Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Problems In Massachusetts

The March 16, 2009 New York Times article "Massachusetts Faces Costs of Big Health Care Plan" discusses the new controls that Massachusetts state government will impose on doctors, hospitals, and insurers in order to salvage their failing "universal health care system".

Costs are continuing to skyrocket out of control despite a round of new taxes. Hence, the article notes:
The very stakeholders who were coaxed into the tent -- doctors, hospitals, insurers and consumer groups -- would probably have been driven into opposition by efforts to reduce their revenues and constrain their medical practices, they said.
"Constraining" how doctors practice basically means the government overriding a doctor's judgment as to how to treat his patients. It interposes the bureaucrat into the doctor-patient relationship in order to save costs.

The end of this road will be government rationing, just as in the UK where the government explicitly says that it won't pay for treatments if it costs too much.

Advocates of universal health care often criticize free market medicine on the grounds that we "can't put a price on human life". But it is the government-controlled medical systems that actually do put a price on life. In such systems, patients can only hope that their government doesn't consider their own lives too expensive to save.

The answer to skyrocketing costs is not a government takeover of health care, but rather the free market. As we've seen with cellphones and computers, the free market drives down costs and improves quality.

Similarly, the sectors of medicine such as LASIK eye surgery which are the most free (i.e., least controlled by the government) show the same pattern of falling costs and rising quality over time. This can and should be the norm in all of medicine.

(For more on the problems with Massachusetts' system of universal health care, see the DC Examiner piece "Universal coverage? First, look at the disaster in Massachusetts" and my Objective Standard piece, "Mandatory Health Insurance: Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America".)