Leaping Socialism

It's rare that an article is published in the mainstream press which so thoroughly reveals almost everything that is wrong with the state at once. Congratulations, Washington Post, you've done it.

The Maryland House of Delegates voted yesterday to expand health care coverage for the uninsured, approving a $154 million plan to enlarge the state's network of community health centers and to increase Medicaid eligibility for poor adults for only the second time since the 1960s.

On a vote of 86 to 54, the House gave final approval to a complex health care package and agreed to fund it by imposing a 1 percent tax on HMO premiums. Under the proposal, the state would use money from a national settlement with tobacco companies to increase payments to doctors who treat Medicaid patients, and it would seek additional funds from the federal government.

And later,

The plan represents a first step on the path toward universal health care, a goal endorsed last fall by the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate and by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. About 700,000 Marylanders lack health insurance.

As if its scope weren't very large already, the state can always increase it as pressure from lobbyists, True Believers, voters, or politicians' fears of losing their jobs demands. Even when faced with a set of limits such as is ostensibly found in the Constitution, it can gradually overcome these limits though baby steps in each branch of government. Eventually we end up where we are today: the Constitution is a joke, the Supreme Court rarely overturns plainly unconstitutional regulation, the President has something to say about everything rather than simply presiding at a distance, and Congress passes thousands of laws about every conceivable aspect of your life in the blink of an eye.

Even if you don't think that it was only a matter of time before the Constitution suffered the same fate as previous restrictions on governments, could you have foreseen the political infighting that always accompanies this mess? In response to the governor's opposition to the HMO tax:

Hurson has other forms of leverage: His committee has yet to act on several important pieces of the governor's legislative agenda, including measures to reform state contracting rules to benefit minority businesses and to create a Cabinet-level Department of Disability Services. Earlier this week, Hurson said he would advance the governor's agenda "when we see a little more cooperation on this health care bill."

These two parties got established, threw up almost insurmountable barriers to other parties, and then divided the spoils between themselves. Now if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, without the possibility of cooperation otherwise. I admit, this is very often a good thing, as I love it when partisan bickering prevents either version of the next Fascism Act from passing, but it reveals the dirtiness of the process. Given what I know about people, I don't see how this is avoidable, at the very least in our present two-party duopoly system.

Now to the 1% HMO tax. First they say health care is too expensive, then they tax health care providers. It doesn't say this in the article, but obviously when pressed about this the people behind it would say that it increases the cost for the people with HMOs, yes, but that goes to people who are previously uninsured. Favoring one group's interest at the expense of another group is what we do, what's so wrong about that?

But it's more complex than that. It was favoring one group over another than made the present situation:

Hurson and Middleton expressed frustration with Ehrlich's opposition to the HMO tax, saying it would simply eliminate an exemption created years ago to help HMOs become established in the insurance market. Other forms of health insurance are taxed already.

(Aside: Which is better, applying bad laws equally to everyone, or exempting some entities from them? More to come.)

The only real good thing about the news is that the bill has only been passed by the Maryland House of Delegates, and has yet to pass its Senate. They have their own version, which is different and will need to be reconciled with the House's. This could very well happen, but it hasn't yet.

Moreover, while to my knowledge Maryland has plenty of money to throw into sinkhole projects, no system like this is sustainable in the long run and it could flop before other states do similar things. We'll see.

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A story that's gotten no

A story that's gotten no play--except from my organization, which deals with antitrust issues--is the Bush administration's use of the antitrust laws to impose soft price controls on physician-HMO contracts. The FTC and Justice Department have prosecuted about 11,000 doctors since 2001 for the "crime" of asking HMOs for more money to treat their patients. This has been spun by GOP bureaucrats as "price fixing" of OPEC-like proportions.

The FTC/DOJ theory is that any increase in health costs is solely attributable to the "greed" of physicians who seek more money, even where the facts show physicians often lose money on particular procedures because of low reimbursement rates. Those rates, in turn, are tied to the Medicare rates, which are set by federal planners, not the free market.

my father is still be paid

my father is still be paid the same rate as in 1984 for some obstetrical procedures which cannot be done by anyone except a seriously trained professional. we live in Kanada, so thats understandable due to this places communist nature, but it is another example of the erosion and slide towards the coming collapse of the ninny state. old people are going to go ballistic until they get thier way, and they all vote. in some places they wil be the absolute majority.

I'm sorry to jump in with a

I'm sorry to jump in with a largely irrelevant sidedrain, but there's nothing unconstitutional about a state creating a single-payer health care service. Lochner was overturned decades ago.

- Josh

Josh, Ignoring large

Josh,

Ignoring large portions of the Constitution through judicial fiat doesn't make unconstitutional acts constitutional.

"(Aside: Which is better,

"(Aside: Which is better, applying bad laws equally to everyone, or exempting some entities from them?...)"

Usually such bad laws are passed as a result of rent-seeking business firms acting through the state. And their motivation in so doing is to hamstring the competition. If the entities exempted are the ones behind the legislation, then that exemption is key to their unjust design.

The state is simply the instrument of a ruling class.

Your site is really good.

Your site is really good.