Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Sister Loved "Sicko"

Dear Edith,

Thanks for the stuff on "Sicko."

I have not yet seen the movie, but I did go to the website to check out his remedy which is a complete government take over of the health system. As noted in the Clarence Page opinion piece, everybody knows that the current state of health care in America is a disaster for many people. What's interesting is that the proposed solutions can only result in more misery. "There is no problem so severe that the government cannot make it worse." (Quote by jimmydoane, 2006)

Here is MM's 3 step "solution."

1. "Every resident of the United States must have free, universal health care for life."
As P J O'rourke once noted, "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free." Of course it won't be free; it will be at no charge to the recipient at that moment. Big difference.

2. "All health insurance companies must be abolished."
There is only one way government can ever "succeed" at anything, and that is by outlawing the competition. Take gambling. The only reason anybody plays the state lottery is that you would be arrested and thrown in jail if you tried to set up your own competing enterprise. Even when the government tries to "crowd out" the competition by providing a service at no charge, some private entities survive and prosper. For instance, private schools and private parks.

3. "Pharmaceutical companies must be strictly regulated like a public utility."
Who will regulate the regulators? Regulation by another name is price control. Price controls have never, in the entire course of recorded human history, ever worked.

Health care is what economists call "a scarce resource." It's should be obvious on its face that not everybody can get all the health care wanted or even needed. I mean that if healthcare was like air, you wouldn't need any program, government or otherwise, for its distribution. There are only a limited number of hearts, livers and lungs available for transplant. There are "orphan" diseases that affect only a few, but require millions of dollars for treatment. There are very expensive "end of life" procedures that simply don't make sense for the last day, week or even month of existence. So rationing must and will occur.
Rationing can occur in one of two ways: price or availability. With a government run health system, price is thrown out the window. That leaves availability. Who decides who gets what? You can bet that there will be lengthy, tedious procedures to determine who is worthy, emphasis on lengthy. Just as "Justice delayed is justice denied," health care delayed is even worse. It's often a death sentence. Furthermore you can bet that the politically well connected will not be in the same line as the rest of us.
Here is Jimmy Doane's rule of government malfunction: "Where there is a line or a waiting list, you will find government intervention and failure."
What is stunning about MM's proposed "solution" is that it is the precise opposite of a free market solution which would work faster, better and be fairer. It's as if in order to stop a burglary problem, you outlawed private gun ownership and gave everybody a special number to call in the event of a break in. Oh, wait. We already do that.

Your Loving Brother