Monday, December 15, 2008

Dealing with Canadian Care

I admit to entering the Patriot's 'health care debate' with a predisposition to a system of private health care insurance. I believe that the inefficiencies of current health insurance problems are perfectly explained by cumbersome and counter-intuitive regulatory policies which prevent beneficial competition. I believe that these problems will be carried through to a single-payer, universal system and we should, therefore, avoid them.

That said, however, I was duly impressed by Stony Brook's Dr. David Brown, who was arguing in favor of a universal system. His plea for a fair and equal health insurance system is a hard one to ignore, especially considering the 47 million Americans who go without insurance and the many people who get denied coverage despite having insurance.

However, it's dangerous to allow oneself to fall into Dr. Brown's trap of emotional appeal. From a perspective of the personal, who wouldn't want universal coverage? The government's guarantee of safety; the freedom from worrying about having a bad or no insurance policy, is difficult one to reject. And with good reason, because the current system is certainly a corrupt and broken one.

Before letting emotional appeals cloud sound judgment, we must carefully consider the affect that government socialization of industry has.

To do this we must consider the type of care that one would receive under such a socialized health care system. I asked Dr. Brown, during the Q&A session why my Canadian relatives have to wait months for procedures that would be considered "next-day" in the United States, even despite out 'broken' system. His response, which makes sense only on the surface, is that someone in the system, maybe some government bureaucrat on some doctor's advice, decided to put my grandmother on a wait list because they felt that her condition wasn't in immediate need of a diagnostic procedure. Perhaps this was also true for a Canadian cousin, who had to wait six months to get an MRI, despite the continuous painful headaches, which could have been indicative of serious problems.

Dr. Brown claims that he considers health care to be a universal right, but he is supporting a system that doesn't let people exercise that right very well. For, when you have a single payer system, it also means you have no choices. You couldn't get a better health care coverage even if you wanted to, even if you could afford it. You can't pay extra to get extra services. You have to accept the authority of a government wait list that places your health and well-being below another person's.

In truly a private, competitive system, this would rarely, if ever, be the case. If you get put on a wait list that you don't want to be on, simply find different coverage that gives patients more choices. This plan may be more expensive, but shouldn't people be allowed to decide for themselves how much their health is worth? Shouldn't a person decide for themselves, with the advice of their doctor, that waiting six months for an MRI is unacceptable?

People blame greedy health insurance companies for denying care without realizing that government bureaucrats do the same thing, and on a bigger scale, when there is no competition and no incentive to improve quality. Profits incentivize in an atmosphere where competition is insured; incentives lower cost and improve quality to attract consumers. Government is slow to improve the quality of anything, because it does not have to respond immediately to consumer demands. Americans spend more on health care costs today than any other Western nation, even more so than other 'single-payer' countries because we have a patchwork of private/protected and government care.

The ability to choose between products works to produce the most desirable products. I say that it's time to get the government out of direct insurance and so we can let the free market innovate on health care solutions, as the free market does for anything else. A single-payer system does provide health care for all, but the quality of care should not be ignored.

As Alex Chamessian, editor of the Patriot, said, "Do you really want the people who run the DMV running your health insurance?" Waiting on line at the DMV is an expected annoyance. Waiting on a line to receive desired health care is intolerable.

No comments: