Sunday, June 28, 2009

Maybe Not So Much an "Infomercial"

President Obama struggled to explain today whether his health care reform proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people — like the president himself — wouldn’t face.

The probing questions came from two skeptical neurologists during ABC News’ special on health care reform, “Questions for the President: Prescription for America,” anchored from the White House by Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson.

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist and researcher at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said that elites often propose health care solutions that limit options for the general public, secure in the knowledge that if they or their loves ones get sick, they will be able to afford the best care available, even if it’s not provided by insurance.

Devinsky asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn’t seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he’s proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get.

The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if “it’s my family member, if it’s my wife, if it’s my children, if it’s my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.

-From this discussion of the President's appearance on ABC tv last week to discuss his health care proposals.

At least credit the President for honesty on this issue. The fact is this: there is a scarcity of health-care services. If that were not the case, then they would all be free. So is the question, then, how are we distribute those scarce resources? If that is the question, then we could answer, "To those who need them," but this begs the question. How do we know who needs them? With government health care, those scarce resources are allocated by the government. Government will make the decisions and not "the market," another name for "the people." Government is not good at allocating resources.

But even the question - how are we to distribute scarce health care resources? - is not exactly right. The question assumes that the quantity and quality of health care services is fixed. ("Quality" is another way of describing "quantity" when one deals with "services." A "service," in the technical sense of that word, should the mean the "quality" provision of resources, because if it isn't, it is no service at all, but something that displaces true service.) The fact is that the quantity of health care services is not fixed; it is dynamic. A health care system that does not increase the health care services pie is a bad health care system. One that shrinks it, is worse than bad.

The fact that Obama's children may get better health care services than everyone else within a five mile radius of the White House is not necessarily bad. In a way, rich people are "early adopters." They lead the way in assessing new ideas coming into the health care system. The rest of the market, if it is a free one, will go to work on standardizing what Obama's kids get and then reducing the cost so that the rest of our kids will have a better chance of getting that treatment. The problem with the health care reform that the left-wing Democrats appear to propose is that it will suck the freedom out of that market.

And it is worth mentioning that the general attack of the left-wing Dems on the free market threatens health care. As they lard our economy with regulation, taxes, and government debt, they take the oxygen out of the market place everywhere. By doing such great harm to our economy generally, the left-wing reduces any chance that health care services will grow to meet demand.

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