Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hawaii's Health Insurance Lesson

This news is a month old, but ChuckL's post on Irresponsibility brings what's been happening in Hawaii right back to the forefront.

Carrie Lukas, in her January 30, 2009, TownHall column, talked about the consequences of government programs that have the best of intentions.

When President Obama signs the "Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009," (which passed the Senate by a vote of 66-32 last night) he will take the country on the first of what are likely to be several steps during his Administration toward "universal" health insurance.

Those who already have quality healthcare may assume that this debate really doesn't have much to do with them. After all, as a candidate, President Obama promised "if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes." Yet Americans should consider the dynamic that would occur as the government provides more and more publicly subsidized insurance options.

The experience of Hawaii in launching the first state-based "universal" child health insurance program is instructive. The program was created in hopes of helping the island state's uninsured children (estimated to number between 3,500 and 16,000) by providing free health insurance coverage and access to doctor's visits for just a $7 co-pay.

What lawmakers soon learned was that it isn't just the existing pool of uninsured who wants to take advantage of a free government alternative; many parents dropped their private coverage in order to qualify for the government-funded plan. A staggering 85 percent of those who enrolled previously had health insurance. Dr. Kenny Fink, an administrator at Hawaii's Department of Human Services, summed up what was happening: "People who were already able to afford healthcare began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free. I don't believe that was the intent of the program." Just seven months after the program's launch, government officials decided to shut it down.

The problem is, when "help for the uninsured" (or whatever they decide to call it) goes national and people start dropping insurance, they won't be shutting the program down. They'll just make it universal, paid for by the government, which this administration seems to believe has an endless supply of money to spend.

It's the same as the irresponsible-home"owner" foreclosure bailout making responsible people wish their morals were low enough to let them stop paying their mortgages, so the government can step in and throw some money their way. Why be forced to pay twice for something you can get for free?

Obama's policies are enough to make the good people who voted for him hang their heads in shame.

Photo source: Doug Ross


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