If You Like Public Housing, You'll Love Public Health Care

Economist George Newman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, “parses the health reform arguments.” Here’s a sample:

– “The cost of health care rises two to three times as fast as inflation.

That’s like comparing the price of hamburger 30 years ago with the price of filet mignon today and calling the difference inflation. Or the price of a 19-inch, black-and-white TV 30 years ago with the price of a 50-inch HDTV today. The improvements in medical care are even more dramatic, leading to longer life, less pain, fewer exploratory surgeries and miracle drugs. Of course the research, the equipment and the training that produce these improvements don’t come cheap…

-“Shifting funds from health care to education would make for a better society.

These two services have a lot in common, including steadily rising cost. What is curious is that this rise in education costs is deemed by the liberal establishment smart and farsighted while the rise in health-care costs is a curse to be stopped at any cost. What is curiouser still is that in education, where they always advocate more “investment,” past increases have gone hand-in-hand with demonstrably deteriorating outcomes. The rising cost in health care has been accompanied by clearly superior results. Thus we would shift dollars from where they do a lot of good to an area where they don’t…

“Congress will be strictly neutral between the public and private plans.”

Nonsense. Congress has a hundred ways to help its creation hide costs, from squeezing suppliers to hidden subsidies (think Amtrak). And it has even more ways to bankrupt private plans. One way is to mandate ever more exotic and expensive coverage (think hair transplants or sex-change operations). Another is by limiting and averaging premiums and outlawing advertising. And if all else fails Congress can always resort to tax audits and public harassment of executives — all in the name of “leveling the playing field.” Then, in the end, the triumphal announcement: “The private system has failed.”

– “Decisions will still be made by doctors and patients and the system won’t be politicized.”

Fat chance. Funding conflicts between mental health and gynecology will be based on which pressure group offers the richer bribe or appears more politically correct. The closing (or opening) of a hospital will be based not on need but which subcommittee chairman’s district the hospital is in. Imagine the centralization of all medical research in the country in the brand new Robert Byrd Medical Center in Morgantown, W.Va. You get the idea.

“We need a public plan to keep the private plans honest.”

The 1,500 or so private plans don’t produce enough competition? Making it 1,501 will do the trick? But then why stop there? Eating is even more important than health care, so shouldn’t we have government-run supermarkets “to keep the private ones honest”? After all, supermarkets clearly put profits ahead of feeding people. And we can’t run around naked, so we should have government-run clothing stores to keep the private ones honest. And shelter is just as important, so we should start public housing to keep private builders honest. Oops, we already have that. And that is exactly the point. Think of everything you know about public housing, the image the term conjures up in your mind. If you like public housing you will love public health care.

Advertisements
Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
%d bloggers like this: