Buried in this somewhat balanced article about HSAs which postulates that the healthy & wealthy may get most out of health-savings accounts, is this gem from a leading “free-marketer” and HSA advocate:
John Goodman, the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas and an advocate of HSAs, said that the tax incentives are appropriate because the accounts serve two purposes. “This isn’t just a savings account,” he said. “It’s self-insurance for health care.”
Meanwhile, veteran Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott tells the other side of the coin. But it’s the same coin.
A bedrock principle of this nation is to pool our resources and share the risk, because it benefits us all. That’s why we collectively support police and fire departments, national defense and a host of other essential services. The alternative would turn back the clock to the early 20th century, when people were wiped out by one moment of misfortune.
Is HSA any different? No. HSAs would accelerate a trend that has seen the percentage of employers offering health insurance drop 15 percent during the Bush Administration. A HSA would be an incentive for employers to transfer more of the burden to the individual. The outcome is inevitable, even for forward thinking, employee-focused, responsible corporate citizens. How long can they last when the competition abandons providing health insurance?
So the left and the right agree—HSAs et al move us to self-insurance or self-pay for health care and away from the idea of pooling. Of course rational people think that for health care with its uneven distribution of risk and costs, that’s nuts. The right (or at least the honest right) just thinks that it’s all OK. But at least we’re all agreed on what it is.