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Health Care Myth vs. Health Care Myth February 1, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Economics, Politics.

In the Washington Post Robert J. Samuelson praises Bush’s health care plan:

But the Bush proposal does have one huge virtue: It exposes health-care costs to the broad public. By not taxing employer-paid insurance, the government now provides a huge invisible subsidy to workers. Bush wouldn’t end the subsidy, but by modifying it with specific deductions for insurance ($15,000 for families, $7,500 for singles), he would force most workers to see the costs.

It’s yet another attempt to say that market forces can work in the health care sphere. This belief of course rests on Rational Choice Theory and the Rational Actor Model. There is very little in politics and economics more foolish than this belief. But Samuelson and most political conservatives persist.

First, many medical emergencies are unexpected. By definition this means you aren’t out there shopping for someone who’s good and cheap to take care of this problem in advance. Secondly, most of us are limited in our consideration of what doctor to see or what hospital to go to by the insurance company that our employer chooses. Who’s in network and who is not is beyond the individual’s choice. This is one of the reasons that the insurance industry’s commercials and the right wing meme about the evils of the government making our health care choices made me angry. I don’t see much difference between the insurance company beauracracy and a government beauracracy. If anything the insurance company has more motivation to deny me care for the sake of their profits. Remember, these are the same people who refuse to pay doctors and hospitals for months after claims are filed so they can hang on to that money and profit off the investment of it. In addition the evil bloated federal agencies of Medicaid and Medicare spend less than one-fifth the money on administrative overhead as the insurance companies do.

Very few of us are doctors. We cannot diagnose ourselves. We do not know when a symptom is minor or serious. The mantra of the economic view of health care attempts to say that it’s an unqualified good if people wait and only go to the doctor when they’re “really sick”. They make unsubstantiated claims concerning the overuse of health care systems. Well, there are people who do that. But they’ve always been with us and always been a small number of people, certainly not enough to cause as much damage as is being claimed.

The problem with Samuelson and those who take his view is that their viewpoint will never lead to any truly original thinking about possible solutions because they are mired in the pattern of believing in the corporate system which rules the insurance and hospital system. Since their faith in those institutions is so unwavering they can’t step outside the box those corporations have built to look for something new enough to do some good.



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