing these); (b) let providers like physicians restrict their own supply way below free market equilibrium; and (c) let hospitals maintain non-transparent pricing and quality information while gouging payers and patients who come their way and cannot switch in the midst of their treatment.
The way he lauds the "free market" over anything the government does makes me want to ask him why he doesn't urge everyone to buy their own weapons under the 2nd Amendment for self-protection and do away with the police force.
So why has Rudy come up with such a bad plan? He may figure this appeals to the fiscally conservative Right who want to minimize government spending and taxes no matter what, plus those Republicans who blindly (and wrongly) believe unrestricted private activity is always better than governmental involvement. He can also attract a lot of contributions from the healthcare industry players. This can increase his chances of winning the Republican nomination, and he can then change his tune (say to something like the Romney plan with greater government spending) well before the General Elections.
Will such a "bait and switch" strategy work? And will Rudy address some of the glaring deficiencies when he reveals the details of his plan later this summer? I don't know, but as of now I find it to be the worst of those put forth by the Presidential hopefuls.