Friday, February 4, 2011

What freedom in medicine can bring

What we need is not less medical technology, but more.
What amazing treatments capable of ending suffering and promoting health are possible?
If we continue done the current path of strangling innovation, focusing primarily on reducing expenditures, we may never get to find out.

Many blame new expensive technologies for the increasing unaffordability of medical care. This claim is false.

Government price fixing in combination with the insistence that all treatments, no matter their cost, be immediately available to all those in "need" insulates medical care from healthy market forces. Medical goods and services are protected from the pressures of competition, profit and loss. When allowed to function without government intervention, markets take items which start out as luxuries for the wealthy and turn them into nearly universal commodities---even to the point that people begin to consider access to those commodities as essential to modern life. (Witness government efforts to guarantee people access to phones and the internet.)

Not only that, but the cycle time from luxury to mass availability shortens. It took 71 years for half the homes in the US to obtain telephones. This degree of penetration was achieved for electricity in 52 years, and for radio in 28 years. Personal computers took only 19 years, and internet access 10 years.

Even more astounding is taking a look at what the "poor" (household of 4 with an income <$22,000) in American currently own.
43% own their own home
75% own a car
97% own a TV
91$ have a microwave
48% have a cell phone

When allowed to function free from coercive egalitarian standards, the market will raise the prosperity of all. when price, profit and loss signals are manipulated (even if done with the intention of helping the most disadvantaged) everyone suffers.

Arguments are advanced that the health care market is unique and requires government intervention to assure equitability. But it is the degree of government intervention into medical care which has grossly distorted health care:

Physicians have a legal monopoly on the practice of medicine.
Hospitals and doctors are required to treat people for free.
Minimum insurance laws artificially increase the price of health insurance.
Medicare price fixing prevents competition for quality and efficiency.
Patients (health care consumers) are protected from having to consider cost in their demand for medical services.
Fee-for-service, which is the source of efficiency elsewhere in our economy, has perverse incentives when attempting to function within the third party payer system.

This names just a few.

Having removed or distorted normal market functioning in health care, the government finds it necessary to pile on even more intervention via 2700 pages of legislation (which enables tens of thousands of pages of regulations) --all in attempt to micro-manage health care from the top-down. But centralized command and control is not only not necessary, history has repeatedly demonstrated it to be counterproductive at best, and destructive at its worst. And what is destroys is the ability of individuals to live their lives according to their own values and judgement.

For greater access, greater affordability, greater advances--the best direction to take is to get government out of the medical care market.

Our lives, health and freedom depend on on it.



Shane Atwell said...

Lot of fishy stuff about the skin gun. Not published in medical journals. Announced by video? Researchers' primary field is liver. Doesn't show before pictures of the patient. WTF hairdo. Smells like cold fusion.

HaynesBE said...

good point. time will tell -- and faster in a free market than in a regulated one.