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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Healthcare - hold-off the collectivists long enough

It would be great if this doesn't get anywhere.

"(Hillary) also said Democrats would focus on improving the quality and affordability of health care _ a touchy matter for the former first lady, who in 1993 led her husband's calamitous attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system. The failure of that effort helped Republicans win control of both the Senate and House the following year.

"Health care is coming back," Clinton warned, adding, "It may be a bad dream for some."

Whereas incremental steps in this direction might help.

...a recent New York Times letter-writer asserted, "a human right and a universal entitlement."

Sounds noble. But not everything that is highly desirable is a right. Most rights simply oblige us to respect one another's freedoms; they do not oblige us to pay for others to exercise these freedoms. Respecting rights such as freedom of speech and of worship does not impose huge demands upon taxpayers.

Healthcare, although highly desirable, differs fundamentally from these rights. Because providing healthcare takes scarce resources, offering it free at the point of delivery would raise its cost and reduce its availability.

Medicare, Medicaid, and tax-deductibility of employer-provided health insurance created a system in which patients at the point of delivery now pay only a small fraction of their medical bills out of pocket.

This situation leads to monstrously inefficient consumption of healthcare. Some people consume too much, while many others with more pressing needs do without.

Because the wasteful consumption caused by heavily subsidized access drives up healthcare costs, taxpayers must pay more and more to fund Medicare and Medicaid, while private insurers must continually raise premiums. The sad and perverse result is that increasing numbers of people go without health insurance.

The solution is less, not more, government involvement in healthcare. Market forces have consistently lowered the cost and improved the quality and accessibility of food - which is at least as important to human survival as is healthcare. There's no reason markets can't do the same for healthcare.

It's ironic but true: Only by abandoning attempts to provide healthcare as a "right" that's paid for largely by others will we enjoy surer access to it.

If we can avoid the pitfalls of even more socialized medicine, we can reach here.

Something needs to be done in medicine and the entrepreneurs and technologists of the telecosm are the exact people to do it. It involves moving diagnostic medicine into the hands of the consumers—taking the diagnostic and technological tools of medicine and making computer peripherals out of them, as well as making on-person monitors and turning the Internet into an interpretive tool, so that the consumers of medicine can evaluate the product that they receive and medicine itself could be turned into a therapeutic industry competing on the basis of quality and price.

Listen to the podcast linked to above to hear Arthur Robinson and Andy Kessler. Great stuff!


Bret said...

Don't get me started! If the health care market was free, I can easily see achieving a factor of 30 or so efficiency withing two decades.

Freeing the market would including abolishing Medicare and tax deductions for employer funded health care, abolishing the monopoly of the AMA, significantly reducing (or eliminating) the role of the FDA, and massive tort reform hugely limiting the liabilities of health care providers.

People talk about market failure. The failure is that there is no market!

Howard said...

"People talk about market failure. The failure is that there is no market!"

YES! Some people say "healthcare is too important to leave to the market" - it's too important not to leave to the market!

Hey Skipper said...

Next to the IRS, I would say that our current healthcare system (understanding that the use of "system" in this context is a gross insult to the whole concept of the word), is the greatest threat to our Republic.

Heck, it might even be ahead of the IRS.

And way ahead of Caliphascism, so long as they don't get ahold of a nuke.