Two Los Angeles Times reporters today inform us that without price controls on health coverage, an individual mandate would yield a continuation of “the skyrocketing premium increases of recent years.” Implicitly, therefore, price controls would reduce costs and so make consumers better off.
Someone, anyone, please tell me where these rigorous thinkers have been for the last few decades. Actually, they seem to recognize how silly their argument is when they point out several paragraphs below that “with [an individual mandate], the nation’s bill could be spread more broadly . . . “ And so there we have it: The price controls wouldn’t really reduce consumer costs at all, but instead would shift them onto those for whom mandated coverage is not worth what it costs. Any student in Econ 1 knows that except under very limited circumstances price controls do not reduce “costs”; instead they hide them and shift them. More broadly, the individual mandate has little to do with the costs of uncompensated care — which are a small part of health-care spending, and are offset anyway by the higher taxes paid by those without coverage, who thus do not enjoy the attendant tax advantages — and everything to do with the use of health care “reform” as a vehicle with which to transfer wealth among constituencies. And the taxes needed to subsidize mandated coverage for those who cannot afford it? Who bears those costs? Once again, the LA Times has parroted leftist talking points without offering any understanding at all of the fundamental underlying analytics. And they wonder why the bottom has dropped out from their readership numbers.
– Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.