Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 6/2/17
As House Republicans will tell you, the measure that they passed to (sorta) repeal and replace Obamacare is now in the hands of the Senate.
Republicans in the Senate wish it weren’t so. Healthcare is a high-risk, low gain proposition for Republicans just now.
That’s because there is exactly zero chance that this Congress, or any Congress that follows from now down to the last generation, will ever pass a law that provides Americans with “quality, affordable health care.”
It simply cannot be done.
That’s not to say that quality and affordability are out of reach. We see examples around us every day that prove otherwise.
Think about that quality, affordable flat screen TV upon which you watch the myriad offerings of Netflix. Or consider your quality, affordable smartphone upon which you might be either reading or listening to this piece.
If you can’t afford a brand new luxury car, at least appreciate the fact that a seven year-old Ford Taurus with 175,000 miles on it is a better car today than a brand new, fully tricked-out Lincoln Continental was in 1967.
The list could go on but for the limitations of space.
What all these things have in common is that they are, for the most part, obtained and consumed in the private sector economy in free and voluntary exchange. The free market works.
Just as it will for health care if we ever decide to let it.
All of us are naturally equipped with a ‘cost vs. benefit’ mechanism. That mechanism is put to use by very nearly every single one of us every single day. We make a value judgment prior to any expenditure of time or money.
Except when it comes to health care.
The fact that the overwhelming majority of checks that get written to health care providers are written by either an insurance company or the federal government has served to effectively shut down the internal cost/benefit calculator that we use everywhere else in our lives.
When it comes to health care, price is no object.
That’s why flat screen TVs started out in the market at $4,000 and now cost $300 while fixing a broken arm that used to cost the current equivalent of a hundred dollars can now cost $10,000.
And it’s why Lasik eye surgery (never covered by insurance or Medicare) costs a few hundred dollars an eye today vs. several thousand dollars an eye just a few years ago.
A 75-year old man that may be all-in on a knee replacement paid for by Medicare might say, “You know, I can live with this just fine as it is,” if the $50,000 that it costs came out of his retirement nest egg. Knee replacements would start coming down in price as a result.
All of this to say that the best we’re going to get from Congress is a plan that’s marginally less odious than Obamacare.
As to lowering costs and improving quality – our only hope is free market capitalism. Until we figure that out, costs will only keep rising.