RGF and others speak out against ABQ Chamber on Health Care

As you probably know, the Rio Grande Foundation has been among the most prominent organizations opposed to more government intervention in the health care sector and supporting market-based reforms.
While most New Mexico businesses and business organizations have opposed Governor Richardson’s plans for a massive new government-run health system, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce came out in support of the Governor’s plan. Recently, a group of businesses and other organizations including the Rio Grande Foundation sent a letter to the Chamber outlining concerns with the Chamber’s support for even more government intervention in health care and the negative impact such policies would have on small businesses. Mario Burgos blogs about the issue here.

Healthy, Thin, Non-smokers Consume More Health Care

Way back when Congress was debating the tobacco settlement, opponents of the settlement, which amounted to government control over the tobacco industry, opponents argued that smokers saved governments money compared to what they would spend on end of life services for those who lived long, healthy lives.
That assertion has been borne out again in a recent study done in the UK which found that health care for those who are healthy and live the longest costs $417,000 from the age of 20 on while care for the obese was $371,000, and for smokers the cost was about $326,000. In other words, people with unhealthy habits actually consume less health care over their life-spans than those who are healthy. While this would be entirely irrelevant in a free country, government’s massive role in health care makes it highly relevant.
The good news is that governments can no longer use taxpayers as an excuse for attempting to control our lives; it looks like some other excuses for the nanny-statists are in order.

Albuquerque Journal Misguidedly Endorses Richardson Health Plan

Somewhat surprisingly given its usually reasonable editorial opinions, the Albuquerque Journal endorsed Governor Richardson’s health care plan. After all, as the paper concluded, “New Mexico’s condition can only get worse.”
We’ve heard this before. Richardson, in his state of the state address, repeatedly implied that health care in New Mexico cannot get worse than it is now. For starters, he said, “the status quo is unacceptable” and he went on to state “The most expensive choice is to do nothing.” While advocates of radical change in our health care system seem genuine in their conviction that things can get no worse, what are the facts?
Yes, New Mexico has a disproportionately high rate of uninsured with 400,000 out of 2 million (third highest in the nation). While it may seem plausible to state that health care could get no worse, how about for the rest of us? Richardson’s plan would force doctors — as a requirement for licensure — to accept whatever the state or insurance companies provide them in the way of payment. Clearly, both the state and insurance companies will have tremendous incentives to cut costs at doctors’ expense, thereby forcing doctors out of the state.
Obviously, if ever-greater numbers of doctors are forced out of New Mexico, we could end up with even less access to actual health care (as opposed to insurance) for the 1.6 million insured and the 400,000 uninsured alike. Before embarking on a massive government program that even supporters view as “imperfect,” we need to take a clear-eyed look at whether this supposed “solution” might actually make the current situation even worse.

RGF on Health Care in the Alibi

While the Rio Grande Foundation is often called a “conservative” think tank and Albuquerque’s alternative news weekly would typically be called anything but, part of our charge is to reach out to those who may not necessarily share ideas — at least normally. Nonetheless, when I read this article in the Alibi I felt that it was a perfect opportunity to weigh in on why all of us, no matter our political persuasion, should be concerned about government health care schemes. After all, if the state places the kind of controls on doctors that the Governor has proposed, New Mexico could see doctors leave the state in droves. This is not the favored outcome of liberals and conservatives alike.

“Greedy Doctors”

You can tell Bill Richardson is no longer running for President (and that he is a lame-duck governor). After all, who in their right mind that is running for office would attack an entire interest group for no good reason. I’m referring to Richardson’s comments that doctors are “greedy.” Richardson said of doctors, “They’re greedy. They shouldn’t be so greedy. They should be part of the plan,” in reference to his “Health Solutions New Mexico” plan.
Doctors oppose Richardson’s plan in large part due to its reliance on price controls which would force doctors to take whatever payment is being offered by the government or insurance companies. This doesn’t seem “greedy” to me, rather given doctors’ experiences with Medicare and Medicaid, the prices of which are both determined by the federal government, doctors have a lot to worry about if they become even more beholden to the government for their daily bread.
Doctors spend a long time in medical school at great personal and financial cost to themselves. Most doctors I know are “greedy” only in the sense that they want to be fairly compensated for their work. In reality, Richardson is the greedy one because he wants to take credit for offering health care to more people with doctors, insurance companies, and businesses footing the bill. That’s greedy.

Improving Health Care Without Breaking the Bank

Those who understand economics understand that capitalism and free markets are the most efficient and fairest means of allocating resources in any society. Unfortunately, most people (including our elected officials) don’t necessarily understand that. Thus, we fall prey to those who would lead us to believe that some central planning agency will allocate resources more effectively than individuals and companies interacting in a free market. This was the thinking among economic planners in the old Soviet Union and it is the thinking behind New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s health care proposal.
In response to the Governor’s government planning model, the Rio Grande Foundation recently released an issue brief, “Cutting Costs and Improving Health Care in New Mexico,” that outlines several ways in which New Mexico could cut health care costs, improve quality, and improve upon its ranking as the state with the third-highest rate of uninsured in the nation.

Journal Op-eds Miss the Mark on Health Care

No wonder the health care debate here in New Mexico has gotten so off track. The policymakers and advocates seem to have little or no understanding not just of markets, but of how bureaucracies actually operate. Two opinion pieces that somehow managed to get published in today’s Albuquerque Journal are perfect examples.
The first article, “Start Health Care Reform in ’08,” by Charlotte Roybal of the Health Care for All campaign first discusses New Mexico’s failure, despite reports to the otherwise, to reduce uninsured numbers. Fine, without reform, little change is to be expected.
Roybal then goes on to discuss the Governor’s proposed Health Care Authority and how it would slash administrative costs and should generally be accountable. Of course, no specifics are offered, but plenty of buzzwords like “transparency”, “meeting health care policy needs”, and “clear balance of power.” None of this actually gets to the heart of what the Authority will actually do and how it is supposed to control health care costs (in reality that will be rationing), but we’ll just figure it all out after it passes I suppose.
The second article, Health Care Fixes Require Thought, by Dr. J. Deane Waldman at the University of New Mexico, starts out like the author is making a case for Evidence Based Medicine, a concept that would bring the scientific method to health care. The practice, while it sounds good, if imposed in a bureaucratic and governmentally-controlled system, would result in utter stagnation in innovation as doctors would be unable to offer new and patient-unique treatments.
Strangely, the author does not dwell on the topic and instead launches into the doctor and nurse shortage in New Mexico, all without mentioning that we are one of the only states nationwide that taxes health care services under the gross receipts/sales tax. There are many reasons that fewer Americans are studying to be doctors and nurses, but the most important one is socialism. We have a quasi-socialized system already and we are on the verge of going all the way. The only way to improve health care is by restoring the individual to the equation, not by adding more government on top of what we already have.