Saturday, May 12, 2007

Letters to the 208 Commission

Today is the last day for public comment to Colorado's "208 Commission on Health Care Reform." If you're already written, thank you! If you live in Colorado but haven't yet written, please please please do so. You can make a difference! Even just a quick paragraph advocating free market reforms would be fantastic. If you have more than a spare moment to craft a letter, you should look at Lin Zinser's We Stand FIRM blog post about writing the commission. Below, I've included the letters from Lin Zinser, Paul Hsieh, and myself.

From Lin Zinser:
Americans can freely choose where to live and what kind of housing we can afford. We can choose whether to buy a car and, if so, what kind, size and price we want to spend. We can choose what kind of food to eat and whether we want it ready-made, as in restaurants or fast food joints, or whether we want it partially made, or from fresh ingredients -- where we do the preparation. We can choose what kinds of entertainment we seek, including movies, CDs, books, or whether to attend live events like wrestling matches, theater, concerts or the opera. We can choose what kind of work we do, our place of employment, and some can choose what hours to work, and whether to work from home, an office or outdoors. These are among thousands of other choices Americans make in our lives -- and because we live in America we have more choices than most other people in the rest of the world.

We can choose to live simply, without electricity -- as a friend's 93 year old grandmother chooses to do because she thinks simple is better, or with as much technology and space as Bill Gates can buy. We can choose to buy clothes at second hand shops -- as many of my financially well-off girl-friends do, or we can choose to spend hundreds of dollars on a haircut as Presidential Candidate John Edwards does. We can shop for groceries at Walmart, 24 hours a day, or at Whole Foods, where we pay more for organic foods. Our economic choices are not forced on us by our political status or our government.

These are the kinds of choices that people from around the world come to America to experience -- for a lifetime. People from around the world also come to America to get the latest medical technology, the newest life-saving drug, and some of the most radical treatments available, even if incompletely tested or proven -- in order to save their lives.

Think about one astonishing fact -- the people in countries with universal, mandatory health coverage -- including the Europe, Great Britain and Canada -- even if taken together, have not created the wonderful, magnificent changes that we have seen over the past 40 years in medicine in America even though their population is more than 3 times the American population. In most of these countries, such wonderful life saving treatments, even if adopted from America, are restricted or rationed.

Why has America led all of these countries in medical advancements that have enhanced the quality of life of all, including premature infants, people with failing organs, cancer victims and aging Americans? Why is there no rationing in America? Why do people come to this country for advanced treatment s for cancer and other diseases? The answer is Capitalism -- the social, economic and political system which allows men and women to use their minds in freedom, thus providing creators and producers the financial incentive -- the profit motive -- to investigate new (hence unproved and untried) technologies and new science, even at the risk of failure.

Government controlled health insurance and medicine do not foster change and innovation. They foster the status quo. One reason is that any government program, looking at unproved and untried methods or strategies, cannot spend taxpayer dollars on them for political reasons -- the risk is too great. Additionally, Government tends to enforce one standard of doing things -- one way of treatment -- whether it's the post office or health care. It took Fed Ex and UPS to provide choice in how fast a package could be delivered. There is one Medicare part A for all Americans 65 or older. Medicaid participants don't have choices -- they have limited options. But, how many choices do Americans make with regard to food, clothing, housing, transportation and entertainment every day of our lives.

The only reasonable principle for health insurance and medicine is the principle uniquely forged by the founding fathers. It is the principle enshrined by the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution -- that all are created equal with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those inalienable rights require a social-economic-political system that promotes freedom of action -- the freedom that allows Americans to make all of the choices I mentioned -- and more. In Colorado, we need American health insurance and American medicine with its innovation and enhancement of the quality of life -- not another European government program of the status quo.

Lin Zinser
Executive Director
Ideas Matter!, Inc.
From Paul Hsieh:
Dear 208 Commission:

Here are my responses to the two questions on which you have requested public input, regarding the health care proposals under consideration:

"(1) What are the one or two most important features that you feel must be included in any Colorado health care reform?"

The most important feature would be reduction or elimination of mandates on individuals, insurance companies, and employers. This will allow patients, doctors, and payers to negotiate the best agreements for themselves without being constrained by government force. Mandates on employers and insurance companies (such as mandatory benefit packages, guaranteed issue and/or community ratings) drive up costs without providing better care. Mandates on individuals violate the freedom of contract between patients and their doctors and force one set of patients to subsidize the health care of another set of patients. Individuals can and should be allowed to decide for themselves how to most wisely spend their health care dollars.

"(2) What is the most important principle that should be considered in any reform effort?"

The most important principle is that only free market capitalism can guarantee good quality health care at the lowest prices for patients. Countries and US states in which allocation of health care resources are left to the government inevitably spend more money for poorer-quality care. Plus the decision making become irreversibly politicized, which harms patients who don't have powerful political friends. The free market is the only way to protect the individual rights of patients and doctors. Hence, we must avoid more government mandates, or mandates disguised as limited "choices" within a set of government-selected options.

Patients, providers, and payers working within a free market will come up with innovative and cost-effective solutions that would never occur to central government planners. To deprive patients of that opportunity violates their basic rights and will cause them harm.

Reference: The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care, book by Dr. David Gratzer, a physician who has practiced in both the US and Canada. Among other points, he shows how the government-run medical system results in higher mortality rates for treatable conditions in countries like Canada vs. the USA. Any government-run system of health care will result in more deaths of Colorado patients from to treatable diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc.

Thank you very much,
Paul Hsieh, MD
Sedalia, CO
From Diana Hsieh:
Dear 208 Commissioners,

I am writing to encourage you to uphold free market principles in your deliberations about health care reform proposals. A free market in health care -- as opposed to the current system of massive regulations, mandates, and entitlements -- is the only moral and practical option. All the problems from which medicine currently suffers (such as high prices for medical care, non-portable insurance, and the over-use of emergency rooms) stem from government interference in the free market.

Only free markets permit doctors, nurses, and other medical providers to act for the best interests of their patients. Only free markets allow patients to choose how to best spend their hard-earned money to secure and promote their own health. Any other system -- meaning any system with regulations, mandates, and entitlements -- injects bureaucrats into what ought to be wholly private decisions. Patients are told that they must wait months for critical care -- or they are simply denied care altogether. That kind of government meddling is inevitable. When government pays for medical care, neither doctors nor patients have any incentive to use the available medical services judiciously. Then, to prevent total financial ruin from runaway costs (and fraud), the government must step in to limit the use of medical services, whether by rationing care or denying care. Unless the system is scrapped, people will suffer and people will die. That's what the supposedly noble ideal of "universal coverage" means in practice.

The 208 Commission has a wonderful opportunity to help repeal the mandates, regulations, and entitlements that currently burden medical care for the doctors and patients of Colorado. If you do that, you can make Colorado a genuine leader in health care reform!

-- DMH

Diana Hsieh
Sedalia, CO
Please feel free to post your letter to the 208 Commission in the comments.