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Why the U.S. should treat health care like a utility, not a market

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Reprinted from by Jon Perr

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On January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act went fully into effect. But for all of the furious fighting over the law these past five years, Obamacare was always an evolutionary reform grafted onto the existing American health care system. The Medicaid public insurance program has been extended to roughly four million lower income Americans so far. About two million more people have purchased private insurance, many of them aided by subsidies from Uncle Sam. And while many (though not all) of the worst abuses that let insurers pad their profits by denying or dropping care for the sick have been banned, the edifice of private insurance remains largely intact. Far from a "government takeover of health care," Obamacare preserves all of the hallmarks--private insurance companies, private hospitals, private doctors, and the patchwork of different systems for veterans, seniors, workers, and the poor--that define the American model of health care provision.

Nevertheless, the conservative sound bite assembly line continues to churn out the same tried and untrue talking points. Declaring "Obamacare is a full-scale federal takeover," former psychiatrist turned conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer warned two weeks ago:

Three years ago I predicted that Obamacare would turn insurers into the lapdog equivalent of utility companies. I undershot. They are being treated as wholly owned subsidiaries.
(The carriers' earnings and stock prices suggest otherwise.)

If Krauthammer's formulation sounds vaguely familiar, it should. During the 2012 presidential campaign, GOP torchbearer Mitt Romney explained why he wanted to set fire to the Affordable Care Act:

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