Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Elephant ‘Suggests’ Free Market, Not Single Payer, Healthcare

With the failure of the Republicans to advance a free market in healthcare under their promise to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, the statists' drive for single payer—i.e., their “final solution”; an end to the last remaining remnants of freedom based on individual rights in medicine—got a boost. A letter published in the 3/30/17 New Jersey Star-Ledger indicates the nature of the coming “Mother-of-All Healthcare Battles”—the push to expand Medicare for All. Four years ago, I wrote:

Back in 1961, Ronald Reagan warned that socialized medicine would arrive in America in incremental fashion, beginning with the proposed King-Anderson Bill (the precursor to Medicare), and despite the overwhelming opposition by Americans. Half a century later, after decades of relentless expansion of government control over healthcare through programs like Medicaid, EMTALA, SCHIP, Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit, and now ObamaCare, Reagan's warning is drawing ever closer to actuality.

As I've noted before, the Left is ready to respond to the inevitable failures and shortcomings of ObamaCare--which they never liked--with Medicare-for-All. The mother of all healthcare battles is brewing, as the end game draws ever closer.

With that observation in mind, read this letter by Flora T. Higgins of Colts Neck, NJ:

It is time to admit there is a huge elephant in the living room. We are living so much longer and medical science has made such remarkable -- if expensive -- progress in health care that "affordable health care" has become an oxymoron.

The elephant suggests that we adopt a single-payer system.

Eliminating profits now enjoyed by the for-profit insurance companies would substantially reduce the cost of health care insurance.

For all its shortcomings, Medicare works. The system is already in place and every day is efficiently serving millions of senior citizens. Medicare for all is an increasingly appealing solution.

I left these comments, slightly edited for clarity:

Far from being the solution, Medicare is a major cause of healthcare cost. It was the first big government intrusion into the healthcare industry that separated the consumer from the producer. As the law of supply and demand dictates, the result has to be soaring cost, because the “demand” incentive to get the best value for the dollar is severed from the consumer’s evaluative process when the government pays. Add to Medicare all of the similar government intrusions—SCHIP, Medicaid, GW Bush’s Medicare expansion, Obamacare, and the like—and you get more of the same “cost problem.” To now expand Medicare as the solution is to totally evade reality.

Healthcare is no different than any other industry: It is subject to the laws of economics. You can pretend that it’s different for healthcare. But you can no more deny it than you can deny the law of gravity. I can tape together an airplane out of cardboard and wish that the law of gravity doesn’t apply. But when I drag my cardboard airplane up to the roof, and try to fly in it, I’ll come crashing down to the pavement just as surely as night follows day. Like the law of gravity, the laws of economics are laws of nature. They don’t cease to work just because you wish them too. Only a fully free market in healthcare provides the incentives that drive down price (and raise quality) over time, making healthcare more affordable to more and more people.

The insurance company profits that Higgins speaks of are distorted by government interference. Today, the health insurance industry is really nothing more than an extension of government power. Because the government dictates the content of the insurance, and has all kinds of mandates and coercive “incentives” for consumers and employers to buy it, insurers are really just administrators of government programs. Under these circumstances—in which government mandates force consumers to buy all kinds of coverages they wouldn’t buy voluntarily, and then subsidizes millions of those consumers—of course the cost goes up. As opposed to paying providers directly out of pocket, government-mandated insurance artificially adds unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, so the cost goes up.

Don’t blame profits. Profits in a market free from coercive government interference is a huge cost reducer, because in a free market providers must compete on price, along with service, results, and quality. Couple the profit motive with consumers seeking the best value for their dollars, from both providers and insurers, and you get the same dynamic harmony of interests that drives up the standard of living in every other area of economic life that is subject to substantially free market forces. Why? Because every unmet need or desire represents a market opportunity to be filled by entrepreneurs. As has been proven in theory and practice over the past couple of hundred years, a free market liberates and incentivizes entrepreneurs to steadily improve quality and service while reducing cost until almost everyone will be able to self-sufficiently provide for their own healthcare needs.

Medicare is a major cause of the cost problem, not the solution. But cost is not the fundamental problem. The most important consideration is the moral issue. Medicare and all such programs are based on force by government against legally defenseless private citizens. If you are robbed at gunpoint by a street thug, you can count on the government being on your side, apprehending the thug, jailing him, and forcing him to pay restitution to you, the victim. But when the government is the thug, you are defenseless. If you try to resist, then you—the victim—will be jailed, because the government is acting under cover of law. Likewise, what right does anyone have to stop private, profit seeking entrepreneurs from forming companies in order to offer products or services for sale to willing consumers? Higgins’s irrational bias against profit-seeking is no reason, since she could voluntarily avoid dealing with the company. To flippantly demand that government outlaw for-profit enterprise is plain thuggery, and there’s nothing flippant about that. The government and its officials should not be above the moral law that we as private citizens must abide. Medicare and its ilk are rights-violating—rights being sanctions to freedom of action, not automatic claims on good and services others must be forced to provide; e.g., there is no right to healthcare, only the right to pursue healthcare at your own expense in voluntary trade with others. These programs begin with theft, and are therefore immoral at their cores.

Medicare-for-all is immoral and impractical. Cost and other problems have compounded over the decades in lockstep with the increase in government interference in healthcare and health insurance. ObamaCare made it worse, and the GOP’s recently collapsed AHCA would have made it worse still. A fully free market, phased in over time, is the only just and practical path forward. Government interference in and control of healthcare began in the 1930s, and has now reached its logical, predictable dead end.

The statists have nothing more to offer, so they offer more of the same poison—a total government takeover of healthcare as the solution that government itself created. Don’t let the statists get away with it. There is one thing I agree with Higgins on: There is “an elephant in the room.” But it actually suggests: Government has had its chance at running our healthcare, and it has failed. We the people, each as the individuals that comprise “The People,” should be freed to make our own independent healthcare decisions, in voluntary contract with providers.

I also left these supplemental comments:

We are living so much longer and medical science has made such remarkable -- if expensive -- progress in health care that "affordable health care" has become an oxymoron.

If healthcare is inherently unaffordable, then how in the world are we the taxpayers going to pay for Medicare-for-All? To say that healthcare is unaffordable unless we turn our money over to government bureaucrats to spend it for us is utterly absurd on its face. The soaring cost of healthcare has nothing to do with technological progress in medicine. Technology typically lowers the cost of goods and services over time, which is where our historically miraculous standard of living comes from. The problem is government interference. Unless you believe that government bureaucrats should be given the power to dictate who gets what healthcare, when, and a what price to providers—i.e., rationing—it’s obvious that expanded universal Medicare, already in the hole for tens of trillions of dollars, will exponentially exacerbate the cost problem even as it tramples our rights to make our own judgements regarding our own healthcare.

Related Reading:

Moral Health Care vs. Universal Health Care, by Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh

American Healthcare's Great and Powerful Oz

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