Mr. Humpty Dumpty provided the lesson.
Not a novel lesson, I grant you. All the great sages gave similar warnings: Dont bite off more than you can chew; Look before you leap; Dont put all your eggs in one basket. So, I repeat, not novel. Call it oval, in honor of Mr. Dumpty — or, more properly, ovoid, because three-dimensional. And because it was President Barack Obama who had the pride, it was he who went before the fall, pushing his ovoid — Obamacare — off the wall.
And now he cant avoid the fallout.
Which is a broken medical insurance market. Indeed, a shattered legacy, for which grand effort by all his horses, all his men — every last functionary and flunky and fizzled fanatic — will be of no use.
This is one mess that wont be cleaned up to the satisfaction of its original proponents.
But, you object, Obama didnt push his ovoid off the wall. What happened was Congress passed the monstrosity without reading it, and Obama signed it without comprehending it, all against much protest . . . thats an awful lot like a shove.
There were reasons Americans resisted, the largest being that pregnant Tea Party query, why start a new entitlement program when all the other major welfare programs are on the brink of bankruptcy?
Democrats had grown too confident of their historical mission to put more and more of American society under government control. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — these were Democratic badges of honor. The fact that these were all poised to land splat on the pages of history, like a trio of ovoid eggs, did not faze them, for these partisans have (as I explained last week) the hubris to think they can fix anything broken — but their faith in government means any fix can only be seen as a fix if it involves more government. Hence Obamacare, which was supposed to make medicine so much less expensive that it would solve the Medicare and Medicaid problem snap, just like that.
It didnt work that way.
Theres nothing about a government program that produces automatic cost savings. And these true believers didn’t realize the basic Obamacare rationale — put all potential patients under one plan, and then equalize costs from that universal risk group, redistributing the results of the genetic lottery (now much in the news) based on a social engineers utopian actuarials — could not hope to work. Monopolies raise costs. Fake markets implode. Besides, insurance is a business based on information, particular information, and everything in the socialistic arsenal of the Democrats grab-bag approach to reform screams suppression of relevant information. It is, as I suggested before, a war on information.
They were misinformed. Disinformed. By their own audacious hopes and dreams. Yes, they could screw things up royally. Which brings us back to the kings horses and men.
In the very first, original nursery rhyme, it read:
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.
And, just so, its not going to be easy to bring order to the mess that Democrats have created.
All those cancelled insurance policies? They worked in their time, in part, because enough people applied and passed the qualifications for each. People didnt get them randomly. And once nixed, by government regulation — by Obaminable regulations — the offering companies had moved on, investing heavily in the new regime.
Which now lies shattered.
Where to go?
The initial suggestion by the administration, that the extra costs of new above sub-par policies be subsidized by the taxpayer, was audacity itself, a sort of extra loop of subsidy that didnt solve a thing. But it did show the utter vacuity of Obamacares proponents, how addicted to government they are. Its worth reminding ourselves that the last centurys most cynical political wisdom, to make an omelette, youve got to break a few eggs, was said by a communist, and from such folks we learned that a lot of eggs can be broken and all we have to show for it is death, destruction, and tyranny.
Now that they frantically grab for the remote controls, trying to hit rewind and watch Humpty de-dumped and replaced to pre-Obamacare heights, were left to watch the scurrying. The likelihood of success seems slim.
Life doesnt have rewind buttons. From the shattered eggshell and splattered yolk we need a new start.
Dont put back together the previous, out-of-control system. And dont launch yet another ovoid.
Avoid that at all costs.
Just remember: The crack-up is in the past. Piecing it back together is not an option. We need another model for a less frangible alternative. And the best one doesnt require over-design. Freedom and responsibility mean that the best future for medicine is one not cooked up by the kings henchmen and insider wonks. Provide the even playing field: Free trade and free contract, a rule of law for responsibility and accountability, and (yes) freed markets.
Anything else is just a bad egg thatll go splat. [references]
November 17, 2013
This column first appeared at Townhall.com.