Get Ready for ObamaCare Rationing

John Goodman, FloydReports.com

There were two recent announcements that I hope you paid attention to:

  • The American Medical Group Association, representing medical groups that provide care for roughly 1 in 3 Americans, said that 90% of its members would not participate in the new Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model the Obama administration wants to impose on Medicare providers.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, exercising new powers conferred upon her by health reform (ObamaCare), said insurers would have to justify any rate increases greater than 10%.

So what does one announcement have to do with the other? A lot. I’ll connect the dots below.

Here’s the bottom line. The administration uses the rhetoric of choice and competition and some isolated souls within it may actually think competitive pressures can reduce health care costs. But if that doesn’t work out, it’s goodbye to volunteerism and hello to another way of constraining costs: global budgets and rationing.

The core of Obama administration health reform is managed competition, instituted through a health insurance exchange. In embracing this reform, the administration is following the lead of Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and before that Hillary Clinton’s failed attempt in 1993/94. But the idea really harks back to a book written by Stanford professor Alain Enthoven in the early 1980s. Enthoven argued that the entire health care system should be patterned after the Federal Employees Health Benefits system. (See a brief history and analysis.)

Here’s the difference. Enthoven believed (and still does believe) that competition in health insurance can actually work. Mitt Romney believed that as well. Maybe Hillary Clinton did too. But almost no one in the Obama administration believes that. When is the last time you heard any federal official praising the virtues of a competitive market for any good or service?

For Obama, the purpose of the health insurance exchange is not to bring needed competition to an imperfectly competitive market. The purpose is to exert control over the industry. If you believe in competition, then you want lots of competitors. But the administration is imposing rules and regulations that are driving insurers from the market, as we have previously reported here, here and here. In fact, some careful observers believe that by the time the exchanges become operational (in 2014) there will be only one or two insurers left in most markets….

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