Thursday, January 18, 2007

The 110th Congress' Healthcare Panacea?

The Democrat-controlled 110th Congress would find no greater joy than stabbing the juicy $500 billion t-bone of defense spending[1] with a steak knife, and re-allocate it toward novelties such as "providing health care to Americans." Laudable as this may be, the current state of the compulsory healthcare system (which is moving ever-closer to being single-payer) finds itself in the most miserable of states, certainly having no need to be exacerbated by HillaryCare. Medicare and Medicaid aren't wretchedly farther down the road in bankruptcy from social security, and we look toward a solution to deliver us from the imminent bankruptcy grave of big three (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) entitlement spending.

The primary prerequisites for reform should be that it, a) provides for maximum liberty and autonomy of the individual, b) re-calibrates the system to stabilize the fiscal crisis, and c) deliver maximum affordability to the widest range of people. The utopia of a system would be a complete individual-initiative healthcare, but entitlements are here to stay, so we're dealing with reasonable reform. The only realistic course of action thus far presented for social security, aside from the reverberating instinct to raise taxes, would be private social security accounts. These prove distinctly appealing due to the fact that they initially provide, for the first time, a degree of actual growth in one's begrudging contribution to the social security fund (in the unheard of event it actually stayed there). Additionally, they move toward a system of individual responsibility. Likewise, Bush unveiled an intriguing healthcare proposal with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). An HSA is a unique, tax-manipulated account that, again, provides economic stability as well as personal autonomy. This innovation has fallen to the gutter lane of Capital Hill, and has been employed in life by only three million Americans.

The CATO Institute explained, "In 2003, Congress took a giant leap toward market-based health care reform by creating health savings accounts (HSAs). Cato Institute scholars first identified health savings accounts in the 1980s and were leaders in popularizing them among the public and policymakers. HSAs combine a personal savings account dedicated for medical expenditures with a low-cost, high-deductible health insurance policy for catastrophic expenses. These accounts will undo much of the damage wrought by excessive third-party medical payments by changing consumers' incentives. Below the health insurance deductible, all payments are made by the consumer with money they can keep. Humans are much more careful consumers when spending their own money versus someone else's. Patients will curb their consumption and thus help contain medical inflation. Because consumers have built-in incentives to make wise choices, many of the restrictions that insurers have placed on patients will begin to disappear. Because patients own their health savings accounts, they will have some self-insurance coverage when they switch jobs and be better able to afford catastrophic coverage on their own. Health savings accounts will thus make health insurance more affordable for people in and out of work. Cato's research on HSAs seeks ways to improve access to consumer-driven health care plans so that patients and doctors—not third party payers—have the power to make crucial medical decisions."[2]

The other main contributions to the debate by members of the 110th Congress to the healthcare crisis have been:

1) Oppose ideas stemming from GOP or otherwise conservative circles.
2) Raise payroll taxes--the "mild" solution when contrasted to
3) Single-payer health care provided by the state (HillaryCare).

The Republican Party, along with conservative and libertarian advocates of free-market ideas, tend to find themselves on the moral low-ground on the issue of "compassion."

A most shocking study conducted by Duke University professor Christopher J. Conover concluded that government intervention has been disastrous in health care. Costs of health services regulation outweigh the benefits by two-to-one, and cost the average household over $1,500 per year. Prof. Conover also found 4,000 more Americans die every year from costs associated with health services regulation (22,000) than from lack of health insurance (18,000). The total cost of regulation is $169.1 billion over and above any benefits it provides. Government regulation of health care facilities, professionals, insurance, drugs and devices, and the medical malpractice system places a significant burden on the health care system and is responsible for more than seven million Americans lacking health insurance.

Perhaps it is actually the responsibility of the government to provide for national security, and in private health care the free market is the most effective—and, yes, ethical—mechanism for maintaining public health.

In his classic work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, classic Scottish economist Dr. Adam Smith maintained, “Every man…is first and principally recommended to his own care; and every man is certainly, in every respect, fitter and abler to take care of himself than of any other person.”

[1] US Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations

[2] CATO Institute Research: Health Care – Medical Savings Accounts



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Allison said...

Great research, Will!

Allison said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Will said...

Hehehe. I didn't delete Allison's comment as it looks like I did, she just double-posted on accident, and when I tried to delete one of them it gave the quirky message. :P

Shaun R. Connell said...

Exactly right, like usual.

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