Friday, December 07, 2007
The Objective Standard has just published to the web "Moral Health Care vs. 'Universal' Health Care" by Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh. This is the most thorough and accessible pro-free market (which is to say, pro-health and pro-life) article I have ever seen on the current government-caused crises in the economy that threaten your ability to protect your life from threats to your health.
Crises? Yes. Among the many virtues of the piece is that it explicitly distinguishes between the twin catastrophes of government interference with medical insurance and government interference with the practice of medicine. Although these are related and feed off one another, the authors' approach makes it significantly easier for a reader to mentally grasp how government interference has damaged each industry and therefore, to comprehend the greater whole, which would otherwise be cognitively overwhelming. Just as the human body is an integrated whole, we must study its individual parts separately to understand it.
For example, they briefly assess the state of our medical insurance industry before moving on to explore the further difficulties presented by government-run insurance programs:
The current system of employer-sponsored health insurance is a catastrophe, and it is a result of government intervention in the free market. Such intervention violates the rights of insurance companies, employers, and consumers by granting special government favors to certain insurance companies or plans, by forcibly eliminating options that would exist in a free market, and by forcibly seizing money from insurers and the insured. It artificially places employers and insurers between doctors and patients and leads to innumerable economic distortions. Employers and insurers dictate everything from which doctors and specialists employees will be permitted to visit under the plan, to the kinds of benefits that will and will not be provided, to the co-payments and deductibles that will be paid. Because third parties are paying for both insurance and health care, the employee-patient-customer has little choice in what kind of insurance or who provides the health care he receives -- and plenty of incentive to visit a doctor anytime he has a runny nose. The fact that third parties pay for all health care increases the administrative costs for doctors as well as insurers, and those costs are passed on to consumers.Note the explicit identification of this system as immoral and impractical, along with arguments to back up those assessments. This paragraph also foreshadows the other half of the problem: This system is making physicians unable to practice their trade as they should.
In addition to making this public debate easier to understand, Zinser and Hsieh, by examining these crises separately, name a fact that all too frequently goes unnoticed: Even ignoring Medicare and Medicaid, our medical insurance system is not currently capitalistic.
Americans typically purchase health insurance from increasingly government-controlled insurance corporations, giving health insurance in America the veneer of a free-market industry. Behind the veneer, however, the industry is subject to countless state and federal laws, regulations, and taxes -- which do not apply to all insurance companies equally.This identification is crucial for reasons that they make abundantly clear. It will not be enough to stave off the current push for complete nationalization of medicine. We must get the government out of two industries.
This is a brilliant article and a must-read. If you do not have time to read it today, make it a point to come back to it later.