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No Mandates, Please


William Tucker endorses the idea that health insurance should be mandatory. I think that’s a mistake, for reasons I’ve gone into before. It’s especially a mistake if you’re concerned, as Tucker is–and should be–about state mandates that make health insurance more expensive.

Tucker writes: “State legislators constantly screw things up by responding to every petty lobbying group and ‘mandating’ their type of coverage. You can’t buy basic health insurance anymore. You have to enlist the services of chiropractors, psychologists, occupational therapists, holistic diviners, and every other kind of snake charmer whose professional association has given a testimonial dinner for the chairman of the legislature. Consequently, insurance is unaffordable to most people.”

His solution–a federal mandate that everyone buy a no-frills insurance package–will not solve the problem to which he points. It will merely relocate it. The same provider groups that lobby state capitols to require everyone to purchase their services will come to Washington and explain that their services aren’t frills at all but are a vital part of health care. I have never heard anyone explain why Washington would be better at resisting their demands than Harrisburg.

Tucker’s concern–which, again, I share–would be much better addressed by allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines, with regulations being set by the state in which the insurer is located. That way there would be a competitive check on overregulation. It wouldn’t be perfect, of course, but Tucker’s solution offers no check at all. The state-competition alternative also builds on a proposal that actually has the support of House Republicans and the White House, which suggests it could happen more easily than his plan could.


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