Notes Book

Universal Health Care

If you want to collect medical bills from someone who gets sick and dies, you better do it early. The medical profession likes medical insurance. You collect from those who are healthy as well as those who are sick. Many doctors would very much like us to have socialized medicine where everyone pays—at the point of the tax collectors gun. Personally, I can't see how this is consistent with their oath to do no harm. I don't see that people who go to jail for not paying taxes are benefited, or those who pay taxes to avoid going to jail.

Existing systems of socialized medicine have shown us how the means can pollute the ends. I have a niece in Canada who had a problem with an extremely painful condition in her toe. It took here six weeks to get an appointment with the public health service. The quality of socialized health care is abysmal. Doctors who have no capitalist incentive to actually heal their patients often don't actually heal their patients.

But there is a simple way we could reduce the price of health care by at least 60 percent and at the same time increase it's quality—eliminate all medical licensing. Just stop and seriously think for a minute about a country in which any adult could purchase any kind of medical supplies and any adult could perform any kind of treatment on any other consenting adult, or on any child with the consent of the parent or guardian, and the child, of course.

Of course there are those who would quickly run down to the drug store and buy drugs for recreational use, and some would kill themselves. There would be people killed by inappropriate treatment. But we already have people dying every day from overdoses of drugs, both legal and illegal, and we already have plenty of people being killed by inappropriate treatment provided by licensed medical professionals. I don't believe there is any objective evidence that these problems would be any worse without government intervention, and there are plenty of reasons to believe they would be substantially reduced. Government licensed doctors funded by insurance are substantially immune from consequences of their mistakes, but doctors who have to face the patients who actually pay for their services are much more attentive to effective and timely treatment.

Maybe if we got rid of the minimum wage for doctors there could be more of them. Maybe if we got rid of the licensing process, which serves to screen out many with real talent but without social connections, we could have better doctors. The licensing game that we play is very expensive to the whole of society, while providing a tidy living for a few with little or no effort on their part. The free market is much better at punishing incompetence than government.

All men are created equal, except those with licenses from the state. The rest of us have been convicted of incompetence without trial or examination of any kind. With all the evidence we have now about the incompetence and criminality of government in so many fields, do we really think that some bureaucrat is more capable of judging medical competence than the free market? Do we think the bureaucrats really care?

A few years ago I was moving a sheet of plywood and got a splinter. I tried to get it out myself, but I couldn't stand the pain. Eventually, I went to a doctor who gave me a shot to numb the finger and pulled out the splinter. He charged me $70. Is there any reason I couldn't have done that myself, or had my wife do it? None that I can see except that it would have been illegal for me to have the drug. The real value of the drug and syringe was surely less than $10. I don't see that any extensive training is required to give the shot of pull out the splinter. I would have been perfectly happy to do it myself at a savings of $60. But I had to hire someone with fourteen years of student loans to pay off and a staff of nurses and insurance clerks to support. It was all very unnecessary and wasteful, and it happens day in and day out.

Without licensing, if you had a minor medical problem, you could solve it yourself, or hire a minor medical talent for a minor sum. Now we make a Federal Case out of every ache and pain, and the politicians are trying to make it so that every splinter in every finger in this country will require insurance paperwork in addition to being a Federal Case.

Is some bureaucrat in Washington DC is in a better position to make decisions about your health care than you are? If you need help making hard decisions, wouldn't you rather trust someone a little closer to home? Do you really want to have to pay for “advice” whether you need it or not, and to you really want to have to follow that “advice” whether you think it is better for you or better for the person doing the “advising”?