“I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty.” —Thomas Jefferson (1785)
IN TODAY’S EDITION
- Trump orders transparency for health care costs.
- Keeping the pressure on Iran is paramount.
- Daily Features: More Analysis, Columnists, Headlines, Opinion in Brief, Short Cuts, Memes, and Cartoons.
For the last several decades, insurance companies and hospitals have colluded to make the cost of health care as opaque as possible. Have you ever tried to ask a provider — even the person who works the billing desk — how much a service will cost before obtaining that service? The response ranges from being politely told to wait for the insurance filing to personal offense for having the temerity to ask such a question.
And then there’s finding out after filing an insurance claim that the service would have been significantly cheaper without insurance if you’d only known to ask for the cash price. (True story for this author.)
Economist Stephen Moore observes, “Health care is one of the most expensive items we buy each year, and yet most Americans haven’t a clue what all of this costs.” Even worse, as our Louis DeBroux noted last week, “Pricing [can be] significantly higher for the same service depending on the insurer, group plan, geographical location, etc.” When patients can’t see that pricing, they have no idea when they’re being fleeced.
President Donald Trump took a step to address this huge problem with an executive order he signed Monday. The order — which won’t take effect until after a period of public comment and rule finalization — will require hospitals to clearly disclose the cost of care for both the insurer and the patient. “This is a truly big action,” Trump said. “Some people say bigger than health care itself.” He added, “No Americans should be blindsided by bills they never agreed to.”
As is his wont, Trump is overselling his action a bit. As Moore put it, “This action by the White House treats symptoms — not the disease of third-party payers for health care.” Moreover, given that there are almost no specifics in the order, The New York Times is correct to note, “Hospitals and insurance companies are likely to lobby to make any disclosures as general as possible.”
Former Republican Rep. Ernest Istook, who now runs Americans for Less Regulation, argues that Trump’s order is the wrong prescription because “the infrastructure and paperwork to implement this will become a new Washington swamp.” Given the 1,000 health insurance companies nationwide and the millions of providers and pricing agreements, Istook says the resulting “nightmare of red tape could put Obamacare to shame.”
Concerns about the federal government “fixing” what it broke in the first place are valid. After all, ObamaCare merely forced everyone to participate in the broken system.
Yet we can only hope to fix a horribly broken health system by introducing free-market transparency — consumers of health services must know how much those services will cost. Choice and competition will better serve everyone, and, concerns notwithstanding, Trump’s order is a step in the right direction. Some regulation is necessary if consumers have no recourse but to be swindled by the colluding providers and insurers who offer outlandishly overpriced “care.”
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Iran was (narrowly) spared an airstrike last week in the aftermath of its recent oil-tanker and drone attacks, but retaliation is still happening in the form of beefed-up sanctions. According to the White House website, “President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order [Monday] morning that imposes tough sanctions to deprive the Supreme Leader of Iran and some of his closest associates of key financial resources.”
In the president’s words: “[Yesterday’s] action follows a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks. The Supreme Leader of Iran is [the] one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. … His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi bellowed in rebuttal, “Imposing useless sanctions … is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy.” He added, “Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.”
Some hardcore interventionists disagree, but the leveling of additional sanctions is a balanced countermeasure. National Review’s David French explains one critical reason why that’s the case: “A small attack on three targets is a pinprick strike. The mullahs don’t care about  casualties, and a small attack does not materially impair Iranian striking power. Pinprick strikes are often seen as displays of weakness, not strength. A small attack would, however, grant the pretext for yet another Iranian escalation — perhaps one that would claim American lives, thus generating a much larger American response.”
Iran is no Libya or even Syria — its technology and military capabilities are far more sophisticated. So airstrikes should be reserved for extreme cases. Sanctions, on the other hand, are demonstrably effective. CNBC reports that the pressure placed on Iran’s oil exports from previous sanctions has pushed that nation’s economy onto a precipice. Any further reduction in this revenue source would likely result in a complete economic meltdown.
Columnist Ken Blackwell also suggests engaging the Iranian resistance. “The Iranian regime itself is clearly well aware of the potential for its own overthrow and is reacting with the expected sense of panic,” writes Blackwell, who concludes, “There is perhaps no greater threat to the Iranian regime’s hold on power than policies which make it clear that pressure from the international community and from Iran’s democratic resistance are one and the same.”
On that note, The Wall Street Journal observes, “Now would be a good moment for Europe to get off the fence and join the U.S. pressure campaign. … The same goes for the many Democratic presidential candidates who keep saying they’ll return without conditions to the 2015 nuclear deal.” Iran will continue to provoke, but its ability to do so without shooting itself in the foot is getting harder by the day — and will get even harder if global powers coalesce around the right pressure tactics.
ON OUR WEBSITE TODAY
- Featured Analysis: No, Joe, Half of Americans Aren’t Poor — In a huge pander to his base, Biden claims “almost half” are “living in poverty.”
- Demo Debt Bill Doubles Down on Insanity — Their $1 trillion spending bill keeps ignoring the $22 trillion gorilla in the room.
- American Spirit: Police Officers Lionize Graduate’s Late Father — “A total of 18 officers came to his party. … The officers didn’t come empty-handed either.”
- Video: What Is Trump’s Plan for Iran — Ben Shapiro reacts to President Trump announcing his policy toward Iran on social media.
- Video: The Best Book to Read to Your Kids — Read them a Bible story tonight. Who knows? You might learn a few things, too.
BEST OF RIGHT OPINION
For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.
TOP NEWS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
- MEXICO GETS THE MEMO: “Mexico has deployed almost 15,000 soldiers and National Guard in the north of the country to stem the flow of illegal immigration across the border into the United States, the head of the Mexican Army said on Monday.” (Reuters)
- SCOTUS DEFERS: “The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to rule on a case challenging President Trump’s 25 percent tariffs on steel imports into the U.S. that was imposed last year. The decision … will leave in place the U.S. Court of International Trade’s ruling from March that allowed the president’s tariffs.” (Fox Business)
- GUN-CONVICTION LAW ANNULLED: “The Supreme Court on Monday ruled 5-4 that a federal law allowing for gun convictions relating to ‘a crime of violence’ was too vague. The case involved a pair of men who were convicted on several felony robbery charges, but were also convicted under another federal statute that required significant mandatory minimum sentences for a ‘crime of violence.’” (The Hill)
- CONWAY’S PRECEDENT: “The White House intends to block Kellyanne Conway from testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee later this week about alleged Hatch Act violations. The administration said … that Conway would not testify, citing ‘long-standing precedent.’” (The Hill)
- ‘A HIGHLY BIASED POLITICAL MACHINE’: “On Monday, Project Veritas released a video report featuring testimony from a Google whistleblower, along with leaked documents and undercover footage, that suggests that the most influential search engine in the world is actively promoting an agenda when it comes to news and politically and ideologically charged information.” (The Daily Wire)
- NBA’S AIR BALL: “NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the league no longer has any team ‘owners.’ Instead, it will refer to owners as ‘governor’ or ‘alternate governor’ for a part-owner.” (Washington Examiner)
- COOLER HEADS PREVAIL: “A British appeals court on Monday reversed a previous ruling that would have forced a mentally disabled woman to abort her child against both her wishes and those of her mother.” (National Review)
- POLICY: South Dakota’s efforts to protect speech on campus could be a model for the nation (National Review)
- POLICY: Bernie Sanders’s plan to cancel student debt shows bolder isn’t always better (American Enterprise Institute)
- HUMOR: Democrat candidates announce plan to dangle stacks of cash in front of potential voters (The Babylon Bee)
For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.
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OPINION IN BRIEF
Stephen Moore: “Health care is one of the most expensive items we buy each year, and yet most Americans haven’t a clue what all of this costs. For everything else we buy as Americans, we are bargain hunters — for cars, homes and restaurants but not for health and medical services, which are about one-seventh of our entire economy. Then we wonder why medical costs are running at well over double the rate of inflation over the last 20 years compared to all other consumer items. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2000, while prices of most consumer items — from toys to computer to cars — have been level or even falling, medical costs have roughly doubled.”
Double standards: “As Members of Congress and as Americans, we have a sacred moral responsibility to protect the human rights and the lives of vulnerable children and families. To do anything less would be an outrageous and unacceptable violation of our oath and our morality.” —House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on migrants, but don’t mention pre-born babies
Demo-gogues: “In terms of interior enforcement … what’s the point?” —Nancy Pelosi on Trump’s deportation raids
The BIG Lie: “It is absolutely not appropriate. … I don’t like this deportation thing at all and I think Trump uses this as a beginning to do worse things to come.” —Sen. Bernie Sanders
Alpha Jackass: “The concentration camps came first. It was a step on the road to the death camps. And we need to use the language to describe actually what’s happening right now.” —Dan Savage
Friendly fire: “If you want to run a campaign based on reparations and concentration camps then it’s going to be very hard to win the election.” —HBO’s Bill Maher
Non Compos Mentis: “I think that Donald Trump may have reawakened sensibilities in this country to say, ‘Whoa, maybe we can do this now,’ just like our generation was awakened when Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated.” —Joe Biden
No safe space: “We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.” —knitting website Ravelry in announcing a ban on all pro-Trump content
Just nope: “I think most people think of rape as being sexy.” —Trump rape accuser E. Jean Carroll
And last… “One of the funniest aspects of the secular religion is how their dogmatics insist on adding letters to their creedal statement. First it was the LBG, then LBGT, now commonly LGBTQ, but some add the IAA, etc. Personally, I’d go with BLT&G because who doesn’t love a BLT?” —Erick Erickson
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Nate Jackson, Managing Editor
Mark Alexander, Publisher