Ron Paul: Leave Government Out Of Insurance Plan

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One of the strongest opponents of government intervention in reforming the health care industry is Ron Paul — a Republican congressman from Texas. He’s known to some as "Dr. No" for his opposition to tax hikes and refusal to vote for spending bills. He’s a doctor by training — an OB-GYN — and he’s written a new book called End the Fed — as in the Federal Reserve. He tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz that he doesn’t believe health care is a right.

Download MP3 interview here.

Ron Paul: I do not believe peoples’ needs or desires or wants or demands are rights. Once you do that, you embark on a system of government that is uncontrollable. You have a right to your life, your liberty and you should have a right to keep what you earn. So I do not believe medical care is a right. And that’s one of the problems that we’re facing today and why there’s so much confusion on what we ought to do about health care.

Guy Raz: Congressman Paul, yesterday we spoke with Sen. Ron Wyden. He’s a Democrat. Like you, he opposes a government-sponsored health insurance plan. Here’s what he’s proposing: He wants a market-based solution — an exchange — that would have all insurers compete for your business and mine. But unlike the current plans floating around Capitol Hill, Ron Wyden would allow everyone to take part in that. Would you back something like that?

Ron Paul: Well, from what you told me, that sounds like I should certainly think about it. But sometimes when they’re offered in that frame of mind, it means sometimes that they force you to participate.

Under the Wyden plan, and to some extent under the [plan by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus] currently circulating in the Senate, health insurance would be a mandate. Most people would be required to buy it.

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Yeah — and that wouldn’t be something that I could support, because once the government gets in and either mandates something or regulates it or subsidizes it, it’s no longer insurance. If they want to call that a social welfare program, they would be more honest. But they shouldn’t ever use the word "insurance." Insurance is a market phenomenon. When you buy something and somebody’s paid to measure risk, like life insurance, people understand that.

This whole idea that anybody that already has a condition can demand insurance is sort of like saying, well, your house is burning down, and you go to the insurance and say, "Hey my house is on fire. Can I buy insurance?" Everybody knows it doesn’t work that way. And we here on the coast in Texas, if there’s a hurricane in the Gulf, we can’t go out and buy insurance. Otherwise, the insurance companies would all go broke and the government would have to bail them out. So you have to — once again — think about insurance if you want better care and cheaper care and more care for more people, you have to look to the market for the distributions.

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If it was left to market devices, how do you envision that working to help insure all Americans?

Well, about opposite of what we should expect when we go to total government. And we have a pretty good record of showing what we did in this country up until the 1960s. I recall working in a church hospital for $3 an hour and nobody was ever turned away and nobody was left out in the streets. And just think of all the church hospitals that have been closed down because the invasion of government into the health care industry.

But who would pay for them?

Well, who pays for the Shriner hospitals? Charity takes care of it, the churches take care of it. When government takes care of it, the bureaucrats get paid. And insurance companies become the lobbyists, the drug companies become the lobbyists, the management companies become the lobbyists, doctors get squeezed, the patients get squeezed. You can’t put all these corporations in between the doctors and the patients. You have a form of corporatism, which motivates the type of system that we have now, and it’s not any better. Some worry that Obama would give us socialized medicine, but he isn’t. He’s giving us a continuation of corporatism. He’s forcing people to buy insurance. The insurance companies love it! They love to see 20 or 30 million more people being forced into the system, and they will have more customers.

Ron Paul, let’s move on to your book now, End the Fed. You want to replace the Federal Reserve with a money system that would be backed by gold or other commodities. Is that right?

Yeah, basically I want to follow the Constitution, and that’s what the Constitution says.

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September 21, 2009