Thursday, October 06, 2005

Health care and backfiring egalitarianism

For my first Health Care Thursday entry, I'm going to discuss a quite personal matter.

My dad took ill recently. And while it looks like he's pulling through, his experience with his hospital has left much to be desired. They seem to be playing defensive medicine by continually checking for TB, in spite of the facts that test after test has proven negative, the TB medicine causes pain, and his physical complaint isn't even pulmonary. Meanwhile, whatever is actually wrong with him is receiving less attention

My dad expressed frustration that there isn't much he can do about this seeming inefficiency of care. "You just have to assume they know what they're doing," he said, "Your fate is in their hands."

Medicine is not a very customer-driven industry. The guild-like pressures of the medical establishment, government regulations, and the tax disadvantage of hospitals going for-profit make it so. The biggest "market pressure" hospitals face is the pressure to not get sued. And yet even the recent mild bout of consumer empowerment, brought on by the liberalizing of prescription drug advertising, is being attacked by establishment liberals as putting to much pressure on doctors. The "power to the people" party largely doesn't want the people to have too much power over their own health care.

Medicine, like education, is an industry that many think is "too important to leave to the free market" Leftits look at America's founding promises: recognition for being "created equal", for "life", and for the "pursuit of happiness", and stitch them together to demand that everyone gets equal "life" (health care) and an equal starting line for the "pursuit of happiness" (education). This egalitarian impulse generally backfires. Look at a generally free-market product like cell phones. There isn't that much of a difference between a lawyer's cell phone and a waitress's. But there is likely a huge difference between the public school that the lawyer's kids go to, and the one that the waitress's kids go to. The same would be true with the health care each receives. Moreover, if cell phones were tightly regulated like education and health care is, even the cheapest Nokias would be much worse than they are now, not better.

My family is in no way wealthy. But I'd rather have the health care that the free market would offer, than the kind we're getting under our current "egalitarian" system.


At 12:11 AM, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.


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