Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Health Care Synopsis Politics Free

A friend of mine sent me this link to a politics-free analysis of different health care systems, including the pros and cons of each. There's much food for thought here.

One thing that doesn't get much attention, particularly from the left, is the need to reduce demand in health care in order for prices to go down. This post explains the dilemma, and I'll steal from it:

Mr. Seib ignores the modern reality that health care is just another consumer good and the main reason the system costs a lot is because we buy a lot. The only way to reduce what it supplies then is to reduce what we demand.

In the abstract, you could do that easily enough through regulation, taxation, and/or rationing. But in order to make it politically salable you'd have to demonize health care in the same way that we do things like tobacco, alcohol, gasoline, and the like.

Ironically though, the very same folks who claim to want to reform health care are the ones who tend to mystify it and elevate it into some sort of God-given right. Rather than a good, they treat it as a Good. And they worry that some people don't enjoy as much of the Good as the rest of us. When it comes to other commodities, the Left generally opposes consumption, but, because they view this one differently, they're claiming that we don't consume enough because access to it is too difficult. Their "reforms" will, therefore, drive the amount we spend on it even higher, almost by definition.

The unrealistic argument from the Left is that we should all be able to have all the health care we want, free of charge, because we have the same fundamental right to it as we do to free speech. The difference, of course, is that talking won't necessarily cost you anything, and there are ways to disseminate your opinions without paying anything or requiring others to do so (such as blogging).

But like most things, the free one isn't as good or effective as something you pay for, which is why hosting a television show or radio program can more effectively spread your ideas around than a simple blog on Blogger. It's not that Blogger is terrible; it's that a television show can provide better ways to communicate...for a price.

Health care seems to be the only industry where people demand the best for nothing (or very little) and this is completely unrealistic. We want the best cancer treatments, but we bitch about the price charged by the doctor, hospital and pharmaceutical companies to pay for those things. We want the best maternity care, then gasp at the prices charged.

It would be nice if we lived in a world where medical care--the best in the world--were free. But we don't. Medical care is always costly and, frankly, should be, as a way to prevent people from overusing it. Do you really need to go to the doctor when you have seasonal allergies? Or when your kid has the flu? What about your toenail fungus?

We get the medical care we both demand and are willing to pay for. Unfortunately, some think we can get it for free.