Another Reason to fear Universal Health Care

Apparently in Britain, the government legislated, because of long wait times at ERs, that no one could wait for more than four hours. What did the hospitals do to comply? Well, they just keep people in the ambulances so the clock doesn’t start til they can get you in in four hours. Legislation doesn’t change the laws of supply and demand.

Hat tip Lew Rockwell 

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8 responses to “Another Reason to fear Universal Health Care

  1. I feel compelled to make an argument.

    Iwas at a random get together this last weekend with other professionals for whom there were very few connections. One of the guys I met was a healthcare consultant. Another was a psychology grad student who claimed the most important thing he learned this year was the importance of the tragedy of injustice. We had an interesting conversation about healthcare.

    From the libertarian perspective, you are worried about two things, concerning healthcare: 1) is anyone infringing upon my ability to get it for myself 2) is the government taking my money to pay for it for someone else. If I am missing anything else a libertarian is concerned about here, let me know.

    You could make a strong argument that what I described above is what a libertarian is concerned with in general. If you’re talking about doughnuts, they are concerned only about 1) is anyone stopping me from getting them for myself and 2) is the government taking my money to pay for someone else’s doughnuts. It’s the same principle.

    Where I always was scared to go is where I fear we must tread. The libertarian philosophy becomes messy when my welfare is tied to the welfare of someone for whom I don’t know or care about. When others around me are sick, this increases the chance that I will become sick. Also, the illness or health of others affects the economy, which ultimately affects me. Sickness and disability is one of the leading causes of poverty in this country. An inability to pay medical bills is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy. If these things didn’t ultimately have a large impact on my well-being, I can agree that it’s easy to not worry about them. Because they are, I think we cannot.

    We can agree on several things here. First, that preventative care is always cheaper than treatment. Second, it is politically impossible and also quite inhumane to change the current law that emergency medical care must be given the people regardless of whether or not they can pay. For those Jesus inclined, I would further challenge someone to make a well-reasoned argument that a Christian can support denying someone emergency treatment, regardless of the circumstances.

    In addition, it is widely accepted that our country spends more per person on healthcare than any other industrialized country (http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot/chcm010307oth.cfm).

    Given that the comptroller of the US seems to believe that entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) will literally consume the entire federal US tax base within 20 years, it seems that the pragmatic libertarian, knowing that his taxes will inevitably increase substantially (current claims by McCain and GOP writ large, notwithstanding), would want to pursue a path toward reducing the part of the US budget that most greatly threatens the increase his or her tax bill in the future.

    Perhaps if Ron Paul pulled more than 10% in any national poll, we could talk about more idealistic solutions, but we still live in the world of pragmatism between McCain and Obama right now. Which of these two has proposal to realistically help reduce the prospect for tremendous tax increases in the future?

    One could make the strong case that Obama’s plan to have universal healthcare that would increase the use of preventative care and to reduce our military presense across the globe has a greater chance of keeping taxes reasonably low than McCain’s plan to expand military spending and to continue to defer tax increases by keeping the Bush tax cuts permanent.

    As Churchill once said, we are quickly moving past the time of talk and moving toward the time of consequences. We can fool ourselves that “tax cuts” and “stimulus packages” will improve the economy, or we can hasten the breaking of the system with the most pragmatic hammer we have. The idealistic hammer dropped out of the race last week.

  2. As a libertarian, I’m also concerned with “is the government protecting private enterprise/property. There’s no getting around the fact that universal health care, at least Hillary’s proposal, does not protect private property. They will garnish wages. They will take over doctors offices.

    My biggest problem with universal health care is that I think it exacerbates, rather than corrects, the problem we currently have. That being, the supply and demand aspect of health care. Demand continues to rise, because of the current moral hazard that exists. Whereas, in car insurance, you only use it when its absolutely necessary, and you feel it in your pocketbook when you use it more often, in health care, especially coverage provided by employers, every time we get the sniffles, there’s the temptation to go ahead and go to the doctor, cause its 10 dollars and we’re paying for it anyway. Demand is increased because people don’t do the same cost benefit analysis that they would were they paying out of pocket for routine medical treatment. This increased demand leads to price increases, which don’t curve demand at all, because the increase is felt by the employer, and the employee doesn’t feel it directly, they just don’t get a raise that they would otherwise get.

    What will inevitably happen in a government run system, is that as demand increases, since medical services aren’t for profit, they will almost always be behind in increasing service capability. And because they can’t keep up, there will be shortages. Just like in Canada, the UK, and elsewhere. And in Canada, it is actually illegal to be a private doctor, so people that are in desperate need of health care asap, often die or suffer serious consequences of not getting the needed medical attention as soon as possible. But at least its “free”.

    And then there is the question of how do we determine what treatments people have a right to? Do I have a right, just by virtue of being human, to every possible medical treatment in existence, regardless of my or anyone’s ability to pay? Truth is, there are treatments and surgeries out there that just aren’t affordable yet, for almost anyone. And I think its kinda nuts to say that because someone spent a lot of time and money researching and developing something that they should be forced to treat someone at a loss just because someone thinks its the right thing to do. What eventually happens is that r and d will stop, because its no longer profitable. It will eventually be run completely by the government. And we know that they are definitely the best at coming up with the newest and most efficient technology, right?

  3. “The libertarian philosophy becomes messy when my welfare is tied to the welfare of someone for whom I don’t know or care about.”

    OMG, I think libertarians just had an epiphany!! You mean to say that somehow, everyone in this life is connected to one another? And that what another person does has an effect on me? So in essence, if I’m willing to sacrifice a little money to the government that might not directly benefit me, it will still make me better in the long run?

    That’s a truly phenomenal position. Seriously, good points, y.

    It’s like Donne said, “No libertarian can get off an island.” Something like that, I forget…

  4. I don’t think willing and sacrifice are the right words there. Maybe “required” and “decide its better to let them take my money rather than go to jail”.

    The problem there is also, that the vast majority of the money “sacrificed” is paid by a small minority of the people. So it doesn’t matter if they care or not. The bottom 50% only pay 4% of total income tax revenues, so the tyranny of that majority could easily strip any rights away from those who pay for them to exist.

  5. This has been happening in Canada as well. I blog on this at http://www.waittimes.blogspot.com The flow of patients has to be controlled somewhere unless there is unlimited resources. The rule seems to have moved the bottleneck from the triage area to the ambulances (untoward effect?). The politicians will have to make the hard choices for now but the real answer is to improve the flow of patients though the system (either by resources or ingenuity).

  6. How do we determine who gets what health care now?? The insurance companies make all the determinations. Four hours wait in an ER? What’s the big deal? That’s the norm in most areas. I’m all for universal health care! The sooner the better!

  7. Justin, I agree with what you are saying, but you say all of that about government healthcare like it will be substantially different than what we have now. If you take your statements and substitute “heathcare companies” for “government”, much of what you have said is true now.

    To make my point with some of your more important points:

    1. Supply and Demand – You say that with government heathcare that there is a disconnect between the value and cost which distorts supply and demand. Do you not agree that health insurance does that now? Do you not think that there is a shortage of medical care because anyone can go to a doctor for a $20 copay? Try to cancel on my dentist or my wife’s doctors and see how long it takes to get another appointment.

    2. The incentive to provide good service and new innovations – Justin, you say that in a government run healthcare system that there will no incentive to have good service or new innovations since no one is working for a profit. Perhaps we are talking about different proposals. As I understand the proposals, we are talking about implementing a single payer system whereby the payer system is the government, but the doctors are still working for their own practices and drugs are still developed by Merck and Phizer. In such a system, everyone involved is just as eager to provide good service and innovations. The only difference is that the middle-man requires less to do the same task (pay the doctors and pharmacists) because the government doesn’t require a profit to stay in business.

    3. Who decides who get what service? You ask who gets what in this new system. I ask who gets what in the current system? I went to look at my benefits the other day and realized that I could get a vasectomy for a $20 copay. That’s great, but what if I want something not on the cheap list? Well, there’s an expensive list where I can get just about anything else done that not on the cheap list, I just have to pay for it.

    Maybe I’m naive about the whole thing, but I don’t think that other government healthcare systems cover frivolous things like nose jobs. What about covering things like cancer treatment? Well, not all insurance covers that here.

    In many ways, I think you think too highly of the current system, and think too poorly of a government controlled system. Perhaps I too poorly of the current system, and if that’s the case, you’ll see me on this blog in a couple years bitching about how much I hate the new government heathcare system we have. 🙂

  8. After reading this article,I want to go out to see the movie with my boy firend.
    Goodbye and Good Luck.

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