Health care in Indiana is flatlining, but some members of the state legislature are suggesting cures that are more dangerous than the disease. 

Hoosiers who have been to a hospital lately have experienced the shortages of nurses and health care staff that have become commonplace. By the decade’s end, Indiana will need over 5,000 new nurses to meet staffing demands. Hospitals are also experiencing financial losses estimated at nearly $3 billion, and a dozen of Indiana’s 54 rural hospitals are at risk of permanently shutting their doors. 

Rather than address these critical concerns with innovative ideas based on free market principles, some Republican legislators want to impose increased taxes, fines, paperwork, and red tape on the state’s hospitals. In a state where the need for health care is rising, it would be prudent to remember the wisdom of Ronald Reagan when he said, “If you want less of something, tax it.”

When House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) outlined the priorities of the statehouse Republicans, greater access to health care was high on the list. Huston also blamed nonprofit hospitals for increased health care costs. In that same vein, the House and Senate passed a series of proposals that are a dramatic shift away from market-based competition and toward a government-controlled system. 

One of these bills, House Bill 1004, is now on the verge of being sent to Governor Holcomb’s desk for signature. In short, House Bill 1004 seeks to impose price controls and a new rate structure on Indiana’s hospitals. Mainline economists have recognized for decades that price controls are always flawed and cause unanticipated market disruptions and shortages. 

It should come as no surprise that Al Hubbard, Chairman of Hoosiers for Affordable Healthcare, acknowledges the legislation is a step away from the free market principles which have served Hoosier patients and consumers so well when he said that, “Health care will never be a free market.” In fact, this legislation has received a resounding public endorsement from Hubbard’s group, who has called this big government power-grab a “transformative bill.”

We have heard the promise before that more government involvement in health care would reduce prices. Since President Obama shepherded his vaunted health care proposal through Congress, the promised reductions of $2500 a year in health care premiums not only didn’t come to fruition, but things also got worse. In the past decade, insurance prices have increased by 47%, outpacing inflation, and premiums surged 68%. 

There is no reason to believe that government-imposed price controls by Indianapolis will work out any better than if they came from Washington. Republicans in the state legislature should come to their senses and go back to the principles that made America great. If they don’t then Governor Holcomb should not hesitate to whip out his veto pen.  

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