With our illustrious House of Representatives on the brink of committing health care reform, it is only proper that we look at a brief series by Thomas Sowell which addresses the cost of care.
In Part 1, Dr. Sowell addresses the the inflexibility of medical costs:
Letting old people die would undoubtedly be cheaper than keeping them alive — but that does not mean that the costs have gone down. It just means that we refuse to pay the costs. Instead, we pay the consequences. There is no free lunch.
In Part 2, Dr. Sowell talks about government cost controls and how they don’t work very well (unless one is trying to reduce availability of care) :
There is no question that you can reduce the payments for medical care by having either a lower quantity or a lower quality of medical care. That has already been done in countries with government-run medical systems.
In the United States, the government has already reduced payments for patients on Medicare and Medicaid, with the result that some doctors no longer accept new patients with Medicare or Medicaid. That has not reduced the cost of medical care. It has reduced the availability of medical care, just as buying a pint of milk reduces the payment below what a quart of milk would cost.
In Part 3, Dr. Sowell addresses the argument that many savings can be found by having the government reform our health care systems:
If you think the government can lower medical costs by eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse,” as some Washington politicians claim, the logical question is: Why haven’t they done that already?
Over the years, scandal after scandal has shown waste, fraud and abuse to be rampant in Medicare and Medicaid. Why would anyone imagine that a new government medical program will do what existing government medical programs have clearly failed to do?
If we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical drugs now, how can we afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical drugs, in addition to a new federal bureaucracy to administer a government-run medical system?
One does not have to be an economist to understand that medical costs do not simply curl up in a corner and die because a number of politicians and bureaucrats would like them to. Here’s hoping that a number of Washingtonians are also taking Dr. Sowell’s writings to heart.