John Ransom

Here’s some free market advice to GOP legislators at all levels thinking about introducing bills supporting the state health exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA): Be prepared to wear the “Care” moniker around your name. You know? As in HillaryCare, RomneyCare or ObamaCare.

Colorado’s Amy Stephens, a Republican state representative from El Paso County, was once considered a future Lt. Governor, or member of Congress. Instead, she may have flamed out her career by sponsoring a bill that would opt Colorado out of ObamaCare by implementing a so-called “health exchange” under PPACA.

Yet that didn’t stop the GOP establishment under Chairman Ryan Call in Colorado from recruiting Amy to run for United States Senate.

“In a Web ad announcing her candidacy,” reports the Denver Post, “Stephens calls Udall "out-of-touch" with the struggles of Colorado families and vows to ‘fight against Obamacare's negative impact on seniors, doctors, families and job creators until the day we're finally able to repeal it.’ But Stephens is certain to be lambasted by her Republican challengers for her sponsorship of a 2011 measure that set up the state's health insurance exchange — a key provision of President Barack Obama's signature federal health care law, upheld by the Supreme Court, that on Oct. 1 allowed participants to begin shopping for insurance plans.”

Because that’s what the U.S. Senate really needs: another sell-out GOP Senator who can’t contrast the difference between Democrats and Republicans.



RomneyCare, AmyCare, Obamacare. What’s difference?

This is how it happened: Someone in the Downtown Denver set-- GOP wing-- told Amy to carry the AmyCare bill and in return they'd carry her in a U.S. Senate bid. That's why Stephens was flanked by former U.S. Senator from Colorado Hank Brown, a former liberty activist and now just a bagman for the GOP, when she announced her candidacy for the Senate. Expect a stream of GOP types with nice hair and teeth to jump aboard like Brown did.

“AmyCare is about the free market, AmyCare is about small business, AmyCare is about affordable health care for Colorado’s working families,” Stephens told the assembled media about her bill supporting healthcare exchanges according to the Denver Post.

Stephens’ then-colleague, Senator Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) explained the opposition to AmyCare in the broadest terms. “I see just a few problems with [the bill] to create a Colorado health insurance exchange: the policy, the drafting, and the politics. Otherwise, it’s a great idea,” he concludes wryly.

As Mitchell pointed out, many free market healthcare reform advocates think that the central problem with healthcare is that the government is too involved.

“Liberty activists start with the observation America lacks a free market in health care or anything close,” says Mitchell. “Government has long been a major player in controlling, funding, regulating and delivering health care and insurance.”

The biggest problem for healthcare is inflation. Inflation is “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon,” observed economist Milton Friedman. Even before federal policy created pools of targeted money that spawned inflation in real estate and college tuition, federal policy created pools of targeted money that are driving up healthcare costs.

Obamacare was supposed to keep those costs under control. That one of the main arguments for nationalized healthcare. Yet Europe, which has long had nationalized healthcare, is suffering from the same round of inflation that the U.S. has, according to a special report from the Economist:

Across Europe, healthcare is barely managing to cover its costs. Not only are the methods for raising funds to cover its costs inadequate, but, of even greater concern, the costs themselves are set to soar. According to World Bank figures, public expenditure on healthcare in the EU could jump from 8% of GDP in 2000 to 14% in 2030 and continue to grow beyond that date. The overriding concern of Europe’s healthcare sector is to find ways to balance budgets and restrain spending. Unless that is done, the funds to pay for healthcare will soon fall short of demand.

It’s the inevitable result of government intervention in free markets. An attempt to “legislate” a healthcare market in any of the states will bring with it representatives of industry, trade groups, political committees and attorneys negotiating for a better deal from the states on behalf of their interests, not the interests of patients.

And apparently we have another U.S. Senate Wannabe in Stephens who doesn’t understand it.

At least if she goes to D.C. there won’t be a training period. She’ll show up at the United States Senate already out of touch with regular voters, with none of that messy waiting around for her head to be turned.

Colorado’s version of healthcare exchange under Stephens’ AmyCare are controlled by “Board members [who] are political appointees,’ according to Linda Gorman, a healthcare policy analyst at the Independence Institute. “Three members, the Executive Director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, the Commissioner of Insurance, and the Director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade are non-voting. The 9 voting members ‘should’ have demonstrated expertise in at least one of 11 different areas including ‘the purchase of health insurance coverage,’ ‘information technology,’ starting a small business, and ‘administration of a public or private health care delivery system.’”

That seems like an awful lot of bureaucracy for something that Stephens thinks is supposed to promote free markets for healthcare. What happened to a patient having a business relationship with their doctor? Where are the patients in all this? What happened to the focus on health?

Government intervention happened.

Health insurance is the only type of insurance that is regulated under federal law. This monopoly power has created a crisis in healthcare according to at least one expert.

As John Graham at the Pacific Research Institute, a public policy think tank centered on free market solutions notes, it is not enough to repeal ObamaCare, but we have to “replace it with reform that puts the American people—not employers or government—in control of our access to medical services.”

That won’t happen under Stephens’ version of healthcare reform. And the GOP in Colorado it seems is good with that.

Graham argues: “One of the goals of effective health reform is health insurance that is owned by the individual and portable from job to job and state to state. For more than half a century, Congress has failed to correct the flaw in the Internal Revenue Code that discriminates against such health insurance, and given employers monopoly control of our health dollars.”

Instead barriers have been created by special interests like insurance companies, pharma, political parties and politicians like Stephens in order to control the flow of dollars at the expense of you and me.

Today you get more choices in dish soap than you do in healthcare.

We shouldn’t have to pick between ObamaCare or RomneyCare or AmyCare and then be told that we’ve had a choice.

That’s not reform. That’s not free markets.

And it’s more proof that the GOP doesn’t know the difference.

But Amy does have nice hair and teeth, doesn't she?


John Ransom

John Ransom is the Finance Editor for Townhall Finance.