Want to Really Improve Health Care?

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Via Instapundit:  The post at fightaging.org, The Doom that Fell Upon Medical Progress in the US, only touches upon the tip of the iceberg of the needless human suffering caused by the exploitation of patients — the consumers — by “our” medical system.  In the underlying post they cite, American Healthcare Facialism, Prof.  DiLorenzo from the Ludwig von Mises Institute captures more of the problem, from a political and bureaucratic perspective, caused by state interference.

The problem is older and more deeply rooted in human nature.  G. B. Shaw observed in 1902:

No doctor dare accuse another of malpractice. … But the effect of this state of things is to make the medical profession a conspiracy to hide its own shortcomings.  No doubt the same may be said of all professions.  They are all conspiracies against the laity and I do not suggest that the medical conspiracy is either better or worse … but it may be less suspect.

The medical community’s monopoly is based on technical knowledge that was wholly their property.  The laity was largely prevented from acquiring this knowledge or even the means of acquiring it.  The internet has profoundly altered that balance of knowledge.  Motivated “patients”, i.e., consumers, now frequently know more about their diseases than most of the doctors they encounter, much less the nurses or others of the doctor-lite crowd.  The doctor is no longer the sole, literate, non-religious man in the village.

We have granted the medical profession, and all the other allied “professions” and medical institutions, a monopoly over our medical care.  It has gone so far as to prevent us from taking medicines that we need without their permission.  That monopoly is no longer justified by the balance of knowledge — and hence, power — that now exists.

Prof. DiLorenzo points out the influence states have in inhibiting competition.  Again, using doctors as a conspicuous example:

Physicians have long enjoyed a degree of monopoly power derived from state legislatures that delegate to the American Medical Association (the doctors’ union) the “right” to limit entry into medical schools through accreditation. Only graduates of accredited (by the AMA) medical schools are licensed to practice medicine. [Not quite true.  Graduates from foreign schools can practice after passing a harder test than is required of AMA school graduates.]  The AMA has used these state-granted privileges to limit both the number of medical schools and the number of medical-school graduates. The reduced supply of doctors drives up the price of medical care and the income of AMA members.

The physicians produce an artificial shortage of doctors for the express purpose of providing full, highly paid employment for all physicians, even the most incompetent.  Implicitly, they are telling us — the people, the consumers — that their prosperity and job security are more important than our lives and health.  Like the military’s up-or-out policies — if you are passed over for promotion a certain number of times, then you are discharged — we need to graduate so many doctors that the incompetent cannot stay in practice.  And we need to demand the transparency of results — medical outcomes — identified by individual physician, to know which doctors are good and which are not.

The word “patient” indicates that, traditionally, we are to be passive, medically, in the care the doctor provides.  This is exactly what must change if we are to rectify the priorities of the health care system.

We must return to first principles, those upon which our republic was founded.  We must be clear in our use of words.  This is not a matter of Democrat/blue/left/progressive vs. Republican/red/right/conservative.  This has nothing to do with the political parties of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries or on which side of the hall the French factions congregated in the eighteenth.  These are all false, one-dimensional scales that mislead rather than enlighten.

This is a matter of liberty vs. tyranny.  Tyranny has its own eternal allure.  ” I am weak, I want someone to take care of me, make decisions for me.”  This motivates children, the weak and the slavish.  At the other end of the true scale is Liberty.  “I am strong, I can take care of myself and my loved ones, I will decide what is in my own best interests.”  These attitudes motivate the strong and the free.

In the true meaning of the term, Liberty is what we strive for.  The only progress that we can make is toward greater individual strength and enlightenment to support greater liberty.  Heading back from Liberty towards Tyranny is regression.  As usual, the terms have been stood on their heads in the current national health-care-reform debate:  a Liberal means one who wants the government to have a greater and more tyrannical role, and a Progressive is one who sees movement towards Tyranny as “progress.”  a Progressive is actually a Regressive, a Liberal, a wannabe Tyrant.

We must privatize the health care system, break up the monopolies, encourage competition, demand transparency of outcomes, and take back our power as free adults and as consumers.  We do have the power.  It is up to us to use it.

India is one indicator of the possibilities brought about by an abundance of doctors and freer access to medicine.

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