Saturday, January 23, 2010

True Health Care Reform

How do you get a product produced in large quantities at a low price? For reasons that defy common sense, Obama seems to think that the answer is government. That's not the answer.

China, for one, has figured this one out. China has abandoned state-run everything, opened their economy up to the free market, and are now the fastest growing large economy in the world. Venezuela has nationalized virtually everything and is rapidly imploding as an economy and a country. Obama thinks the Venezuela route is the way to go. It's not.

If you want health care in abundance and health care that is affordable, let the free market deliver the product. Let free markets produce health insurance. Get the government out of this process. This means eliminating the tax free status of employer-provided health care plans, something that would be unpopular (so, perhaps, phasing the tax free status out over a number of years would work). Put tort reform in place so that doctors can practice medicine not defensive medicine. Quit demonizing the insurance industry.

America has the best health care system in the world, even with its deficiencies. It is the best. Infant mortality statistics show that America has the best record in the world in infant mortality, if you look at the data by category. For example, among mothers over the age of fourteen, American has the best ranking in the world. Among mothers under the age of fourteen, American has the best ranking in the world. The problem is that American has the highest percentage of babies born to mothers under the age of fourteen in the developed world. Providing more health care can't reduce the number of babies born to mothers under the age of fourteen. The infant mortality statistics reflect cultural problems not problems with the health care system.

This same pattern shows up in much of the health care statistics that are used in the health care debate. European countries with homogenous populations may well have lower health care costs because of issues completely unrelated to the health care system in place. Facts, in this arena, have been used hypocritically to justify government intrusion into the doctor/patient relation. It is time for honest assessments to take place, something that has long been absent in the health care debate.

So true reform means eliminating state regulation of insurance companies, eliminating federal health care mandates, phasing out tax free health care for employer-provided health insurance, reforming the judicial malpractice award system (tort reform). And, yes, medicare should be phased out. Medicare is an unaffordable, inefficient way to provide health care. People should not be shoe-horned into a single health insurance plan such as medicare. In health care, one size does not fit all. Some folks would like to spend heroic amounts of money to prolong life for a few months, but others would not and should not fund those who have a different view. People should be responsible for their own health care decisions, including the decision to have insurance for old age. The government should butt out.

Remember that health care is certainly not as important as food. We would never entertain the notion of having the government provide us with food and decide what we should eat. Why take that tack on health care? We would never require auto insurance that paid for tires and gasoline consumption. Why require that on health care?

It is time to reform the system by returning free choice to individuals and the free market to health care. This does not mean that we ignore the plight of those who cannot afford health care or health insurance. We can deal with problems of the poor. We could have health care stamps just as we have food stamps and let folks buy what they need. There are many other ways to help folks, who through no fault of their own, cannot afford health care. But health care should not be an entitlement. No one has a "right" to health care funded by others. The country cannot afford a health care entitlement. No country can, as Europe is finding out to its chagrin.