The Third Way: Free Market Medicine

(OCTS Original Commentary)

Republicans of various stripes have been pushing a number of comprehensive alternatives to Obamacare (universal tax credits, etc.).

While it is tempting to say that anything would be better than the miscreant ACA, we don’t want our lives run by right-wing masterminds any more than we want our lives run by left-wing masterminds. We don’t want a Republican 3,000-page bill to replace Obamacare’s 3,000-page bill.

There is a third way: free-market medicine.

Republicans and Democrats are both chasing the wrong rabbit — the solution isn’t more government (Democrats), or a different, ‘smarter’ sort of big government program (Republicans), it’s ‘choice’.

Obamacare sends almost all care through the insurance process, through all those middlemen, and now adds bureaucrats, fees, taxes, and electronic paperwork. Now your premiums go through all those nitpickers, who then make your doctor jump through loads of hoops, and then–after all that hassle–(maybe) pay your doctor.

That’s the basic problem, isn’t it? All of that is wasted effort for everyone. It wastes a great deal of your premium. Yet, everyone is trying to solve the problems of middlemen (e.g., insurance), with more middlemen (government busybodies). That’s a bogus direction.

The solution is simple: just pay your doctor, cash, for ordinary care. That’s faster, cheaper, and then your doctor works for you, not some bureaucratic machine. If we made prices public, people could (and would) shop for value, quickly driving prices down.

In other words, make prices public, then let people shop, and let them choose. Medical care could cost half of what it costs today. Real insurance–for disasters, not everyday care–would then be quite a lot cheaper, easier to afford, and affordable for more people. Those simple steps go an enormous way toward solving the biggest problem — cost (which the ACA does not address) — and make the remaining problems (like assistance for the truly needy) considerably smaller and easier to handle.

Best of all, all of that can be done without any giant federal programs, no takeovers, no individual mandates, and without taking anyone’s liberty, privacy or choices.

The train went off the track with wage and price controls in World War II. Employers were allowed to offer tax-advantaged health insurance to their employees to make up for effectively capping salaries during war-time. This was an extraneous government intervention that had nothing to do with healthcare. While the healthcare system had not been perfect up to that point, there wasn’t much wrong with it either. There was no great clamor to fix the healthcare system because nothing was seriously awry.  The entire subsequent history of healthcare in America is best understood as one government intervention after another to fix the problems arising from previous government interventions.

The government is running a ‘dependency machine’ in healthcare. First, it intervenes to raise prices and costs, then it turns around and says, ‘Oh, but we’ll HELP you.’ This is insidious.

It’s time we got rid of the dependency machine and got back to being a free people. Free-market medicine is the way.


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