The free market health care fantasy

Erik Erikson with a NYT Op-Ed to show that he can talk the conservative talking points on health care just fine, but has pretty much no clue how the health care marketplace works:

Instead, they should focus on cost.

If Republicans stopped worrying about how many people had access to a government-managed health care program and started focusing on reducing costs, they could potentially increase the number of people covered. Doing so would necessitate scaling back the government’s involvement in health care, reducing insurance mandates, unleashing free-market competition among insurance providers and allowing consumer choice in selecting plans.

Increasing competition and choice would lower prices for all kinds of insurance. Lower prices would free up corporate dollars for other things like innovation and jobs. Lower prices would also make it far more affordable for Americans to buy their own insurance than wait for government to subsidize it.

No.  Simply no.  This is what conservative ideologues who don’t actually understand health care policy (i.e., almost all of them) think.  This is not reality.

Sarah Kliff and Ezra Klein had an absolutely tremendous article on health care yesterday that covered an extraordinary amount of ground.  It’s worth half a dozen blog posts.  For present purposes, it nicely explained how every other advanced nation spends less on health care than us.  It’s not more free markets:

The reason American health care is expensive is because when we go to the doctor, it costs more than when someone in Canada or England or France or any other developed nation goes to the doctor.

Other developed countries use price controls in medicine. The government negotiates with drug companies and device makers and doctors to set lower prices. The government is buying in bulk, and has the power to win those negotiations. These countries regulate medical prices akin to how they regulate the price of electricity or water: a service that everyone needs at reasonable price, but would face significant difficulty bargaining for on their own.

I’ve said it before I’ll say it again.  Free markets are great, where they work.  And the overwhelming evidence is that through most of the health care marketplace, free markets are not particularly effective.



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The free market health care fantasy

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    If only our people and our elected representatives were as rational as Sarah and Ezra. Sigh.

  2. Terrant says:

    The problem with healthcare and free markets, it is impossible you have a free market. When one party can almost literally say “your money or your life,” that is not free.

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