Expensive ideas

President Obama pushed all sorts of new health insurance regulations in his address to lawmakers this month. He said insurers “will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime.” He said Congress would “place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses” and require insurers to cover “routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies.” All this on top of a federal mandate that every American purchase health insurance or pay a steep penalty tax.

But providing health care consumers with all sorts of iron-clad protections on the back end — no five-figure medical bills, guaranteed lifetime coverage, reimbursements for all the preventive care your doctor prescribes — leaves insurers with only one way to absorb those expenses: big bills on the front end.

Some liberals finally appear to be waking up to the fact that their vision of health care “reform” is going to drive up insurance premiums, which already have more than doubled over the past 10 years. And any legislation to regulate premiums on top of all the other new restrictions insurers will face would be a recipe for bankruptcy.

“That would be a very substantial additional intervention in the marketplace,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said of premium price controls. “I just don’t think the support would be there for that kind of a change.”

It’s encouraging that Senate Democrats seem to understand there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But why on earth would they continue to claim the purpose of their health care agenda is reducing medical costs when their plans clearly won’t? Aside from adding almost $1 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years to subsidize coverage, it will force tens of millions of healthy people to pay more for comprehensive insurance policies they don’t need.

If Democrats are serious about reducing medical costs, they’ll work to extract government from health care by eliminating insurance mandates, thereby giving consumers a broader range of coverage choices.

If they stay on their current course, however, we’ll know they’re more concerned with their own power.

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