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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too Disconnected Healthcare Debates

I think I just realized where the disconnect is!

Ultimately, the one rational argument against a modern healthcare system is the Friedman-style philosophy of self interest and greed as a force for good. There is validity in the free-market principles themselves. We could have that debate, but that's not the debate we see. Instead the debate is jumping from one outright lie designed to drum up fear to another. Which leads me to the disconnect.

It's in the "self interest" of the wingnuts to lie and drum up fear to help them win the political fight. So, this is one of the places where Friedman's philosophy fails. In political debates and arguments over questions of knowledge and fact, it creates misunderstanding and moves us further away from solving the problem at hand.

Another place that pure self-interest fails is in healthcare economics. Healthcare businesses generally make more money the more ill we get and the more expensive care gets. Insurers benefit because they get to "skim" from a statistically much larger pool of money as costs increase [I'm not opposed to insurance -- just stating the fact of how the business model works]. So, it's in their interest that we pay a higher portion of our GDP in healthcare costs and it's in their interest that we need more treatments and procedures. Sure, you could have informed [or just frugal] consumers to counteract those forces, but in a purely market-based system, the only people who would really understand medicine in all its technical detail would be people who profit from more illness, more treatments, more procedures, and higher costs.

This of course doesn't prove whether healthcare is better in a pure market-based system, a purely socialized system, or a hybrid. All we really have are metrics. The metrics and the ethics implied by them is what this debate should be about. Look at all the variety of solutions around this country and the world and the wealth of DATA we have on the cost and quality of outcomes! It's amazing how much there is! Even more amazing is how little of it we are talking about in a debate that is presumably about the cost and quality of healthcare!

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