Health Care Suggestions

Michael Cannon, a self-described conservative turned libertarian at the Cato Institute has some very good ideas on what health care reform should look like. (Hat tip Scott) Some of his suggestions seem like they would appeal to most reasonable people (“think freedom, not universal coverage” and “health-savings accounts are not enough”) while others look like they are ripe targets for those who have been working to “reform” our health care system for 15 years already (most notably “don’t ‘improve’ welfare programs — cut them”). It is important to dig deeper into such suggestions before dismissing such libertarian ideas as heartless. In this case, digging deeper means nothing more than reading the rest of the paragraph:

At the behest of conservatives, Jeb Bush and other governors have made Medicaid more consumer-friendly. The only problem is that Medicaid and SCHIP are welfare programs, and making welfare more attractive leads to…more welfare.

After all what is more heartless, finding ways to help people become more self-sufficient, or teaching them to be dependent on the contributions of people they don’t even know? (The second one sounds like a very precarious position to be in.)

Mr. Cannon also throws in gems like “The lefties aren’t always wrong.” Only a libertarian would say that to a conservative – and the conservatives need to hear it. My personal favorite though (because it’s too easy to forget sometimes) is this – “private markets are not necessarily free markets.” That’s the thing that has worried me about so many of the plans proposed by many leading conservatives. They pat themselves on the back for turning to private markets but they do nothing to ensure that the market is actually free. That difference is why “the health-care industry does not want free markets.” They are all for private markets where they can make their private fortunes, but those who are thriving in a market that is not free have little incentive to make the market free.

Some people will argue that the rising cost of health care is driven by the rising costs of running health care related businesses, but rising costs are easy to accept when you know that nothing short of releasing a drug that leads to fatal consequences is going to put you out of business. Health care is probably more stable than real-estate – and almost as stable as alcohol, tobacco, and pornography.

I’ve strayed from my original point – go read the article by Michael Cannon.