Sunday, February 28, 2010

Health Care and The Great Myths

The greatest myth is that all civilized nations in the world provide universal health care except the United States. This nonsense was once again repeated by Barrack Obama in the Health Care summit. You wonder what experiences Obama had while he was busy "community organizing." In what city or state in America can anyone -- anyone -- be denied medical coverage if he or she simply walks into the nearest emergency room? Why does Obama say the opposite to this truth every time he discusses this.

So, myth number one is that there are Americans who are denied health care. That does not and cannot happen, so there is simply no reason for Obama to continue to repeat that nonsense. This does not mean that Americans don't experience delays and occasional bad medical practice, but is there anyone out there familiar with the much, much longer (and routine) delays in other civilized nations. America has the best, quickest, most accessible health care in the world. Why did the Premier of Newfoundland, who is covered under the Canadian health care system, fly into Miami early last month, to have heart surgery? Here's a direct quote from Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland: "This was my heart, my choice and my health." Right! He can afford to fly to Miami. What about other Canadian citizens stuck in a national health care system that is the model for the Obama folks. They do what they are told and don't have the "choice" available Premier Danny Williams (and other rich and privileged Canadians). Canada denied Premier Williams the health care he needed, so he flew to Miami. End of story.

Myth Number 2: To quote the President last Thursday: "Why can't America afford a universal health care system that every modern nation can afford?" Answer, there is no other modern nation that can afford their "universal health care system." Every European nation is going broke -- there are no exceptions. Why are they going broke: one of the three reasons is their unaffordable health care system. If you read the local press in any European nation, you can hear constantly the idea that they need to cut back the access to health care that the government provides. This is a constant drumbeat. Meanwhile, every single one of these countries has explicit denial of certain coverages (can't be done at any price) and lengthy delays for others. The government picks and chooses who gets care. Too bad if you are not in the favored group, you don't get the care you think you need.

Myth Number 3: The insurance companies are the problem. Such nonsense. The insurance industry has one of the lowest profit rates of any major industry. They are not swelling with fattened profits. Anyone who says otherwise (and the President is constantly saying otherwise) is either misinformed or has an intention to say something other than the truth. Insurance companies are besieged by over-regulation by states and by the federal government. The insurance companies are owned by individuals, by pension funds, by private institutions. They are not owned by some mysterious bunch of bad guys out to do damage to the insured. If you want better insurance policies and better rates, then get government regulation out of this picture. Return the free market to insurance companies (and eliminate the favored tax treatment for employer-sponsored health insurance plans -- this favored tax treatment leads to the adoption of "comprehensive" health insurance, when families would choose "catastrophic" health insurance plans, if they paid for it themselves).

Myth Number 4: Costs can be reduced by getting government more involved in the process. This absurd view has been spouted most notoriously by Howard Dean, known otherwise as the Vermont Screamer. Dean thinks government delivers services best. Wonder where he gets his mail? The free market delivers products cheaper and in more abundance than any other system. Health care services are no different. If you want inexpensive, high quality, low cost health care, then return the health care industry to the free market and get government out of the way. Phase out medicare and medicaid and let people make their own choices. (Medicaid is in the process of becoming increasingly irrelevant as a growing number of doctors simply refuse to accept medicaid patients. How is Obama planning to get around that problem)? It is not accidental that there is a growing shortage of doctors and medical professionals. What medical student wants to work for the government? Obama seems to think you can have good health care without having doctors and nurses. Wonder how he gets there with those ideas?

Myth Number 5: Forcing insurance companies to provide coverage to those with "pre-existing conditions" at the same price as those without is a good idea. No, this is a very stupid idea. Imagine insisting that auto insurance companies were forced to charge the same rates to drivers with good driving records as for those with bad driving records. No, this is wrong. If adopted, the "pre-existing" conditions requirement would dramatically increase insurance rates on folks that are perfectly healthy and make it uneconomic for them to have coverage. Mandating that such folks pay anyway is morally reprehensible. Some folks have "pre-existing" conditions through no fault of their own and a "high risk" pool (similar to what most states have for car insurance) can be created to deal with legitimate cases of folks who, through no fault of their own, have "pre-existing" conditions. But, what of those who smoke and drink and eat their way into the operating room? Should these folks be subsidized by the health conscious who eat right, exercise and avoid bad habits? That is what Obama is saying should be done by insisting on the "pre-existing" requirement. Obama's strategy encourages bad behavior and penalizes those who take explicit steps to reduce their future health care problems. How do these perverse incentives improve the nation's health care? The answer: they don't.

Myth Number 6: The Health Care debate is about lowering costs. This is probably the single biggest myth in the entire debate. Health care was, until medicare was adopted in the 1960s, affordable, high quality and not a subject of much conversation. Then, old folks health care became an entitlement when medicare became the law of the land. Almost immediately, health care costs, with a history of moderate increases, went through the roof. In the 1970s, Nixon and a Democratic Congress dramatically increased medicare coverage (and reduced the payments made by medicare recipients). That accelerated the health care cost increases into an explosion into much higher health care costs. Why? Because now you had a huge group of Americans who did not feel that they paid for their own medical care...that someone else paid for it. Americans quit saving for future health care needs and quit worrying about health care costs. Whenever folks don't care about costs, costs will explode. They did. It was the government -- not insurance companies -- that caused health care costs to explode -- by providing a health care entitlement (not paid for) for a huge percentage of the American public. Now, Obama says that expanding that entitlement will make it cheaper. That is absurd and I am sure that Obama knows it is absurd.

Myth Number 7: "We must get this done:" (no matter how bad this bill really is...lets show the American people we can do something, even if that something is really, really stupid and damaging). That is the Obama message. Who really cares what happens to health care and insurance premiums for the average American? Not Obama. What matters is to do what he (Obama) wants even if the public is overwhelming opposed (as they are, according to every single public opinion poll taken over the past eight months...did Obama notice the Massachusetts election?). No, we must not get this abomination done. Doing the wrong thing, just to show that you can do something is wrong.

Truth Number 1: Free markets are the way to provide for health care. Everything that brings competition and free markets to our health care provision will lower cost and improve health care. The government is the enemy not the answer.