Thursday, August 13, 2009

Svorny: A Victory For Special Interests

The August 6, 2009 Investors Business Daily carried a good editorial by professor Shirley Svorny warning that special interest groups are salivating at the opportunity to feed at the trough of government-run health care.

This will be done in the guise of the government deciding on an appropriate basic package of care that all Americans are (somehow) "entitled" to receive.

Here are some excerpts:
Government Care: A Victory For Special Interests

...Put the federal government in charge of deciding what is appropriate care, and special-interest groups will fight long and hard for a place on the list.

Politics, not patient needs or the need for increased access to care, will determine which procedures are covered.

Evidence of political influence in health care abounds, mostly at the state level, because that is where health care has been regulated. Increasing regulatory power at the federal level will bring out lobbyists' big guns, as any win is much bigger than it is at the state level.

If you want to see how corrupt government oversight can get and how it can work to produce outcomes that raise costs and reduce access, look to the various states.

At the state level, special-interest influence can be seen in regulations that limit the entry of medical professionals with unnecessary education requirements, define what medical professionals are allowed to do (scope-of-practice turf wars pit groups against one another fighting for legislative support), dictate benefits that health insurance must cover whether consumers want them or not, tie the hands of providers with rules like nurse-patient ratios, and restrict health maintenance organizations from being able to channel patients to physicians who agree to lower prices and other cost-saving behaviors.

These public policies are all the result of politicians yielding to pressures from special-interest groups. In each case, the result is that providers cannot experiment with cost-efficient methods of care. Health care is costly because state governments require it, even when there is absolutely no evidence to support the restrictions imposed on providers.

...As consumers, we would be foolish to support legislation that shifts more power to special interests by increasing federal oversight and regulation of the health care industry. We should be moving to limit state regulation instead of expanding the regulatory power at the federal level.
(Read the full text of "Government Care: A Victory For Special Interests".)

Sadly, physicians groups such as the American Medical Association are some of the guiltiest players of this game.

Physicians groups, hospitals, insurers, and politicians should be championing the rights of individuals to seek health care from willing providers on terms they find mutually acceptable -- not making it harder (or impossible) for patients to exercise that right.