August 14, 2009 10:17AM

Conservatives: Beware Rent‐​Seeking Insurers

Tim Carney has an excellent opinion piece in today’s Washington Examiner:

Dear conservatives: Health insurance companies are not your friends. Keep opposing a new government‐​run insurer, a single‐​payer plan, and new regulations on the HMOs. But grant that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is correct on this: Insurance companies are villains (though not exactly the sort she has in mind).

Insurance companies lobby for big‐​government regulations, subsidies, mandates, and tax‐​code distortions that funnel them money, keep out competition, and stultify innovation. These policies preserve the employer‐​based health‐​care system that mocks the idea of free‐​market competition. Then they cry “unfair competition” when government threatens to encroach on their government‐​protected monopolies.

But they’re not just lobbying against a government option. Today, health insurers are lobbying to force you and me to buy their product or face a tax hike (the individual mandate).

They are lobbying to force entrepreneurs to buy insurance for employees (the employer mandate). They are lobbying for more subsidies paid for by us taxpayers. In short, they are lobbying against regular people and against the free market.…

Too often – as with last fall’s bailouts Republicans and conservatives practice pinstripe protectionism: worrying about the fate of a profitable industry. This time around, they would do well to instead embrace creative destruction.