As I read the spirited debate over whether Obamacare will drive health insurers out of business (here and here), I wonder if we need to bring the discussion back to fundamentals: The key problem with U.S health insurance is that there is too much of it – whether provided by private insurers or government.
Avik Roy and Rick Ungar disagree on the likely outcome of Obamacare: Private-insurance monopolies or government monopoly (a.k.a. “single payer”). I think both are correct. Private monopolies will arise (within each state or regions within larger states) to exploit the huge subsidies (tax credits) available through the so-called Health Benefits Exchanges.
But this will only persist for a few years. Today, the politicians supporting an increasingly shaky Obamacare must ensure that the health-insurance industry remains divided – some hoping to profit from Obamacare’s forthcoming monopolies and others fearing exclusion. This prevents them from coming together in a unified effort to repeal the law. The Democrats’ success at keeping the health-insurance trade association on-side and on-message is pretty impressive, given the fact that even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now publicly advocates repeal.
The likelihood of Obamacare surviving both the U.S. Supreme Court and next year’s voters is pretty slim, so its supporters cannot afford to let any more hostages escape. (The pharmaceutical industry, for example, is also refusing to join the repeal movement.) So, while Democratic leaders cannot stop single-payer extremists like Mr. Ungar from telling the truth, they must continue to pretend that the end-game is simply a “fairer” private system, rather than a government take-over.