As the midterm elections approach I saw results of a poll taken among likely voters regarding their concerns and priorities. As expected jobs and the economy are near the top of the list as concerns over immigration. But the new top priority for most Americans is health care. Perhaps the new age Democrats running for Congress have helped focus the need for health care in the public’s view. Many Dems have suddenly become believers in Socialism and are carrying the water for the Bernie Sander’s idea of “Medicare for all.” I have addressed this concept before and it has not worked well in countries that have undertaken some type of “single payer” (usually the government) health care. We enjoy a high level of health care in the U.S. thanks to our incentive-driven economy. Much of the research and development into new medicines and medical devices is carried out by large pharmaceutical companies hoping to discover health breakthroughs and future profits. If you remove private industry from the health care market you will remove the financial incentive that has led to so many advances. One argument of proponents of the single payer concept is that you will eliminate administrative staff and lower administrative costs. Who do they think they’re kidding? Government agencies are uncoordinated behemoths that can’t control complex details and would most certainly lead to MORE administrative staff and paperwork not less. I know of no government agency that is run efficiently. In fact private insurers have more of an incentive to keep administrative costs down than a government agency. Government agencies are often money pits for taxpayer dollars. Private insurers do a good job of monitoring unnecessary procedures and tests that increase costs to everyone. The idea that a single payer, government sponsored health care system will lower costs is a fallacy.
A system that provides completely “free” care anytime and anywhere will be abused by those unwilling to accept any responsibility for their own health. The chief concern of the average American is not the availability or quality of care, but the cost. If we really wish to lower health care costs we should INCREASE competition not decrease it. Require price lists on everything from x-rays to blood tests and procedures. Then expand health savings accounts (HSAs) in which tax free funds can be set aside to pay health care expenses. Then allow the consumer to decide where and what to obtain. Some would say that such a system would encourage patients to avoid getting tests and procedures to save money. Under the current system no one is “forced” to have any test or procedure. The difference in the case of HSAs is the consumer could decide where he/she wishes to have a test performed. Perhaps if a monetary incentive was present, patients would practice more preventive medicine. A single payer, government based health care system would be more costly and the quality of care would suffer. We have a right to good health care but we have a responsibility to manage our care sensibly as well.