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John Stossel
John Stossel
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Improving Health Care

Comment

Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on whether the Obamacare insurance mandate is constitutional. Seems like a no-brainer to me. How can forcing me to engage in commerce be constitutional?

But there's a deeper question: Why should government be involved in medicine at all?

Right before President Obama took office, the media got hysterical about health care. You heard the claims: America spends more than any country — $6,000 per person — yet we get less. Americans die younger than people in Japan and Western Europe. Millions of Americans lack health insurance and worry about paying for care.

I have the solution! said Obama. Bigger government will give us more choices and make health care cheaper and better. He proceeded to give us that. Bigger government, that is. The cheaper/better/more choices part — not so much.

Costs have risen. More choices? No, we have fewer choices. Many people lost coverage when companies left the market.

Because ObamaCare requires insurance companies to cover every child regardless of pre-existing conditions, WellPoint, Humana and Cigna got out of the child-only business. Principal Financial stopped offering health insurance altogether — 1 million customers no longer have the choice to keep their insurance.

This is to be expected when governments control health care. Since state funding makes medical services seem free, demand increases. Governments deal with that by rationing. Advocates of government health care hate the word "rationing" because it forces them to face an ugly truth: Once you accept the idea that taxpayers pay, individual choice dies. Someone else decides what treatment you get, and when.

At least in America, we still have some choice. We can pay to get what we want. Under government health care, bureaucrats will decide how long we wait for our knee operation or cataract surgery ... or if we get lifesaving treatment at all.

When someone else pays for your health care, that someone else also decides when to pull the plug. The reason can be found in Econ 101. Medical care doesn't grow on trees. It must be produced by human and physical capital, and those resources are limited.

Politicians can't repeal supply and demand.

Call them "death panels" or not, a government that needs to cut costs will limit what it spends on health care, especially on people nearing the end of life. Medical "ethicists" have long lamented that too much money is spent in the last several months of life. Given the premise that it's government's job to pay, it's only natural that some bureaucrat will decide that 80-year-olds shouldn't get hip replacements.

True, surveys show that most Brits and Canadians like their free health care. But Dr. David Gratzer notes that most people surveyed aren't sick. Gratzer is a Canadian who also liked Canada's government health care — until he started treating patients.

More than a million Canadians say they can't find a family doctor. Some towns hold lotteries to determine who gets to see one. In Norwood, Ontario, my TV producer watched as the town clerk pulled four names out of a big box and then telephoned the lucky winners. "Congratulations! You get to see a doctor this month."

Think the wait in an American emergency room is bad? In Canada, the average wait is 23 hours. Sometimes they can't even get heart attack victims into the ICU.

That's where we're headed unless Obamacare is repealed. But that's not nearly enough. Contrary to what some Republicans say, we didn't have a free medical market before Obama came to power. We had a system that limited competition through occupational licensing, FDA rules and other government intrusions, while stimulating demand through tax-favored employer-based "insurance," Medicare and Medicaid.

If we want affordable and cutting-edge health care, there's only one approach that will work: open competition. That means eliminating both bureaucratic obstacles and corporate privileges. Only free markets can give us innovation at the lowest possible cost.

Of course, that also means consumers should spend their own money on health care, limiting insurance to catastrophic expenses. Americans don't want to hear it. But that's the truth.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" <http://www.johnstossel.com>>johnstossel.com</a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

6 Comments | Post Comment
That includes not only government provided health care but employer provided health care. The same kind of forces at work with a government bureaucracy apply to employers. They too have to limit cost eventually as customers reject over priced goods and services from employers paying over priced labor. If everyone paid for their own health care and health care insurance, the natural price forces will drive insurance to cover disasters only. People will not give insurance companies a percentage of all their health care costs for routine costs. Also if everyone had their own policies they wouldn't be health care handcuffed to the employer to ensure conditions developed while working there aren't convereted to uncoverable preexisting conditions on obtaining new coverage with the new employer.
CM
Comment: #1
Posted by: C Moellers
Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:42 AM
Excellent analysis by Stossell once again. Gov't needs to get out of the health insurance business if Americans want better benefits at fair rates.
Comment: #2
Posted by: F Maloney
Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:50 AM
Two other things have to happen, to have a truly free and open market, is to eliminate the employer tax credit for health insurance. If the company wants to offer it, based on competition for employees great, but there should be no subsidy for it.

The next thing that has to happen, is that my insurance costs should be based on my individual health, not based on the number of people in a pool, based on the size of my employer. Right now, in my particular case, my insurance costs are probably higher than they would be otherwise, because I'm healthy. I eat right, I exercise seven days a week, and most people would never believe that I'm about to turn 48. My kids and wife are exceptionally healthy too. We only go to the doctor when really needed, not for every sniffle, scatch, and bump, so we don't over consume. I believe I would pay significantly less.

Also, when you truly attach the cost of insurance to the health of the individuals involved (just like auto insurance is based on your safety record of your own driving), it will give an incentive for people to be healthy. We could cure the obesity epidemic in a generation with a free market approach to medicine.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Andrig T Miller
Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:59 AM
I don't want government running health care. That would be a true nightmare for all Americans. I am for a free market system for health insurance. I am in a position where its imperative that costs are reasonable.


That said, I want to point out the flaws in the following logic: That people with preexisting conditions, and people who come down with an illness after they buy into a policy only to see themselves canceled or priced out of the policy at renewal time, who are then without insurance, and can't get it again, deserve to have insurance withheld or priced out of reach, because they are lumped in with those who abuse themselves and make themselves overweight, addicted, or otherwise ill because of poor choices.


I have inherited several health problems from my ancestors. No matter what kind of shape I am in I will continue to deal with HBP, High cholesterol and possibly later on heart disease. I also have suffered from kidney stones, diverticulitis, and sleep apnea. I have 3 brothers and we all share some of these problems. I also last year was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. 2 of my brothers are runners, one has run marathons. I am overweight, partially because of my habits, and partially because of the medications I have to take. I need and want to lose weight, and will, but until you try to workout with Fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, you haven't lived. Nevertheless, I will do what I must to get healthy.


My point is this: anybody can get sick. Any time for any reason. Many times those reasons are not the fault of the person who is sick. I have had 2 people in my life lose family members in their 40's to cancer this week. They were otherwise healthy. We have to have a system in place so that regardless of what you have or how you got it you can get good care that you can afford to pay for. I agree that there should be some sort of cost attached to people that abuse their bodies, and help and incentive for them to change and get healthy, but those who have illness through no fault of their own should not be grouped in and penalized the same as those who abuse themselves. This is not an easy problem to solve, but we must do it. We can if the Government is kept out of it, and a well and fairly minded free market system can be created. Now I am headed to the treadmill......
Comment: #4
Posted by: C A Walston
Thu Jun 21, 2012 5:43 AM
watching your program I heard the woman comment on the VA system Sorry the docs and nurses are great but they are overwhelmed they limit what medicines you can take as they only carry generics Do not try to reschedule an appt you will have to wait months The average American would not tolerate this well They have no emergency service where we live you must be eligible to go to the Navy Hospital If they gave this to all Americans there would be a revolt How do I know well my husband is a retired Navy Viet Nam Vet I am also a vet but was made ineligible for the VA yeasrs ago as I did not serve in wartime
Comment: #5
Posted by: MAry Young
Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:59 PM
Scuse me, Mr. Stossel. My prayer is that there is a there there. The prime mover of the universe might be listening to my begging. My experience with this "Creator of the Big Bang" has been very good. My belief that there is an entity there to hear my prayer is FAITH. If you don't have any faith, maybe you need to be FOXhole close to death. "no atheists/agnostics in FOXholes."
I just lost faith in my former heroine Coulter--no government should allow the killing of babies--I believe Coulter is right about that, but she is way off base to demand the firing of a person as valuable to the public discourse as yourself. You can quote m on that. Keep up the good work, and thank you for providing fresh air to the ongoing balderdash of FOX vs. MSNBC.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Jim Henry
Sat Mar 9, 2013 10:24 PM
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