Alice in Health Care

Thomas Sowell gives some very sensible thoughts on health care reform in his latest column. Here are the first few paragraphs, which provide one of the most succinct summaries of the key issues that I’ve seen:

Most discussions of health care are like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

What is the biggest complaint about the current medical care situation? “It costs too much.” Yet one looks in vain for anything in the pending legislation that will lower those costs.

One of the biggest reasons for higher medical costs is that somebody else is paying those costs, whether an insurance company or the government. What is the politicians’ answer? To have more costs paid by insurance companies and the government.

Back when the “single payer” was the patient, people were more selective in what they spent their own money on. You went to a doctor when you had a broken leg but not necessarily every time you had the sniffles or a skin rash. But, when someone else is paying, that is when medical care gets over-used — and bureaucratic rationing is then imposed, to replace self-rationing.

  • Brad Walker

    Couldn’t agree more. Why does no one in government seem to see this point of view? If we knew the cost of procedures and were choosing our doctors based on cost and quality, wouldn’t the competition drive costs down? Competition seems to work in every other area of the free market. Further, we might be more careful about the frequency of visits, which might provide an improved quality with less attention given to less extreme conditions.

  • Chris

    It can be difficult to make these decisions, but I’m grateful that we have insurance that allows us to go to the doctor at the early stages of problems, rather than waiting until we are so sick that we are in serious trouble. Many, many life threatening, or almost as serious, problems can be avoided by catching things before they get too advanced, so seeing a doctor when something isn’t right is a good thing. We should not have to feel bad about that. My husband could have died if he hadn’t gone to the doctor when he felt run down for a few days. He had kidney failure.

    I’m so grateful that I was able to go to physical therapy when my back was hurting moderately so I could get back to normal in 6 weeks, rather than waiting until I couldn’t move at all, which the doctor said would have taken a much longer and more expensive recovery.

    I don’t think patient overuse is the problem. One of the problems is the high incomes of people in medicine and pharmacy. Of course, in one sense, they aren’t getting paid enough, because a life saved is priceless. On the other hand, people cannot pay what they do not have to give. Fire fighters, police officers, and soldiers have hard jobs, too, and they save lives, but they make a lot less money than people in medicine and pharmacy. Both deserve to make a lot of money, but some are willing to lay down their lives for others for a lot less.