I remember a lot of outrage about two things when I first ran for office: Obamacare and the bank bailouts. Unfortunately, the Senate healthcare bill combines the worst of those two — this time, we're bailing out the big insurance companies.
Why? Partly because of the crony capitalism that pervades the culture in the swamps of Washington.But it's more than that. In order to advance their crony capitalism, the Senate Obamacare bill takes us beyond the long-running debate about "is healthcare a right" to a new debate: "Is health insurance a right?"
In other words, is there somehow a right to healthcare that includes a taxpayer obligation to maintain insurance industry profits, which hit a record $15 billion last year?
One would hope not.
But the one certainty of the Senate GOP health plan is that it guarantees a profit for Big Insurance. The same Big Insurance that takes in about $15 billion in profit annually.
Am I the only one in the Senate that finds this brand of crony capitalism unseemly?
We aren't talking about whether or not we take care of the poor or disabled who can't afford their healthcare. We already do that in Medicaid and a host of other direct government programs.
I can have an honest debate with socialists about whether one can have a right that confers an obligation on another individual, but I really can't even admit any intellectual honesty to those in Congress who now argue that the federal government has a responsibility to confer profit to a profitable industry.
The current Senate GOP healthcare bill creates a giant insurance bailout superfund of nearly $200 billion.
Big Insurance whines that they lose money in the individual market, while carefully leaving out the fact that they make enormous profits in group insurance markets that comprise about 90 percent of the private insurance marketplace.
As a believer in free markets and capitalism, I favor no federal government intervention in the insurance marketplace. But if Senate Republicans now accept a prominent role for government in the insurance marketplace, maybe Big Insurance should just be told, "Hey, the ‘insurance stabilization fund' is going to be financed by your $15 billion in profits." Government could simply forbid them from selling group insurance unless they agree to subsidize the individual market.
Now, I don't favor such a mandate. But if I were forced to choose between asking the taxpayer to fork over $200 billion to subsidize Big Insurance or mandating that insurance companies subsidize those with pre-existing conditions, I'd choose taking the money out of their profit, without question.
Once upon a time, there was a classically-liberal intelligentsia in our country who understood what natural rights are.
The economist Walter Williams puts it this way:
In the standard historical usage of the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people. A right confers no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. That right imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference.
As we forgot about what natural liberty means, so have we forgotten what made America great in the first place — freedom.
I am disappointed that my colleagues have insufficient confidence in the freedom of the healthcare marketplace, and I am greatly disappointed they've decided there now exists a federal right of insurance companies to have their $15 billion annual profit subsidized by taxpayers.
I really can't describe my level of disappointment. Crony capitalism is enshrined as a "right" by the new GOP Obamacare bill, while that bill does little to nothing to repeal Obamacare or fix our ailing healthcare sector.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is the junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter: @RandPaul
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