I have often written on the myth that America has a health care system that resembles a “free market.” Here and here just to name a few recent examples. Well, I was up to my old tricks again in a recent letter that appeared in Albuquerque’s alternative weekly, The Alibi. The letter is copied and pasted below:
[Re: News Feature, “Health Care on Life Support,” July 16-22] Simon McCormack did a reasonably good job of discussing some of the problems currently facing American health care and some of the “reform” options now percolating in Congress. But, as is too often the case, the story aligns “free markets” with the status quo. Dr. Jason Cohen in particular is quoted in the story saying that certain doctors, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry support the current “privatized model.”
While I’d like to give the media the benefit of the doubt in confusing the current health care system with a free market system, one would think that it would be hard to overlook the fact that government spending on health care accounts for 46 percent of all such spending. That hardly sounds “free market” to me.
Additionally, federal tax policies favor third-party-purchased coverage by allowing employers to purchase coverage tax-free, thus taking cost decisions out of the hands of individuals and reducing the incentives for average workers to be cost-conscious consumers when it comes to health care. As if that is not enough, states also regulate care, thus piling on costly mandates. New Mexico has 51 of them.
America’s health care system is by no means perfect, but the supporters of “reform” have not shown how still more government intervention in health care will result in higher quality, less expensive care.
An additional example, that I have not previously used is that Congress could mandate that insurance companies take “all-comers” by passing a regulation called “guaranteed issue” and it could also add on an individual mandate (I’m describing the basics of the Massachusetts plan and parts of Obama’s). Given these regulations which would dramatically alter (for the worse) the health care system, it is worth noting that these do not result in “socialized” medicine or even government taking over an increased level of government spending. Needless to say, numbers can be deceptive, but Americans should not labor under the misperception that we have anything close to a free market health care system.