Sunday, July 26, 2009

Free Market health care?

While reading this opinion piece, and especially the title, I thought, as a libertarian would, that it can`t be right. There can`t possibly be an industry where the market doesn`t work.

And to some extent, I`m right - even in health care in the States, if you don`t like how you`re being treated, you can always go somewhere else. It doesn`t happen often, and more often than not the patient isn`t going to move from hospital to hospital because there is an element of trust involved - you have to trust the person who is going to put you to sleep and do something potentially life threatening. You have to trust that the pills you are being given are going to fix what`s wrong and ONLY what`s wrong, and not cause any new, serious problems. For this reason, there is some trust involved. You also may not be able to easily exercise the option to move to another hospital, especially in a place like Saskatchewan where hospitals are an hour or more apart.

One thing that I note though, is that the author of the opinion piece, while assuming that all of the problems of the current system (those being that insurance companies will always seek to deny your claim - those lousy good for nothing rich corporations) can be fixed by turning everything over to a single payer system where an insurance company won`t be seeking to deny your claim, but instead a government bureaucrat. In fact, he rails about insurance companies calling health payouts "costs" to the insurance company, while conveniently leaving out the fact that they would also be a "cost" to a government as well - a highly publicized and political "cost".

In the mean time, there are some very good ideas which aren't being discussed in the United States' debate, things which still retain an element of market based economics (which ensures that patients aren't treated poorly) while improving the system (the main problem being "cost"). Things like health care savings accounts and having the funding following the patient.

There is no perfect system of health care, regardless of who is paying. There are always improvements which can be made in all systems. I have no doubt though that Canada could stand to adopt some features of the US system, and that the US would be making a mistake to wholly adopt a system such as ours.

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