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The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions: Socialized Healthcare

With a newly elected Democratic President and a Democratically controlled Congress, the proverbial iron has become quite hot for the striking of socialized medicine.  Unfortunately, what comes off of this iron might just be another nail in the coffin of this country and its freedom!  Oh well, at least they had good intentions right?

Bill in question: That giant one in the senate, do we even need to name it?

The good intentions: To provide free and/or affordable health care to everyone.

The reality: Health care rationing and lower quality care for all.  One giant bureaucratic mess that will lead us even more to debt.  This can be summed up with two words: less freedom.

Those who benefit: The medical industrial corporations.  If the government becomes a health care provider, smaller health care providers won’t be able to compete and only the few large ones will remain.  The politicians will also benefit by looking as the saviors who brought us health care “reform” next year, just in time for the elections.

Conclusion: The proponents of socialized health care believe we need this bill because the free market has failed to provide cheap and effective health care.  In some states, there are just two main health care providers and people see them as big and greedy corporations failing to meet their customers needs.  Since this is a health care debate, let’s do some dissecting of these arguments!

Has the free market really failed us when it comes to health care?  To make this argument, you have to assume that we even have a working free market in health care and I argue that this is a false assumption.  In a perfect free market, the cost of a good or service will go down over time and the quality will improve.  Take for instance the computer industry, where regulation is limited, competition is thriving, and there is no government meddling or over-reaching insurance policies.  Technology is improving so quickly in this industry that you can buy a computer that is twice as fast and powerful every two years and for a cheaper price.  But if you look at health care, costs have been going up, quality of service has been going down, and doctors are afraid to do their jobs due to our overly litigious society (a blog for another day).  But this trend is not occurring in every field of health care, specifically plastic surgery and lasik eye surgery.  The costs of these procedures have been ever dropping and the quality has been improving.  Why is the free market working here??  Well, for one thing there is more competition and these services are not typically covered by health insurance.  Thus the consumer actually can shop around to compare prices, instead of having them all hidden and paid for by the insurance companies.

Another distortion of the free market in health care is the misapplication of insurance.  Insurance is a service that is supposed to cover extraordinary costs of something that occurs in a rare circumstance.  It’s not something that is supposed to cover regular check ups.  You buy insurance for your car in case you get into an accident and you need to cover the repairs.  You don’t buy it to cover your oil changes!  Another deleterious effect of having insurance covering just about everything is that it causes people to abuse it.  If you are ever in the doctor’s office with a broken arm and have to wait before they take someone who has the sniffles, you can thank the insurance industry for that one.  Not that it’s the person’s fault who has the sniffles, but if they knew what is the true cost of their visit with the doctor (not counting the copay), then perhaps they would change their mind if they had to pay for it themselves.  Which leads to my last point, when you have the insurance companies paying for everything, you never know what is the true cost of the service you’re using or if you’re getting the best deal.  Doctors can charge whatever they want and inevitably this causes prices to rise without direct interaction with the consumer.  This is totally contrary to the free market where you know exactly how much something costs, thus you can bargain for a better deal or go somewhere else if you feel like you are getting ripped off.

In the case of limited providers in each state and giant health care company monopolies, you can thank government laws for that.  If we wanted to return to a free market for health care, we’d allow people to purchase insurance policies across state lines, vastly increasing the amount of competition in the field.  However, as it currently stands, people can only purchase health insurance from providers in their own state. This, combined with stifling state regulations on insurance (which always favors big business and drives out the little guys), is the reason why some states have no competition.  State representatives feel like they are protecting their constituents by forcing them only to buy the best policies as determined by the state (a sentiment shared by our representative Lois Capps), but this just results in less freedom and higher costs.  What about a minimum wage worker who can’t afford a high priced California insurance policy and would benefit from a cheaper policy from a provider in South Dakota or Mississippi?  They are SOL.  Sorry, California is protecting you from those “inferior policies.”

Another way to return to a free market in health insurance would be to decouple it from businesses and to give individuals tax breaks.  Back in the 50’s when the economy was booming, businesses originally started offering health insurance as one of the many benefits to attract new workers.  It’s a great thing when a business is so successful that it can freely and willingly provide their employees this kind of benefit.  But when the government mandated that all companies of a certain size offer this benefit, this was terrible for those companies that weren’t in the position to offer it.  It caused companies to go under and jobs to be lost.  Also, it doesn’t make any sense to couple businesses with a completely unrelated service.  You wouldn’t expect your company to pay for your car insurance.  So why do we expect them to pay for our health insurance?  Also, businesses can negotiate with health care providers for special deals and they also get tax breaks for purchasing health insurance for their employees.  If we want to give individuals more freedom over their health care then we should also offer these same benefits to them.  Making all medical expenses tax deductible and putting no limits on HSA’s (Health Savings Accounts) would help accomplish this.

My last point is a philosophical one, and it is that health care is not a right, but a privilege.  It’s a service like any other, such as car insurance or technical computer support.  If you agree with our Constitution and Founding Fathers, then individuals are endowed with certain rights by virtue of being human, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They had health care back then and our Founding Fathers could have written it into the Bill of Rights, but they knew that this is not something that is guaranteed to an individual by virtue of being human.  Health care is a service that must be provided by someone and their labor.  You cannot claim that someone’s labor is your right no more than you can say their property is your right.  This a fundamental reason why anyone who values freedom and the Constitution must not believe in socialized health care.

Our system of health care is definitely broken, but adding more government control over it is not the solution.  We need to restore the free market in this industry and give the individual more freedom.  Decoupling it from businesses, offering people the ability to purchase policies from across state lanes, unrestricting HSA’s, allowing individuals to make medical expenses tax deductible, and only having medical insurance cover major catastrophes would be a step in the right direction towards obtaining health freedom.  This would result in the price of health care going down, the quality of service to go up, and give you greater freedom over your health.

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