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Friday, June 12, 2009

Having Your Healthcare & Eating it Too: An Abstract of Single Payer vs. Free Market System

The basic problem with our healthcare system, is that we want to have a system that has all the benefits of a both a government-run (single-payer) and free-market healthcare system, but not the detriments of either. As the saying goes, "we want to have our cake, and eat it too."

In other words, we are trying to 1) make sure everyone who needs healthcare is never denied (the benefit of a single-payer system); but 2) still keep in place the natural “free-market” barrier to healthcare of monetary costs, which:

  • puts downward pressure on healthcare costs,
  • prioritizes who receives treatment (according patients who are willing to pay - thus reducing the long lines of single payer that undermine their system),
  • encourages preventive-health measures,
  • provides a profit-motive for innovation, and
  • leaves in place a natural modernization cycle (Government programs never go out of business, and frequently fall into a state of irreparable stagnation – governments are built not to embed policies, not update them. This is why the Soviet Union was an industrial powerhouse under Stalin, then soon fell way behind in the 1960’s. This is what is currently happening with our banking system: the government is preventing it from going through a modernization cycle.)

The government system has its benefits – that why Americans would prefer to have Canada’s system for routine care. Its relatively simple and tax-payer subsidized. However, the free market system has its benefits – that’s why people from the socialized countries come to the U.S. and pay when they need more than routine care, or don’t want to wait in long lines or when innovators want to try new ideas.

Unfortunately, we cant have both. Currently, the country is trying to retain all the benefits of the free-market system, while undermining the free-market operation at every turn by subsidizing care.

Frankly, the idea that either system would have substantially less problems than the current system, is naïve. What is particularly naïve is somebody having trouble paying for their healthcare and saying, “if only the government would just pay for me, then it would solve all our problems – you know, just like they solved all our problems in retirement, banking, energy, national defense ect!”

People who think this way do not understand the ripple effects caused by such policies. A perfect example of "unintended consequences" is the hundreds of thousands of people who have died in the last two years, due to U.S. subsidies of corn for ethanol. (Note: the U.S. subsidies raised the world price of corn – whenever we raise the price of corn even a fraction of a percent, thousands of people will then be unable to afford any food at all).

The best idea out there right now, is to make all health-care related expenses tax-deductible. This would at least keep some market principles in place, while allowing for at least some monetary relief. Plus it lowers taxes!

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