Some liberals are jumping on Rush Limbaugh’s comments praising the care he received while in Hawaii as evidence that more unionization and government-control of the health system leads to better quality care.
It’s no wonder they are seizing on Rush’s comments. One courteous statement from a celebrity is probably the best evidence they can muster to defend the notion that somehow more government leads to better service. Just about every government-run health care system–and every other government-run enterprise for that matter-churns out countless examples that support the opposite conclusion.
Hawaiian State Senator Sam Slom has an article in National Review Online on the health care situation in Hawaii, detailing how Hawaii’s “progressive” health care paradise has been a disaster for businesses and the state economy.
It’s also worth remembering that Hawaii has provided another lesson in the problems with government-run health care. As I wrote on Townhall last year:
The experience of Hawaii in launching the first state-based “universal” child health insurance program is instructive. The program was created in hopes of helping the island state’s uninsured children (estimated to number between 3,500 and 16,000) by providing free health insurance coverage and access to doctor’s visits for just a $7 co-pay.
What lawmakers soon learned was that it isn’t just the existing pool of uninsured who wants to take advantage of a free government alternative; many parents dropped their private coverage in order to qualify for the government-funded plan. A staggering 85 percent of those who enrolled previously had health insurance. Dr. Kenny Fink, an administrator at Hawaii’s Department of Human Services, summed up what was happening: “People who were already able to afford healthcare began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free. I don’t believe that was the intent of the program.” Just seven months after the program’s launch, government officials decided to shut it down.
Maybe encouraging people to switch from private to government-provided insurance wasn’t the intention of Hawaii’s universal children’s health insurance initiative, but that result certainly shouldn’t have come as a surprise. When a free alternative becomes available, it’s sensible for families to reevaluate if they should continue paying for a service on their own. This dynamic will hold true whether the federal government starts offering preschool through the government-run public school system (another Democratic priority) or if they expand eligibility for government-subsidized health care.
President Obama has promised that those of us who like our current health care coverage won’t have to change providers if his health care proposal becomes law. But as we learned from Hawaii’s experiment, change is inevitable once government starts offering subsidized services. And if Congress’s health care bill passes, we can expect many employers (like Hawaii’s parents) to make the calculation that it’s better to drop expensive private insurance and push their employees onto government rolls, even if they have to pay a fine.
I’m glad Rush received good service while in Hawaii’s health care system. But the public should recognize that that quality of care comes in spite of, not because of, government’s intervention in the health care arena.