Last week, it was reported that Trader Joe’s was about to become the latest large company to discontinue the practice of offering health insurance coverage to some of its employees. In the wake of Obamacare, stories like this are becoming more and more common. What I find particularly interesting about this is that these stories are typically treated as absolutely negative developments that we should all disapprove of.
I’m not so sure these stories are “bad news” at all. And not just because I’m a libertarian. It seems to me that criticism of the current American system of “people get health insurance that covers absolutely everything as a condition of their employment” is very common, all across the ideological spectrum. The left doesn’t like it – they want the government to run everyone’s health care. Those who value individual freedom don’t like it; they want a real market-based solution. Even among people who are generally satisfied with the current system, most of them would admit that tying medical care to employment is a fairly silly and arbitrary concept.
So how do we get away from it? One employer at a time. While the employees at Trader Joe’s are being shuffled towards the Obamacare insurance exchanges (which might not necessarily be an improvement), generally speaking, fewer individuals being covered by employer-provided insurance is a positive development for those who believe employer-provided insurance is a stupid system. Individuals will continue to demand medical care, regardless of who is providing it or how it is provided. More individuals having to seek out their own options for health care will create additional demand that entrepreneurs could potentially take advantage of. Private insurance options may become more common, prices may fall, quality may rise, etc.
Ideally, medicine and medical services would not be discriminated against by the government, and would be allowed to trade in open, free, and fair markets. Moving individuals away from getting one-size-fits all, corporate-designed, comprehensive insurance plans and into a situation where they will be responsible for purchasing their own medical care is certainly a step in the right direction.