Consider the following: You have a heart problem and desperately need a state-of-the-art procedure to correct it. However, you’re worried the high cost of treatment will bankrupt you. Certainly this is a stressful situation. But then you learn that, for some inexplicable reason, the surgeon who developed the technique retired and his clinic will no longer offer the procedure.
You breathe a sigh of relief. The remaining treatment options, while not very effective, are affordable. Your financial problems are solved. You’ll no longer have to worry about going bankrupt due to high medical costs.
If this strikes you as idiocy, you’ll be sad to hear it’s precisely the kind of “solution” being pushed through Washington in the name of health care “reform.”
A recent episode of Office Hours, a production of the UW political science department, illustrates this line of thinking.
After presenting a litany of alleged deficiencies of U.S. health care, the program host asked whether there’s anything the U.S. does right. Reluctantly, one professor indicated the U.S. has the best state-of-the-art care in the world.
You might be thinking state-of-the-art health care is good, a cause for celebration, something that might warrant discussion. What makes state-of-the-art care possible, for example? Or what kinds of policies promote its continued development, cost reduction and wider availability?
Unfortunately, like the characters in Washington they study, these political scientists show little interest in such matters. With a tone of banal indifference they quickly assure themselves and viewers that state-of-the-art health care is not a panacea. It is expensive, they say.
Why is it expensive? No one thinks to ask. Instead, a quote from Newsweek is presented that supposedly reveals Canada has solved the problem of high medical costs.
“While the U.S. lets some 700,000 people go bankrupt due to medical bills each year, the number of medical bankruptcies in Canada is precisely zero.”
Wow! How does this Canadian system work? Unfortunately, these PhDs have precisely zero to say on the issue, so let’s try to fill in the blanks.
Since the Canadian government dictates the services and fees that are available and prohibits doctors and patients from contracting with each other freely, expensive state-of-the-art health care is simply not available in Canada like it is in the U.S.
Like our hypothetical doctor who “saved” you from bankruptcy by closing up shop, socialized medicine takes the cost out of health care by removing the “state-of-the-art” option from the menu and forcing all spending through a single payer. So this much is true: no one goes bankrupt when they’re not allowed to spend their own money.
This kind of “solution” pervades all health care “reform” proposals without discussion or analysis. Every problem is treated as some causeless offense to be legislated away without concern for cause, effect, economic laws or individual liberty.
If specialists like cardiologists and oncologists are expensive, the proposed solution is to pay them less. If millions are going without insurance, the proposed solution is to force everyone to buy insurance. If insurance is difficult to obtain after you get sick, the proposed solution is to force companies to provide coverage regardless of health.
Our health care system is broken, explained the professors on Office Hours. Costs are rising, millions are going without insurance and many are locked into employer-sponsored insurance. But not once did they discuss what might be causing these problems.
What about the wage and price controls on businesses that led to insurance being tied to one’s employer and the tax penalties imposed on individuals from which employers are exempt? Might these have something to do with the unavailability of individual insurance?
Then there are the laws against buying out-of-state insurance, community-rating laws, which prohibit setting rates based on health and lifestyle differences, penalties imposed for not providing coverage for routine checkups and medicines and the massive Medicare and Medicaid programs that use their monopoly power to cap prices and shift costs to individuals.
Given these and countless other government interventions in health care (50 percent of health care dollars are spent by government), is it possible our health care problems are caused by too many controls and not enough freedom?
The Office Hours professors aren’t going there. The unquestioned assumption from the outset — the one thing everyone agrees on is: “We need stronger rules about what insurance companies are able to do and not do.”
Whatever the causes, economic principles and actual effects on health care and liberty, the government needs more power. Stripped of its phony claims about reducing costs, this is what socialized medicine — ahem, “reform” — is really about.
Jim Allard ([email protected]) is a graduate student in biological sciences.