With Obamacare Starting, Is National Food Insurance The Next Big Idea?

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John Goodman of Southern Methodist University, a leading voice for free market medicine, has asked us to imagine what our groceries stores would look like if they were run like the medical system. In this piece, we will take his observations and add some of our own.

  • As you enter the store, note that there will be no prices posted.
  • In addition, the price you pay will vary according to who you are and how you will pay.
  • You’ll have to come in during office hours because the store will close on weekends and holidays.
  • What you want probably won’t be on the shelf. You will be told to come back later.
  • If you do find what you want, you will have to wait to pay, perhaps a long time, and you may not be able to charge it then, since getting the price right and your credit checked may take days or weeks.
  • Don’t expect to be able to return anything, no matter how defective the product is.
  • There won’t be any brands to guide you and labels and sizes won’t be consistent. If you want to compare, better bring your calculator, and anyway how can you compare without prices?
  • Most the products will have to be government approved, which costs a lot of money. To pay for that, only patentable products will be offered. So don’t expect any natural food. Only synthetic food, new to nature, will be on the shelves.
  • If any food is not government approved, the label will be severely restricted by law, so you won’t be able to tell it is food.
  • Please don’t expect new selections you haven’t seen before. It is so expensive to create synthetic food and get it approved, that new products will be few and far between and sell at fantastic prices.
  • If you don’t like the store’s product, you can hire a lawyer to sue. The prices charged will reflect all the resulting lawsuits.
  • Don’t expect to make selections on your own. Each selection will have to be approved by some licensed professional. Most of these professionals will be paid by the government. Under government rules, they will receive much larger fees if they are employees of a large  government approved food organization, so fewer and fewer of them will work for themselves or, even indirectly, for you. It may seem odd that political progressivism, which began attacking big business, is now herding professionals into them, but get used to it.
  • All of your purchases will be electronically recorded. Approximately 800,000 different parties will have access to these records. So if you are going to be embarrassed by a purchase, better not to make it in the first place. If this bothers you, don’t expect any sympathy from the media. The New York Times gets really upset about the government snooping on what books you buy or borrow from a library, but won’t care about what grocery or drugstore products you buy.
  • You will of course be required by law to buy a food insurance policy. Only items approved by government will be covered, so government will decide what qualifies as food and thus what you will be allowed to eat.
  • Because your policy will cost the same whether you need loads of groceries or few, the insurance companies will try to get rid of those who need the most. So don’t expect to have your calls answered ( calling would mean you are likely a big shopper) or otherwise receive good service.
  • If you once had a food insurance policy bought across state lines ( because you were a member of a national  organization such as the Author’s Guild or the Graphic Arts Guild), please be aware that this is now illegal.
  • If your income is limited, you may be eligible for some nice food insurance subsidies. But be careful. If your income rises by $1 too much, you may suddenly lose as much as $9,355 in subsidy. It may be best to forget about increasing your income, since that could trigger the loss of other government benefits worth even more than $9,355.
  • Let’s hope that you are not making the minimum wage, because your food insurance will cost your employer from $2.28- $5.89 per hour, which may mean you lose your job. Or your employer may reduce your full time job to part time to escape the food insurance mandate.
  • It is hard to say how all this will affect you, however, because your employer or the large food organization that approves your purchases  may get any number of special exemptions from the government. You may even yourself  get some crumbs falling off the crony capitalist table.

Are you relieved that this has all been a fantasy– that the grocery industry is not run like healthcare? Please understand that “reform” could yet be coming to groceries. In the first place, groceries are currently a so-called private market, and private markets are notoriously subject to what economists call “imperfect information” and “imperfect competition” among other alleged defects. Government, which actually suffers from even more of these defects, may want to step in.

In addition, the truth is that, in order to stay alive, we need food, clothing, and shelter much more than healthcare. Since government long ago took over much of farming, and more recently housing, along with healthcare, surely food insurance will be the next big idea. Why stop with food stamps ( actually cards), which can be used in any existing grocery store, when you can “reform” the whole food system?

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