Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Health Care "Crisis"

So now that I've fought my way through "Atlas Shrugged" and have grown to understand the extent to which I really am a libertarian (thereby making the title of this blog kind of ironic), I'm starting to see just how far socialism has infected the American experiment. Certainly the worst example of this - with one exception that I dare not name - is health care.
The ongoing debate over healthcare has gotten so infected by socialism that it has become a real-life parody of Atlas Shrugged: the more health care has been regulated, the worse it has gotten, which has resulted in more and more cries for further regulating healthcare until we finally arrive at Michael Moore's socialist utopia of a system (which I think would ultimately result in the complete destruction of medicine). Strangely, I found it very difficult to find a timeline or history of healthcare and healthcare reform in the US., but I finally came across this timeline from PBS' "Healthcare Crisis" program website:

Of course, any timeline for a program based on the concept of a "healthcare crisis" is likely to have a very pro- "reform" agenda. Nonetheless, if you ignore contradictory allegations like:

"Healthcare costs are escalating rapidly, partially due to ...expansion of hospital expenses and profits, (emphasis added)"

you will notice a clear trend emerging.

Specifically, you will notice that the chief complaints about the American heathcare system are: 1. Lack of coverage for many Americans; and more frequently 2. Steadily rising health care costs. According to the timeline, these two problems have only gotten worse as time has gone on, to the point where they are now apparently a "crisis." The timeline appears to suggest that the increase in these problems is a result of insufficient government intervention in the market. This suggestion, however, ignores the fact that the timeline also shows a corresponding increase in healthcare regulation for every increase in healthcare costs and decrease in affordable medical coverage.

For instance, the timeline states that in the 1950s "federal responsibility for the sick poor is firmly established." It then states - without drawing a connection - that during that same time period, the cost of hospital care "doubled," and insurance became unaffordable for those without jobs. Similarly, in the 1960s, the government adopted measure to expand education in the healthcare professions. The timeline then complains - again without drawing a connection - that the percentage of specialists during that decade grew by 14 points.

Prior to the 1950s, the timeline fails to identify a single fact-based problem with the US healthcare system. Indeed, the only problems identified are the allegation that "Rural health facilities are clearly inadequate" (unsupported, but if true it was most likely a result of urbanization), and that "America lags behind Europe in finding value in insuring against the costs of sickness" (a blanket assertion that assumes there is value in making health insurance a government issue). Beginning in the 1950s, the only decade in which the timeline does not raise an issue of dramatically increased costs or decreased access is the decade in which regulation of the industry decreased (ie, the 1980s). What is interesting here, though, is that the timeline would seem to suggest (inadvertently, of course) that the quality of healthcare has decreased in the United States not because of too little government intervention, but because of too much government intervention.

In essence, the more government intervenes in the healthcare market, the worse things become - not just for those able to afford the best medicine, but also for the very people supposed to benefit from the intervention. But rather than blaming the problems on the actual changes in the system, and then revoking those changes, the response has been to say that "well, we just didn't go far enough - doctors and drug companies and hospitals are still making too much money."

Another thing worth noting - a list of medical advances from infoplease.com shows that virtually every single important medical advance in the 20th century arose from doctors in either the United States or Great Britain - and most in the US. It does not appear that the great socialist nations like France or Communist nations were responsible for many - if any - advances in medicine during the 20th century.