Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Which is the most efficient way to bring down prices: government dictate, or free market?
Warren Buffet seems to be saying government is a more efficient way to bring down prices, therefore America should embrace the single-payer model of health care used in Britain, Canada, Cuba, the Veteran’s Administration, etc. He is mistaken. He’s great at reading balance sheets, lousy at political economic theory.
I agree that government-run health care could theoretically control prices. They’d simply pass a law: nobody can charge more than $1.00 for any medical procedure, device or drug. There, see? Prices contained. Aspirin. Heart transplant. Everything’s a dollar. In theory.
In practice, it won’t work. People who provide medical services can’t afford to provide them at that price. Either they stop providing medical services, or they go off-book somehow. Maybe all the doctors move to Mexico where they can charge fair prices. Maybe all the medical device companies move to Poland where the government welcomes investment and doesn’t try to kill it. Capital – including human capital – is mobile.
Hillary recognized this problem when she invented Hillarycare in 1992. Her solution: draft all the doctors and treat them as members of the military. You want to practice medicine in America? Then you go where you’re told and do as you’re told. In the past, you may have been a plastic surgeon making millions in Hollywood; today, you’re a gynecologist on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation making the same pay as any other Captain in the Army. Don’t like it? Turn in your medical license. This is not an incentive for people to study 10 years to become a doctor.
It doesn’t work on the other end, either. People who desire medical services have no incentive to forego care under a single-payer system. Got a sniffle? Run to the doctor, it’s free. So the lines get longer and longer until patients die waiting for an appointment, which already has happened at the VA. Or health care committees decide which patients are deserving of medical treatment and which should be denied treatment, which already has happened in Britain. Or doctors decide which patients should be helped to die and thereby reduce caseloads, which some Dutch doctors already are doing. The rich can afford to fly to wherever the doctors are, and to pay out of pocket for medical care. The poor and middle class will be promised free medical care but won’t get it, facing endless waiting lists and rationed care.
“Single-payer” is simply another way of saying “wage-and-price controls.” They didn’t work when Diocletian tried them and never have worked since. I confidently predict they won’t work now.
They did wonders for the US economy in the seventies.
You remember what a greaet time the seventies were, rigtht?