Public Debate on Free Market Medicine

 Posted by on 3 August 2007 at 8:10 am  Health Care
Aug 032007

Two days ago, the Denver Post published two good letters defending free market medicine from FIRM supporters Paul Hsieh and Richard Watts:

Rising health care costs and the SCHIP program

Re: “Uninsured grow as hospital costs soar,” July 27 news story.

The real culprit behind rising medical costs is government interference in medicine. In the sectors of medicine where there is the least government regulation, such as cosmetic surgery and LASIK, we see a continual decrease in prices and improvement in quality. This is the normal pattern of a free market, and something we take for granted in the rest of the economy. Just ask anyone who’s bought a DVD player recently.

Instead of more government regulation of medicine, we need less. Free-market plans, such as health savings accounts combined with high-deductible catastrophic insurance, preserve the patient’s right to spend his money as he sees fit, and have been proven to cut costs while preserving high-quality medical care.

Free-market medicine is the only genuine cure for rising health costs.

Paul Hsieh, M.D., Sedalia

Re: “Child health care funding is vital,” July 22 editorial.

Your editorial claims that the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) should be expanded. It indicates that President Bush supports renewing SCHIP but not expanding it, and that Sen. Ken Salazar claims that SCHIP is a moral obligation. But SCHIP, like all entitlement programs, forces some to subsidize the expenses of others.

Each parent has the moral responsibility to care for the health of his or her own children, and parents need to evaluate their decision to have kids based on their ability to finance appropriate care. It is morally wrong to force anyone to subsidize the expenses of someone else’s children, whether for health care or any other cost.

Anyone who wishes to help those who cannot afford medical care should do so voluntarily through private charity, not by trying to use the force of government to extort money from others. The funding of SCHIP should be neither renewed nor expanded. Instead, this immoral program should be abolished.

Richard Watts, Hayden

Yesterday, they published two letters in reply:

“Laughable” health debate

Re: “Rising health care costs and the SCHIP program,” July 31 letters to the editor.

Letter-writers Paul Hsieh and R. Stamp, in their separate ways, demonstrate why the “debate” over health care is so laughable. Hsieh extols the power of the marketplace to lower health care costs, suggesting that government is the reason for high costs. I’m so glad we will all be able to afford LASIK surgery and cosmetic procedures. Seeing how $1,500 of the cost of an American-made car pays for health insurance, I suspect that Dr. Hsieh would also attribute government meddling and overregulation for the demise of U.S. industry as well. What the good doctor fails to mention is that the biggest difference in health care costs between the U.S. and other industrialized countries, aside from better outcomes abroad, is inflated physician salaries here.

Stamp suggests funding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program not with general funds but by, say, raising the tobacco tax. News flash: that’s precisely how the proposed SCHIP program is to be funded.

The primary problem critics have with “socialized medicine” is the fact that it works.

Chardo Holicky, Denver

Tuesday’s letters on health care costs and SCHIP are disturbing.

One writer doesn’t understand that “DVD players” and “health care” are different. The “free market” fails for health insurance because adverse selection causes the healthier to drop out, increasing costs on those remaining. This leads to spiraling increases in dropouts and costs. This understanding earned a Nobel Prize; it’s not a secret.

Another sees providing SCHIP for children to be a moral obligation of parents. Perhaps so, but when parents fail their children, it’s a moral obligation of society to not penalize children for “choosing the wrong parents.” Whatever happened to the concept of equal opportunity?

Another writer charges SCHIP looks like a “toehold for socialized medicine.” Some don’t realize that it’s practical to use government when privatized approaches fail. And privatized health insurance fails in America and elsewhere. Americans seem to be the last to realize it.

Bob Powell, Colorado Springs

I’d like to address this anti-conceptual argument that markets work for DVD players but not for medicine head-on. The fact is that markets don’t merely work for medicine, they are crucial for it. Any recommendations on how best argue that point?

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