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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Key points in the health care debate

Much of the public discussion does not even grapple with determining the most important criteria in determining policy changes. That can be the subject of another post. George Newman goes bowling, lining up several nonsensical shibboleths and knocking them down:(here)

The health-care debate continues. We have now heard from nearly all the politicians, experts and interested parties: doctors, drug makers, hospitals, insurance companies, even constitutional lawyers (though not, significantly, from trial lawyers, who know full well "change" is not coming to their practices). Here is how one humble economist sees some of the main arguments, which I have paraphrased below:

- "The American people overwhelmingly favor reform."

If you ask whether people would be happier if somebody else paid their medical bills, they generally say yes. But surveys on consumers' satisfaction with their quality of care show overwhelming support for the continuation of the present arrangement. The best proof of this is the belated recognition by the proponents of health-care reform that they need to promise people that they can keep what they have now.

- "Forty-five million people in the U.S. are uninsured."

Even if this were true (many dispute it) should we risk destroying a system that works for the vast majority to help 15% of our population?

- "The cost of treating the 45 million uninsured is shifted to the rest of us."

So on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are harangued about the 45 million people lacking medical care, and on Tuesday and Thursday we are told we already pay for that care. Left-wing reformers think that if they split the two arguments we are too stupid to notice the contradiction. Furthermore, if cost shifting is bad, wait for the Mother of all Cost Shifting when suppliers have to overcharge the private plans to compensate for the depressed prices forced on them by the public plan.

- "A universal plan will reduce the cost of health care."

Think a moment. Suppose you are in an apple market with 100 buyers and 100 sellers every day and apples sell for $1 a pound. Suddenly one day 120 buyers show up. Will the price of the apples go up or down?

- "We need a public plan to keep the private plans honest."

The 1,500 or so private plans don't produce enough competition? Making it 1,501 will do the trick? But then why stop there? Eating is even more important than health care, so shouldn't we have government-run supermarkets "to keep the private ones honest"? After all, supermarkets clearly put profits ahead of feeding people. And we can't run around naked, so we should have government-run clothing stores to keep the private ones honest. And shelter is just as important, so we should start public housing to keep private builders honest. Oops, we already have that. And that is exactly the point. Think of everything you know about public housing, the image the term conjures up in your mind. If you like public housing you will love public health care.

There are many more gems in the article!!


erp said...

My pet peeve is that health insurance and health care are becoming synonymous in the minds of the public. The welfare recipients get free health care through Medicaid and uninsured patients are seen in public hospital ER's.

It would be far cheaper for local municipalities to provide free clinics for low income people and welfare recipients and leave the rest of the world's best health care system intact.

Many years ago there were such free clinics in NYC attended by some of the best specialists in their fields. We took our infant son, now 50, to such one at Manhattan Eye and Ear hospital. He was seen by a Park Avenue specialist who made an appointment for us at his office where our son was saved from deafness by a simple procedure. Had we called his office for an appointment, it's doubtful we would have been seen because our pediatrician thought the problem would resolve itself (it wouldn't have) and refused to give us a referral.

Local clinics could be staffed with doctors who with a promise to work for a set period of time could have part or all of their student loans forgiven.

Of course this system would provide health care for the needy instead of large sums of tax payer dollars for liberal politician and their handlers.

Howard said...


we could provide important help to those in greatest need at less cost then we incur now - if that was the sole objective...