Why is Obama Rushing Government-Run Health Insurance?

| by Reason Foundation

Weren't we promised some methodical and deliberate governance from President Barack Obama? What happened?

The president claims that we must pass a government-run health insurance—possibly the most wide-ranging and intricate government undertaking in decades—yesterday, or a "ticking time bomb" will explode.

If all this terrifying talk sounds familiar, it's because the president applies the same fear-infused vocabulary to nearly all his hard-to-defend policy positions. You'll remember the stimulus plan had to be passed without a second's delay, or we would see 8.7 percent unemployment. We're almost at 10.

A commonly utilized Obama straw man states that "the cost of inaction" is unacceptable. "Action," naturally, translates into whatever policy Obama happens to be peddling at the time.

When it comes to health insurance, though, there are still reactionaries. Take the folks at the American Medical Association, who have the impudence to claim that "reform" comes with the potential to destroy their industry and your choice.

"The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers," says an AMA statement. "The corresponding surge in public plan participation would likely lead to an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers."

Guess what? That's the point.

A government-run public option can lose money perpetually. With the fiscal power of coerced taxpayers behind it, the public option would crowd out the private sector and demolish any competitive market—which is the only genuine way to bring down costs and keep the level of medical care high.

The Ted Kennedy-Chris Dodd Senate draft bill almost certainly would pave the way for single-payer, government insurance. And despite his protestations, Obama was once a supporter of a single-payer plan.

Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office, which has been a reliable pain in the butt for the administration with all its irritating "figures," contends that the bill would cost a trillion dollars. The CBO claims that even with the plan in place, 36 million people would remain uninsured in 2017. (Let's momentarily ignore the fact that the majority of the "uninsured" tally consists of the temporarily uninsured and those simply unwillingly to pay for insurance.)

Despite these concerns, Obama continues to claim the ability to "control" costs and expand coverage without, miraculously enough, adding to the deficit. Talk about a "ticking time bomb."

Doesn't a radical overhaul of one-sixth of the entire economy deserve more than "now! now! now!"?

There's a way to find out. As writer Virginia Postrel points out, we already have Medicare, a massive single-payer, government-run program and a "perfect environment for experimentation."

"If more-efficient government management can slash health-care costs by addressing all these problems," wrote Postrel, "why not start with Medicare? Let's see what 'better management' looks like applied to Medicare before we roll it out to the rest of the country."

As Postrel probably already knows, the effort to empower government with control of medical care is ideologically driven, making it impervious to experimentation. Socializing medicine is the grand prize for the left.

Once all the recent spending, all those deficits and the failed "stimulus" begin to catch up with Congress and the president, more reactionaries surely will emerge. Once the White House honeymoon ends and people start posing some prickly queries, it's going to get even harder.

So that's the rush.