There’s no such thing as a free lunch. As many times as we and other fiscal conservatives say it, some folks can’t just seem to believe it, especially folks who are members of the Democratic Party or lean heavily that way.
A latest example came this week with the Biden administration ordering health insurers to pay for up to eight COVID-19 home tests per month for those covered under their plans.
“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in announcing the mandate. “By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them.”
But free to whom and for how long?
Insurers will not be paying for these tests out of the goodness of their hearts, anymore than they have been paying for most of the COVID-19 tests administered at hospitals and other health-care facilities. These costs are being passed on to someone.
Either the expense of the millions of tests that have been administered, and the millions more to come, are being figured into future health insurance premiums or the government is picking up the tab. Either way, eventually this expense is going to be funneled down to the public in higher insurance premiums, higher taxes or both.
You can be sure the insurance companies are not going to just let their profits dwindle. Nor should they.
When the government mandates what an insurance policy covers, it is also, in effect, mandating what that insurance policy is going to wind up costing. The government may subsidize that cost to get the rates to the consumer down, but those subsidies have to be paid for either in taxes now or, if it’s covered with borrowed money, taxes later.
Someone may serve you “lunch” and say “no charge,” but rest assured, you will either get hit incrementally with the bill later or all the other diners around you — and those who will come eat after you — will be picking up your tab in what they are charged.
Freebies are never really free.
- The Greenwood Commonwealth