Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stealth Healthcare in the stimulus bill

Tom Daschle didn't make it to the HHS post, thanks to being a tax cheat, but he has left us his legacy in the form of significant legislation buried in the new stimulus bill. Read all about it here if you haven't already. It boils down to creating a new national medical database that will keep track of everyone's medical records, so that eventually a National Coordinator of Health Information Technology can ration healthcare.

Any effort by the government to implement something like single-payer or universal healthcare will inevitably result in rationing and shortages. That's just simple economics: if people don't have to pay for their own health care, costs will rise, health care services will be in short supply, and the whole system will become inefficient. To wish it would happen otherwise is fanciful.

The urge to move us to universal healthcare is based on the belief that a modern, advanced society has an obligation to ensure that everyone receives healthcare treatment; it would be unconscionable to deny anyone treatment. Well, consider what would happen if we felt the same way about food: surely no one should be allowed to starve in this age of abundance ...

If the government paid for everyone's food, imagine the consequences. Filet mignon would fly off the shelves; home refrigerators would be stocked to capacity, spoiled food routinely chucked in the trash can; competition to produce better and cheaper products would become a quaint vestige of the past; hamburger meat would pile up; food quality would decline; complaints would skyrocket. It wouldn't take long before the government created an entire bureacracy to monitor and "regulate" prices. Any mistakes in setting prices would resort in shortages or abundancies. Sound familiar?

Call your Senator now and tell him to vote against this bill!

9 comments:

Bernard said...

There needs to be a better way than the current system. It fails in so manty ways. Heck, I know plenty of people who travel to Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, or Brazil to get work done that they couldn't otherwise afford here. And of equal if not better qualtiy work.

I know surgeons looking to start practices outside of the US because of the healthcare related crud that goes on here.

Like the tax code, healthcare should be simplified and the tax rate reduced. Anything less is a travesty for this country...

Scott, you probably know people who travel to South America to get medical work done too, right?

Scott Grannis said...

You're absolutely right. One very simple buy powerful remedy would be to change the rules on deductibility of healthcare expenses. Either let everyone or no one deduct healthcare costs. That would get employers out of the business of providing healthcare, eliminate the third-party-pays problem, and make the whole healthcare system more efficient.

Why can't someone figure this out? It's so simple and would be so powerful...

Medical tourism is sure to expand if we get universal heathcare.

Paul said...

Bernard,

My wife had some dental and cosmetic work done last year in her home country of Colombia. The US trained doctors there did an excellent job for a fraction of the price. Plus, we had a great time on vacation.

Donny Baseball said...

Scott-
Looks like the market is barfing all over Geithner's plan. Interested to know your thoughts. My impression is that 1) this plan has too much Barney Frank-type social engineering in it 2) the public-private partnership sounds good, but there are no details, private sector money will stay on the sidelines if the details are not favorable 3) what is a "capital cushion"? is this the mark to market accounting reform that was rumored? underwhelming. 4) it looks expensive.

Overall, there doesn't appear to be alot of meat on this bone. It looks off target and likely ineffective in where it does aim.

Mark Gerber said...

Wow, was I wrong about Getiner blowing us away today. Instead of being blown away, we got nothing at all. First a stimuls plan with little stimulus, and now a financial stablization plan absent any actual plan? Am I missing something here?

Scott Grannis said...

Donny: that's a pretty good summary of the situation, I'd say. The market was expecting something more concrete. What happened to relaxing the mark to market rules?

We shouldn't feel too bad, though. Since when is the government the source of all the solutions to our problems? We could emerge from this crisis without any more help, I suspect.

Mark Gerber said...

The math is clear and simple: We cannot possible afford to fund Medicare/Medicaid as it stands. It seems to me that even the Democrats can understand this. Thus, they must understand that all roads to universal coverage lead to universal rationing. They just won't admit that truth to the people, and the mainstream media won't do it either.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.
Alexander Tytler

Prospero said...

<< if people don't have to pay for their own health care, costs will rise, health care services will be in short supply, and the whole system will become inefficient.>>

I don’t think the system we have now results in people looking to reduce their medical costs. Most are covered by employer plans that they have no role in acquiring (even though they usually pay part of the premium), and mostly try to maximize the benefits they receive, not reduce costs. As an employer, it amazes me to see the disconnect, but it’s there with everyone.

The system needs to change somehow. Anyone facing a layoff, maybe just starting out in life, with no way to pay $1000 a month for family coverage can understand that. Any employer that faces annual 20% increases in premiums for reduced coverage can also understand that. It’s insane the amount of time and money spent by private employers and insurance companies dealing with this mess. At least part of the reason premiums go up is because the costs borne by hospitals and doctors that go unpaid have to be factored into the profit from those that do pay. As many note – we already do have universal coverage, just a very inefficient form.

The bad thing is that any plan that makes it through the political process is likely to be worse than what we have now. Unless you just got layed off and have a pregnant wife and a kid with diabetes.

old man said...

You should hear the stories of my daughter's experience in the UK she lives there but pays for her healthcare here in the US...what about the people crossing the boarder from Canada for healthcare? Get real on this one!