Thursday, November 05, 2009

Free market snake oil

The right-wingers claim that they actually DO have a plan for health care: Simply remove all government regulation of healthcare altogether, and the Magic Free Market Fairy will wave her magic wand and magically provide health care for all Americans. I have just one question for these folks: Can they point to one nation, any nation, anywhere on this planet, where this in fact actually works?


Uhm, hello? (tap tap tap). Uhm, guess not.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


  1. Why don't you let the guys that run Wall Street run your medical system? If it doesn't work out, they can always scream, "We're too big to fail!" Instant cash infusion. It's win/win!

    I find it very sad to watch the way the arrogant GOP treats people who would just like some health care...

  2. If magic were real, we'd have harnessed it to cure cancer by now.

    The stupidity of the GOP never fails to disturb me...

  3. Southern Quebec, John McCain suggested that in an article last year ('Contingencies,' the journal of the American Association of Actuaries). He suggested that deregulating the health care industry would stimulate competition, adding that it worked out okay for the banks.

    Which was a WTF moment for me.

    The GOP Health Care Plan goes like this:

    1. Let the Market do it.
    3. Everyone has health care!

    It's the political equivalent of the Underpants Gnomes.

  4. And what countries can you provide as examples of this free market failure? Surely you don't think the U.S. has anything that resembles a free market in health care. So who else tried free markets and failed?

    I saw in a prior post that you read the Atlantic. Did you happen to read this one. This is the first Democrat that I've seen that totally understands the health care issue. I too wrote about it here

    Do you guys really think HR 3962 is a panacea? Are you sure it won't do more harm than good? This is a case where the cure is worse than the disease.

  5. Nathan, I asked for examples of a working free market health care systems. Do you have one? Yes? No? If no, why should we experiment with the healthcare of 300,000,000 Americans with something that has never been shown to work anywhere?

    There *are* examples of HR3962-style healthcare systems -- Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, etc. -- and they *do* work, those nations have better access to health care, better health care outcomes, more doctors per 100,000 population and thus less wait time to see doctors, more hospital beds per 100,000 population and thus less wait time to have elective procedures, *much* lower costs than the US, and so forth. Note that the Netherlands have more immigrants per 100,000 than the USA so you can't say it's because of immigration either. I would personally prefer a mixed system like Medicare For All (roughly the French system, with a core major medical national insurer to handle the expensive stuff and Medi-Gap to handle the routine things), but frankly anything is better than the current U.S. system, which leaves 20% of Americans uninsured and another 30% underinsured to the point where any major illness will result in bankruptcy.

  6. So you don't have an example of a modern free market failure in health care. Nor do I have an example of a free market success. This is what I'm trying to illustrate: nobody has tried it. You are saying that, given different systems, we should only ever tweak existing designs and never try to think outside the box.

    I'd really like to get your take on David Goldhill's analysis. I think you'll find that we can do much better than HR3962. Everyone is stuck in this "insurance" mentality. It's like having blinders on. When we provide food stamps to the needy, do we call it food insurance? No, we call it helping the needy. We can do that without creating a national single payer system for food.

    Goldhill is a Democrat who believes in universal coverage, so there is no way you can write him of as a conservative hack. Read his article, I'm curious if you'll accept his analysis.

  7. Nathan, it doesn't matter what my ideal system would look like. We have the political system we have, and that political system has given us what we want, for better or for worse. The Swiss-style system passed by the House was incredibly popular in polls by the Kaiser Family Foundation, much more popular than any other system that the KFF polled, as in, 79% of Americans said they preferred a Swiss-style "managed capitalism" approach to health care than a Canada-style single-payer approach or a French-style "Medicare for All" aproach, which polled in the low 50's and upper 50's respectively. Congressmen aren't idiots, and they aren't elected to impose their own ideological inclinations upon the population, they're elected to represent the population. When 79% of the population wants something, no politician who is doing his job will fail to give the population what it wants, for better or for worse.

    Regarding experiments in health care, I propose that if we want to experiment with health care, that it be done on a smaller scale rather than putting the health of 300 million people at risk by trying something completely untested. Experimenting with the health of 300 million people would be morally indefensible. We know that a Swiss-style system works. Variants of a Swiss-style system are working for over 100 million people in Europe, and a variant of a Swiss-style system has worked reasonably well in Massachusetts even if it's not popular with upper class Bostonians who now must wait behind the unwashed previously banished to the public clinics in order to get their posh healthcare benefits. It's not my ideal system and not what I'd want in an ideal world, but it's not the end of the world, it's not "the end of freedom" (what a crock of bull, the Swiss aren't free? The Dutch aren't free? The Austrians aren't free? Bullshit on that!), and it's not a "disaster". Some people just need to get a grip, the amount of sheer lunacy out there (healthcare is tyranny? What the fuck?!) is laughter-inducing.

    - Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

  8. That a majority of Americans want something isn't a reason for the minority to shut up. And you're Massachusetts example is appropriate. States should be able to experiment with healthcare. We could have 50 laboratories of democracy instead of just one. Problem is, federal tax law already forces the one-size-fits all insurance oligopoly on us. To free up the 50 states, we need to reduce federal mandates, not increase them.


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