Monday, October 19, 2009

Gratzer's Broadside

Dr. David Gratzer has written a new short pamphlet criticizing the current ObamaCare proposals entitled, "Why Obama's Government Takeover of Health-Care Will Be a Disaster".

It is part of the new Broadsides series of public policy pamphlets published by Encounter Books, covering a variety of domestic and foreign issues.

In this short 48-page essay, Gratzer discusses the current proposals, shows how similar ideas have been harmful to both patients and doctors in Canada and the UK, and offers constructive alternatives that would move us in the direction of genuine free market reforms.

Overall, I thought the essay was quite excellent. Many of the ideas were also discussed in his earlier book The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care, but updated for the current 2009 political context.

The most valuable portions were the discussions of how relevantly similar policies have already played out in Canada and the UK. The end result of any kind of government-run health care is rationing. Those countries should serve as a clear warning to Americans not to adopt any further government-run health care.

Gratzer's discussion of the special tax-exempt status of employer-provided health benefits and the damaging effect on the health insurance market (specifically in driving up costs and encouraging inefficient utilization) was also very clear and cogent.

Several of his specific free market proposals were also quite good, such as allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines and allowing Americans to use Health Savings Accounts for routine expenses. I do disagree with a few of them -- for instance, I believe Medicare and Medicaid shouldn't be reformed but rather eliminated altogether and replaced by private charity (although it would have to be done in a staged fashion over a number of years).

Gratzer makes a strong practical case against socialized health care. In conjunction with the more fundamental moral arguments, such as those discussed by Dr. Leonard Peikoff in his "Health Care Is Not A Right" (PDF version), he provides good intellectual ammunition for supporters of free market health care reform.

In summary, Dr. Gratzer's essay "Why Obama's Government Takeover of Health-Care Will Be a Disaster" is a short, timely, and informative contribution to the current health care debate.

Obligatory Disclaimer: The publisher gave me a free electronic review copy of this pamphlet, and I am disclosing this fact in accordance with forthcoming new FTC rules for bloggers. The retail value of this pamphlet is $5.99. There was no expectation or promise that I would publish any specific commentary about this pamphlet, either positive or negative.

I also think these FTC rules are dangerous and wrong, for the reasons outlined by Diana in her 10/5/2009 blog post, "Regulating Speech to Death".

For more on this topic, I also recommend the following:

"Interview with the FTC's Richard Cleland" (Edward Champion, 10/5/2009).
"The FTC's Mad Power Grab" (Jack Shafer, 10/7/2009).
"Required FTC blogger disclosure" (Walter Olson, 10/8/2009)
"FTC vs. bloggers, cont'd" (Walter Olson, 10/9/2009)