Thursday, September 19, 2013

Unhealthy logic - 3 conservative misconceptions regarding health care

Some domestic policy...

The GOP appears to have finalized its strategy to shut down ObamaCare. I'll comment on this plan in due course. 

In the interim, here are three thoughts on the anti-competitive character of America's health care system. Please note - I'm not writing this piece in defense of ObamaCare (which I believe will be a disaster), but rather as a challenge to those conservatives who insinuate that our current medical system is fit for purpose.

1) The Health Care Marketplace is fundamentally dysfunctional. 
For almost every treatment - from a scan to surgery, health care is far more expensive in America than in other western nations. In large part, this discrepancy is the consequence of absent consumer knowledge. More specifically, most Americans don't have a clue as to what a particular treatment should cost. In turn, this knowledge gap allows different hospitals to charge absurdly variable prices for the same procedures.
          This dynamic enables monopoly providers (see below) and it encourages an over-saturation of specialists. The marketplace dysfunction is topped off by the AMA's unscrutinized power to set treatment-value points.

2) Excessive Barriers to Entry
To practice in the US, a foreign trained doctor must navigate a bureaucratic minefield of epic proportions. This minefield obstructs the flow of otherwise available human capital. In shielding the US medical training industry from competition, it's also deeply counter-productive. Across America, there's a great need for rural doctors - foreign practitioners could fill these coverage gaps.
            Regrettably, our current health care system disincentivizes the very essence of good medical care - reliable access to affordable and effective care. At a further level, Doctor shortages contribute to local monopolies - forcing patients to pay excessive prices or travel excessive distances for alternate treatment. This is outrageous. The Federal Trade Commission should investigate the AMA for its evident restraint of trade.

3) Absent Personal Responsibility
With many Americans receiving their health care coverage from employer based plans, cost burdens are shifted onto society instead of individuals. As a result, there's little incentive for personal responsibility/cost awareness*. Until individuals are made to bear scrutiny to the health care choices that they make, health care costs will continue to grow.

           As I've argued before, conservatives must present a serious alternative to the looming debacle of ObamaCare.  Yet, we also need to re-consider whether our current health care system is as great as some of us assume.

*Albeit in an unintentional way, ObamaCare's corporate/personal mandates may actually help bring down health care costs over the long term. As companies offer grants instead of fixed insurance (to avoid carrying the weight of health care inflation), individuals will have to shop around more - eventually leading to greater consumer pressure for more affordable options.


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