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Jul 11, 2009

A Hidden Cost of National Health Care

The Hidden Cost Of National Health Care
07/11/09 - Washington Examiner Op-Ed by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Treatment will be rationed by slowing the development of new treatments, along with longer waiting times and plain denial.

[edited exerpts] The normal and valid critique of socialized medicine is that people have to wait a long time for treatment in places like Britain.

There is another, hidden cost. A bureaucratized healthcare system will squash medical innovation.

Todays treatments did not come out out of the blue. They were developed by drug companies and device makers who thought they had a good market for things that would make people feel better.

But, under nationalized healthcare, the "market" is whatever the bureaucrats are willing to buy. Treatment for politically stylish diseases will get some money, but the main concern will be cost-control. More treatments mean more costs to bureaucrats.

Bureaucrats have their own view of cost. Medicines like Prilosec have made ulcer surgery a thing of the past. But, to bureaucrats, those pills are a cost, while ulcer-surgery expenses can be reduced by rationing. Let 'em eat Maalox while they wait.

The potential marvels of the next twenty years will never be developed unless some developer sees a market. This is despite the great promise of new medical technology for cancer treatment, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and more.

The existence of a market will be much less certain with bureaucrats in charge of selecting treatments to pay for. Federally funded medical research will still go on, but turning that research into actual treatments is a different story.

Begging for Medical Care Fred:  (staggers into hospital) Help. I'm hurt.
Nurse:  Please file that emergency request in writing during office hours.
Will your socialized hospital have enough money to care for you?

The actress Natasha Richardson died after hitting her head in a ski fall. She was very unlucky. Montreal does not have fast transportation to a full-service hospital, even near a ski area. Why not? Patients are a cost to the system.

The bureaucracy sees you as a cost, especially if you have already paid. All people and organizations seek income and avoid costs. Socialized healthcare is paid up-front and delivers services after the fact.

How hard will a system work to earn the money that they have already been paid? This is something that everyone can understand in their gut. A customer is lost without competition for his dollar.

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