The 8/29/09 NJ Star-Ledger’s lead editorial discusses the emerging practice of Americans going overseas for surgery and other medical care when it is of decent quality and much less expensive. Though they don’t use the term, this has been called "medical tourism". They claim it’s an indictment of our health care system, but won’t acknowledge that it is really an indictment of American medical statism.Mike replied to the editorial, and both the editorial and his response can be found here. I obtained permission from him to reprint his response below which I thought provides a very succinct overview of the health care debate along with the general solution. Here is his reply:
Also called "medical tourism", the Star-Ledger hints at what free markets create - competitive conditions under which "patients can receive quality care at lower costs". But the editors don't draw the obvious lesson from their own observations. Instead, the Ledger exposes a gross fraud being put over on the American people by the Left during this health care debate...that the only choice we face is between the status quo and complete socialized medicine. What's missing from this false choice is the third option - the only real antipode to the two choices cited above - a free market in health care. In this, the Left is all too often aided and abetted by conservatives and Republicans who, as the editors point out, merely defend "the world's greatest health system."
Ours does have its strengths. It is still the freest, making America the engine of innovation. If it weren't for America's market, cutting edge medical technology research would dry up, both here and abroad.
But the fact is, our "sick" American health care system is a government created monstrosity. Nearly 50% of health care spending is by government, through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and a host of smaller state-level carbon copies...socialism. Nearly 40% of the spending is through the allegedly "free" part - the quasi-private, government created, government regulated, and government protected cartel of health insurance companies. The third-party-payer system and the state-imposed trade barriers protect them from nationwide competition as well as the necessity of having to compete directly for the consumer's business. Hundreds of government-imposed insurance mandates (nearly 2000 nationwide, from community rating to guaranteed issue to benefit) have turned "insurance" policies into pre-paid wealth redistribution schemes. Our government-crippled insurance market has turned private insurers into conduits for government coercion. This is not indicative of a free market, but is in the nature of fascism...i.e., socialism through the back door. This double- barreled government assault on medicine creates huge and unnecessary administrative expenses, empowers government and insurance company bureaucrats, disrupts the patient/doctor relationship, drives up costs, disconnects the patient from the providers, etc.
The problems in American medicine have grown in lock step with the growth of government intervention over the past 75 years. Any honest and objective health care reform debate must begin with an examination of how we got to this point to begin with. That is not what is happening. Instead, we get defenders of the semi-socialist, semi- fascist, semi-free status quo ... against those advocating more government control and/or outright nationalization masquerading as "reform". We get statists on each side, while the freedom alternative gets no major party sponsorship.
The only real alternative to all of the above is a free market. Instead of everyone being forced to pay for everyone else's health care, whether through government-run programs or government- controlled "private" insurers, people should be free to assume responsibility for their own health care with their own money. Insurers and providers should be free to compete directly for the consumers' business. A free market leaves patients, providers, consumers, and insurers free to contract voluntarily with each other to mutual advantage, based upon the principle of individual rights, without the kind of massive government coercion noted above. The absence of physical force is the hallmark of a free market. That is what the "free" in free market means. The government's only job, but an important one, is to protect against fraud and breech of contract, and to mediate legitimate contractual disputes.
The natural incentives of a free market ... the consumer seeking good value and the provider seeking expanded sales ... have been proven both in theory and practice to lead to increasing quality and ever- expanding affordability. Health care is more valuable and needed than most other products and services, but it is no different in the most basic fundamental respect ... it is man-made. As such, the same laws of economics apply to medicine as to any other economic sector. Most importantly, a free market is the only moral solution, because it forbids the predatory practice of people seeking to force others to provide for them what they perceive to be their "right" to health care.
Instead, everyone is guaranteed their unalienable rights to their own life, liberty, and pursuit of their own health care (and happiness).