Going into the House health care debate and vote tomorrow, it pays to keep in mind what the Republican party has identified as the real problem with American health care. I’ve mentioned this before as a longstanding tenet of conservative thinking, but Steve Benen in the Washington Monthly sums it up succinctly one more time. They quote former Congressman Dick Armey, the guru of the tea party crowd, saying, “The largest empirical problem we have in health care today is too many people are too overinsured.”
There it is, the right’s philosophy on American health care in 17 words. Most of us think the problem with the existing system is that we pay too much, get too little, and leave too many behind. Dick Armey sees the existing system and thinks we’d all be better off with less coverage. Lest anyone think this is unique to Armey, the opposite is true. A few years ago, during Bush’s pitch in support of health saving accounts, the LA Times’ Peter Gosselin explained, “Most conservatives — including those in the [Bush] administration — believe that the root cause of most problems with the nation’s healthcare system is that most Americans are over-insured.”
Just two months ago, Reps. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal making the same case. “When was the last time you asked your doctor how much it would cost for a necessary test or procedure?” they asked, making the case that consumers need more “control … over their care.”
It’s all premised on the notion that health insurance encourages medical treatments. If we have coverage, we might get tests and procedures that we wouldn’t get if weren’t so darned insured. Less coverage means fewer costs.