[Socialist and millionaire candidate for President, Bernie Sanders (D-VT), yesterday called for free healthcare for every American using the “Medicare for all” mantra that his competitors are using, except without contributions or premiums. It seemed an appropriate moment to revisit an article that first appeared in early 2017. MG]
If you have enough years under your belt for perspective, you have to marvel at the power of innovation, competition, and personal choice in a free marketplace to shape our lives – expanding quality and selection while relentlessly driving down cost and price.
Freedom and choice works every time it is tried.
In just the last 30 years – barely a generation – the introduction of personal computers, cell phones, and smartphone devices has revolutionized information, its amalgamation, and distribution while at the same time driving prices down.
Innovation is a relentless force, as inevitable as iron displacing bronze.
Perhaps no example of how innovation, competition, and free market forces have changed the world in modern times is more illustrative than this revolution in communications and information triggered by Alexander Graham Bell’s patent of the telephone and its first use on March 10, 1876. The world was changed forever in thousands of interrelated ways; one innovation always leading to the next in an ongoing process.
Likewise, the introduction of Henry Ford’s Model T in 1908 revolutionized transportation and mobility just as Mr. Bell’s phone had done to communications. It drove down prices, making automobiles widely available, and ignited more innovation and competition that further revolutionized life in thousands of interrelated ways, and it is still going on.
The free market of ideas and the development and application of those ideas is so efficient and so productive compared to centralized or command methods of developing and utilizing resources and time that it stands as self-evident because it imitates what can be observed in God’s natural order. It just is.
Which brings us to Obamacare and the insatiable appetite of the “political class” to centralize and conform the availability of medical care in all of its various forms into a single system, or to manage its delivery through centralized control structures.
Doing either goes against everything known about how to efficiently and effectively organize human industry and activity.
Now we have the spectacle of Obamacare crashing – actually it never got off the ground – by the weight of its own contradictions. It is a deliberate (and unconstitutional) attempt to socialize and regiment every citizen and to drive wedges into the culture further. Centralized power always seeks more power; all dressed up with “free” handouts and high sounding “compassionate” policies that are antithetical to the very meaning of the word.
Yet even Republicans decided in their now-aborted replacement “plan” to retain enormous command and control in Washington for the process of healthcare delivery. Why?
Republicans, having watched this debacle put in place by a “rogue” President and Congress, surprisingly punted (Republicans Punt on Healthcare). They missed the chance to begin “rethinking” a process started fifty years ago to centralize and “socialize” the medical apparatus in the U.S., seemingly unconcerned that the programs that have been socialized or placed under uniform command structures in Washington just don’t work well.
It doesn’t work in the Veteran’s Administration, where the socialized model is a failure in both cost and delivery of services. Just ask our returning veterans. From broken systems to indifferent bureaucrats, the VA system creaks and groans, and always has. (The VA Can’t be Fixed)
It doesn’t work in Medicaid, which is a financially untenable program initially designed to help the nation’s poor, yet now covers a staggering 75 million Americans, including many new enrollments, signed up through Obamacare. While states and the federal government split the cost of the program, Medicaid has now grown to nearly 25% of all state budgets, imperiling other state imperatives. In addition, the GAO reports that $60 billion, or roughly 10% of Medicare’s budget, is lost to fraud and abuse (others think it is much more) – and the delivery of service is shrinking rapidly as nearly one third of doctors refuse to take Medicaid patients because of its unrealistic payment schedule.
Nor does it work in Medicare, where the average lifetime contributions paid through taxes only cover about 40% of the average recipient’s medical expenditures once in the Medicare system, in spite of two decades of reforms and price controls on doctors, hospitals and service providers.
Meanwhile, Medicare continues on an unsustainable trend line towards insolvency, according to many analysts, which would require mind-numbing budget deficits or massive tax hikes to fund.
The question to be asked is pretty simple; why can’t we try freedom and personal choice, doing what we know works best?
It’s the perfect opportunity to reclaim innovation and turn to the market place, allowing citizens and their employers the option to personally manage and pay for their routine health requirements, tailored to their own needs, using tax-free individual, portable and lifetime Health Savings Accounts (HAS’s), or by joining doctor run co-ops or family clinics. Personal accounts would be combined with high deductible insurance for catastrophic events, where deductibles could be met using the individual’s HSA.
Or, simply allowing individuals to shop for any combination of insurance program that fit their needs, sold across state lines and free from the “one size fits all” mandates demanded by national and state politicians.
Politically, the Republicans cannot dillydally. Letting the issue fester unresolved introduces doubt, fear and political opportunity for the radicals. Repeal Obamacare in one pass, “rules” notwithstanding, and provide the country with simple, straight forward market-based solutions, working in the longer term on tort reform and high-risk pools.
Doing nothing is not an option.
One thing is certain: the best solutions to health care for Americans start around each family’s kitchen table, not behind the cold granite walls of Congress. Once people start using their own money and start making their own choices, the healthcare industry will begin a process of innovation that will revolutionize the system from the ground up.
Freedom works every time it is tried.