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.

Joe Doakes

They did wonders for the US economy in the seventies.

You remember what a greaet time the seventies were, rigtht?

12 thoughts on “Rationed

  1. The way out of this mess is to increase ***supply*** and get rid of the busy body overhead and fraud. Fat deductibles + direct primary care funded by tax credits. The ***UNINSURABLE*** (not “preexisting”) get isolated form the system and each state finds their own way with federal funding. Wipe out Medicaid, Medicare, the VA and employment groups.

    Avik Roy knows everything.

  2. Also, premiums should only represent catastrophic risk. “Cross subsidization” is just a way to hide all of the effective ***regressive*** taxation in the system.

    Avik Roy says that they forced so much Medicaid on the system and they are fighting tax credits tooth and nail to force single payer. Criminals.

  3. Economists call it “substitution,” when consumers avoid high prices or shoddy service in favor of a substitute product or provider.

    Already today, lots of Americans skip over the border to Mexico for drugs and medical procedures, saving a bundle in the process. Single-payer would provide even greater opportunities for substitute providers.

    Remember “Enterprise Zones,” the low-tax areas promoted by Jack Kemp in the 80’s? A clever foreign nation might open Consulates in every major US city. Step through that gate and you’re no longer in the US governed by the single-payer health care system, you’re on Mexican soil, where prescription drugs and medical procedures are cheap.

    Better still, the Ojibwa might remember an ancient oral tradition of practicing medicine on the reservation. Combine the casino with the dentist – clean your pockets and your teeth in one trip.

  4. Joe: I love it.

    When does government force and central planning improve anything?

  5. The saddest thing is all the manipulation in the media, so we don’t get accurate information about what single payer system would do. At work the other day, we were having a discussion on single payer healthcare. Luckily, we had some immigrants who could provide real experience anecdotes. They have all moved here because wages are higher for healthcare workers. That surprised some of the millennials, who somehow heard everything was better, including wages, in Europe and Canada. They also talked about hospital rooms that had 3 people to a room. Co-workers gasped. How could this be? What about infection control? What about HIPPA? Well, with single payer, there isn’t a lot of care involved, I guess.

  6. Something in me hopes that Buffett finds himself in Charlie Gard’s position. You would figure someone who’s bought and run businesses all his life would know better than this, but apparently he can’t even be bothered to read the papers to figure out exactly why one would want to avoid death panels socialized medicine.

  7. Buffett is the Chairman of the “I Got Mine, Fuck You Coalition”, and Activities Director of the “Can’t Touch Me Social Club”.

  8. I’m no expert, but have watched two people in my life affected by Alzheimer’s, I would posit that Warren is exhibiting the early signs of it.

  9. He’s great at reading balance sheets, lousy at political economic theory.

    He’s great at cooking balance sheets, and great at political economic theory that enriches him through crony capitalism.

    There, corrected for you. You are welcome.

  10. Shouldn’t the headline be “Man who is ignorant praised as expert”?
    “BUFFETT: “I think that’s way outside of my circle of competence.”
    “BUFFETT: “With my limited knowledge . . .”
    The article is based on an interview Buffet did for PBS, and it is clear that Buffet is far from an expert on healthcare costs. Buffet is nearly incoherent; he seems to think that the “best” health care system is the health care system that consumes the least GOP. You want Russian-style health care (7.1% GDP)? You want Rwandan-style health care (7.5% GDP)?
    Fake news.

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