Since the Washington inside-the-Beltway talking heads are dominated by folks who see politics as a heavy-weight boxing match, some of the pundits were grumbling this morning that yesterday’s health care summit produced “no clear winners.” They’re wrong. Despite partisan bickering, rambling diatribes and cliched talking points, the summit was a win for American voters, who were able to witness leaders from the two parties airing essential philosophical differences. (I hope those of you who’ve complained that the health care debate was not on C-SPAN watched all seven hours.)
The biggest difference is this: Democrats do believe in government regulation, and Republicans don’t. (The Democrats’ bill, once again, is not a “government takeover.” The vast majority of Americans would still get their health care from private insurers.)
Here’s the contradiction with the Republican vision: If you really want insurance reform, you can only get it with government regulation. As the incomparable Ezra Klein puts it:
Competition only flourishes in an environment of effective information. When you make the regulation less dependable, you make the product less dependable, which means you remove necessary information from the system and make it harder for individuals to figure out how to make good decisions. If I hear a lot of horror stories about people buying insurance that unexpectedly abandons them when they get sick, I’ll be less likely to try and change mine if I’m dissatisfied with it, as I can’t be confident that my next carrier will treat me better.
The major step forward for competition is the exchanges, which have regulators making sure the insurance is good enough to deserve the name; which allow consumers to rate the plans; which force the plans to offer standardized information so they easy to compare; which provide a large numbers of plans to choose from; which makes it easier to shop for your insurance in one place; and so on. Yet Blackburn didn’t make mention of them. Competition is a good idea. But there’s precious little Republican enthusiasm for the policies that would actually promote it.