The US congress passed the health care bill to provide medical covered to uninsured Americans on March 21st. The bill was passed without a single republican Vote. “We tonight will make history for our country and progress for the American people,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the vote. “Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our country.” The bill would “provide” coverage to 95% of the legal residents of the country. It will put an “end” to insurance-company practices like denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. This will be extended to adults too, through expanded high risk pools. Health care plans will be offered to individuals who are not covered by their employers. A large part of it would be funded by a new set of taxes, and high levy on high priced insurance policies. It is hailed as a historic “victory” and a big move towards “social justice”. Some of us less naïve, however, would call it Government tyranny and a takeover of the Insurance system. It would only shift the costs to premium players, increase litigation, spending and debt and the cost of equipment and insurance. High taxes would only discourage productivity and hamper production of wealth. As Cannon and Tanner observed, “The paradox of a ‘‘right to health care’’ is that it discourages the very activities that help deliver on that ‘‘right”.”
Advocates of such monstrous policies evade why people all around the world wish to migrate to the United States. It should be obvious that it is not the welfare state which attracts people. With all its flaws, the United States is one of the world’s freest countries. United States, as a country, was late to implement interventionist policies. As a quote goes: “People love freedom, whether they know it or not. They flee from where it doesn’t exist.” Though much criticized by interventionists, the United States has the best health care system in the world. Most of the best minds in the profession work in the United States. In the past decade, an overwhelming majority of the Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine were Americans or residents of the United States. Half of the medicines introduced in the past two decades were developed in the United States. Yet, critics are not satisfied. They point out the high infant mortality rate in the United States, for instance, evading the fact that US consider low-birth weight infants as a “live birth”, when other countries don’t.
Is health care a right? It should be obvious that there are no such positive rights. A right shouldn’t infringe the rights of others. Ayn Rand wrote in ‘The Virtue of Selfishness”, on the Medicare of the 60’s: “Medicare is an example of an out of context goal. “Isn’t it desirable that the aged should have medical care in times of illness?” its advocates clamor. Considered out of context, the answer would be: Yes, it is desirable. Who would have a reason to say no? And it is at this point that the mental processes of a collectivized brain are cut off; the rest is fog. Only the desire remains in his sight—it’s the good, isn’t it? There would be no controversy about the moral character of some young hoodlum who declared: “Isn’t it desirable to have a yacht, to live in a penthouse and to drink champagne?”—and stubbornly refused to consider the fact that he had robbed a bank and killed two guards to achieve that “desirable” goal. There is no moral difference between these two examples.”
People unable to think beyond the obvious fail to see the high costs of Government interference in health care. They instinctively grasp that these costs would be shifted to the ultra rich that pays the taxes. They hope that they can have a free ride somehow. This is an illusion. A large part of the tax burden is on the middle class and the poor. (And even if it were true, it doesn’t justify the policy.) The Canadian Government, for example, extorts a huge amount in taxes to maintain its government-run health care system. In short, it is not “free”. As Paul Ginsburg and Len Nichols writes, ‘‘When someone else pays patients have little price sensitivity and almost no incentive to economize and make sure the expenditure is commensurate with the clinical value of the service.’’ Milton Friedman once estimated that decades of government encouragement of excessive health coverage has doubled the per capita spending on medical care.
The health care system, as everyone states, is in need of reform. As some critics allege, the problems we face is not a free market in health care. There was never a free market in health care. There are several regulations and redistribution schemes which tamper with the functioning of the health care system. Government licensing and FDA regulations have made health care extremely costly and out of reach of the “common man”. The solution, obviously, is to do away with these regulations and institute a free market in health care,