Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Libertarian solution to socialized health care

I was listening to a popular morning political talk radio show the other day, and the largely Libertarian host (who is wildly popular in the area, despite the largely liberal/Democrat listener base) was talking about socialized and nationalized health care plans. He proposed an idea that I liked, makes sense - particularly with the current state of health care, and could likely ease the transition, in the future, to a more Libertarian style health care program.

As of right now, we already have a form of socialized health care in place. It is largely unregulated, and mostly unfair to all involved. Keep in mind that the Hippocratic Oath that all medical professionals take before becoming licensed states that it is not only their responsibility, but civic duty to provide health care for the good of all, regardless of their ability to pay (highly paraphrased). This is an oath that has remained largely unchanged since it was first written in the 4th century BC. It is because of this oath that most (if not all) hospitals will treat any patient that comes through their doors (though in current practice, favor is almost always given to the patient with insurance, because he can pay). If said patient is a homeless person dropped off at the hospital after succumbing to heat exhaustion on a particularly brutally hot and humid day, treatment will likely be given - though the treatment may be a body bag and trip to the morgue, due to the current preferential treatments of insured people over uninsured people - even though all that person needed was some water and a cool place to rest. Who pays for this treatment? The government, and in reality, you (and morgue costs are significantly higher than water and a bed). As it is right now, every taxpaying American is paying for the treatment of those who cannot pay, yet often cannot afford the preventative treatment necessary for themselves to stay healthy as well.

If we're already doing this, why don't we put some rules in place to make it a little more fair for all?

For instance, if you go to the doctor with a headache, and he prescribes you two aspirin and tells you to get some rest, why should you have to pay $200 for a ten minute office visit and $6 each for the aspirin (which, mind you, costs about $3 for a bottle of 100 aspirin)? In any other industry, this would be called scamming and price gouging. In the medical field, however, it's accepted for some reason.

Here's what the local radio host suggested: Why don't we take the money that we're already spending on those that show up in the hospital without a means to pay, set some rules to it, and make general, basic treatment free for all? One of the rules would be a total first come, first serve basis, based on severity of ailment - a gunshot wound would take quite a lot of priority over a headache, for instance.

Got a headache or stomach ache? Free. Got a minor infection or illness and need some antibiotics? Free. Feel a little off one morning, and want to find out if it's something to worry about? Free. I think you get the point. Cheap, common medications (such as aspirin and general antibiotics) should be free when used to remedy a minor ailment at a clinic or hospital.

Insurance would still be a wise thing to have, as more serious ailments are often more expensive to remedy. Find a lump in your breast? Insurance kicks in. Coughing up blood? Insurance kicks in.

Further, we regulate hospitals with fair prices for various medical treatments and we regulate pharmaceutical companies with fair prices for their various products. In that fair price regulation, you make allowances for operating costs, research and development, legal fees, etc.

Finally, we make an attempt to reduce frivolous medical lawsuits (like suing a doctor because his patient died of lung cancer after he smoked two packs a day for fifty years) by appointing judges that are less likely to roll over in favor of the common person while forfeiting basic logic. Some medical lawsuits are legitimate. Many are not. This will reduce insurance rates for doctors and hospitals, making their operating costs lower, and helping to bring down the cost of treatment across the board. According to sources, medical malpractice insurance can be upwards of $100,000 per year for each doctor. This is largely due to frivolous lawsuits.

Between all of these things, we should be able to offer basic health care to all, lower insurance rates for the average person, and not spend any extra money on health care through either our state or Federal tax dollars.

To sum up:

  • Free basic treatments for all.
  • Limit price gouging at hospitals and clinics.
  • Reduce the number of frivolous medical lawsuits.

Even as a classic small government Libertarian, I could see this being a gateway plan to getting the government out of health care, or even a plan I could live with, even with a small government.

Regardless, it's a whole lot more fair to all than what we have now.

Granted, this idea needs some work (particularly in the implementation and legalese departments), but I think it's a good start.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude, it's called CANADA

One problem: some doctors are greedy, major shortage of family doctors.