Friday, May 01, 2009

Obama's health care obsession

President Obama and his fellow travelers in Congress have been talking a great deal about American health care. They have proposed "universal" health care, which, according to the Obama's White House, will "control rising health care costs, guarantee choice of doctor, and assure high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans." However, this is not true at all. In America, we have "universal" K-12 education. In 2009, 89% of K-12 students attended government-run schools. Although parents do not directly pay for the costs of the child's education in a government-run school, the costs continue to rise rather dramatically, which is reflected mostly in higher property taxes in many states. There is also no "choice" in K-12 education: if a parent is unable to pay to send their kid to a private school, they have no choice other than to send their child to the local government monopolized school system, which is infected with crime, anarchy, high drop out rates, and test scores that are below average compared to students from other nations. Do we really want to copy this feature in our health care system? Do we really want to tell patients that they have only one choice, which will be decided by a Washington, D.C.bureaucrat, and that if they live or die, it really is not even up to them?

The fact that the government has failed to deliver in K-12 education is a strong rebuke to the idea that the government is able to manage anything as complex as health care and deliver on cost, quality, and affordability. The government has not been able to deliver on any of these areas even in an area like education, which it has operated continuously for almost a century. (Year after year, we are told that this time, it will be fixed. It won't happen. Once the government takes over health care, and quality declines, there will be constant pleas for "more money" to "fix the problem." But money is not the source of the problem: freedom and individuality, reflected in the capitalist system, is what makes medical excellence possible).

Further, medical care is extremely complex, requiring highly motivated and intelligent individuals who have a fixed store of knowledge and able to use it in dynamic and novel situations. There are so many factors in play when it comes to medical care, including the creation of advanced theoretical knowledge to create new medicines and specialized procedures to cure ailments, distributions of new medicines, medical schools, medical professionals, hospitals, clinics, private doctor's offices, and many other variables, factors, and individuals that I did not even consider. Considering the fact that there are just a couple of people who are capable of running a multi-billion operation, is it possible that the 535 Members of Congress are not qualified to run a sector of the economy that accounts for $1.6 trillion or more of the economy?

Liberty should be the guiding principle of health care. When you are in pain, you want the pain aleviated. The best way is by going to a doctor who does not face a gun in his face telling him how to run his business, how much to charge, how to conduct his procedures: rather, we all want a medical professional who is guided by medical excellence. Let's face it: The government failed in education, but it has an insatiable appetite. Not content to monopolize only education, it also wants to destroy the best health care system in the world. Don't let it happen.

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