Saturday, February 27, 2010

Universal health care

I've had extensive first-hand experience with the health-care system in this country. It amazes me how we can have the finest health care and medical technology in the world, yet have it so out-of-reach of so many Americans who really need it. It's a tragedy that the cost of it is so unnecessarily high, not only on an absolute basis, but also relative to other modern countries.

I favor universal health-care. However, my reasons for doing so go beyond the moral grounds. I also think that it's the only way to fix our health care system from a political/capitalistic perspective.

It seems to me that there are four main drivers of dysfunction in our health-care system:
  1. third-party payers
  2. health-care fraud
  3. malpractice litigation
  4. pharmaceutical lobby
These factors end up working at odds with each other in the end-to-end provision of health-care. They create protected markets, drive out competition, and push the costs through the roof. They also segregate access to health-care.

In the end, I don't think it's possible to repair our current system. As long as we try to do a fix here and another there, the problems will persist. My opinion is that the only way to create a healthy (pun intended) health-care system is to totally dismantle the current system and completely rebuild it from the ground up under a completely different framework. Probably the only way to end up with a cohesive health-care system that delivers quality care to all Americans rather than only wealthy ones is under -- dare I say it -- a somewhat socialistic model.

I know, now I'm sounding like a bleeding-heart liberal. However, I think the health-care system is a unique beast. It is the only case where I am a proponent of socialism. Otherwise, I'm a big believer in free enterprise. I believe in free trade and limiting regulation on most industries. I also oppose government subsidies of goods. In fact, I believe there are ways that capitalism can be integrated into certain facets of a universal health-care system under a mostly socialistic model.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

It's looking less and less likely that the current health care bill will be ratified by congress. This probability has some posing the question, what happens if nothing happens? They make the point that the cost of health insurance is sure to go up if we allow the status quo. Anthem's recently announced 39 percent hike to some premiums bears that out.

What they do not address is what would happen to the cost of health insurance if the health care bill were passed.

Let's take a look at that. The bill turns 94% of Americans into a captive market for the health insurance industry, adding millions of revenue streams to their coffers. When all Americans are required to buy health insurance, what incentive will the industry have to cut premiums? Proponents of the bill would answer that it sets up an insurance "exchange" to create the competitive forces that drive prices down. But we already have an insurance exchange -- it's called the free enterprise marketplace. And look how well that has done at keeping prices down.

So instead of asking what happens if nothing happens, we should be asking what happens if the bill does pass. It could be a lot worse than the status quo.

Too stupid to fail?

Today's Sunday comics had a surprising synchronicity. Although I'm sure they didn't plan it that way, This Modern World segues seamlessly into Doonesbury. Read them both (click the comic strip to zoom in) -- it's as if they were one strip today.

(Read the rest of my post below the jump)

This Modern World

There might just be something to this too-stupid-to-fail concept. The small banks have proven to be smarter than the big banks. These smaller players mostly avoided the risky predatory lending schemes that wrecked larger institutions. Yet it's the big banks that we bail out. I'm with Rahm -- it doesn't make sense to me either.