What do we do if our healthcare insurance premiums are rising? Why not just make a rule saying that they can’t go up? That’ll fix ‘em.


And that may be what the administration is in essence planning. An article in Daily Caller reports that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is “quietly working on a new regulation to determine when insurance price increases are ‘unreasonable’ and potentially prohibited by law.” Rising premiums can have a devastating effect on the argument that passing healthcare reform was such a hot idea.


The Daily Caller notes:


The move may provide political cover heading into November’s elections as the President tries to keep the public from linking recent premium hikes to his newly-passed health care law.


But critics warn price controls could lead to either rationing or insurance companies going out of business, and point to Massachusetts’s experience with insurance price controls as a cautionary tale of what happens when pricing “turns political.”


The invaluable Ed Morrissey of Hot Air points out an irony: price controls are exactly what Richard Nixon tried to control inflation 40 years ago:


That was the year that Richard Nixon promised to control inflation and return stability to the American economy by imposing price controls, a decision that backfired and helped lead to artificial shortages and a decade of stagflation.


Imposing price controls may be the price we pay for having government control too much of the economy, Morrissey adds. He concludes:


If government caps prices so that insurance companies cannot cover the cost of providing its services, insurance companies will go out of business and shortages will drive up the actual cost of health care.  Remember, even though gasoline remained at a constant price, consumers had to wait hours to get their tanks filled – a cost of time that far outstripped the price increases that would have resulted without Nixon’s intervention.  One cannot escape cost by manipulating price for very long, if at all, a lesson we learned almost 40 years ago, and one Obama wants to learn the hard way all over again.