“Get the Hell Out of the Way”

In his October 12 article for The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Mike Saccone writes:

Dr. Jim Schroeder warned four members of a statewide health reform commission that over-involving government in doctor-patient relations could push a large number of physicians to leave the business.

“The role of government should be to get the hell out of the way and let the doctors meet with the patients,” Schroeder said, his voice wavering with emotion.

Schroeder said any attempt from policymakers to expand existing government-managed health insurance programs or to create a single-payer, government-run health insurance program could allow the state to lower how much it pays physicians for their work.

“If you’re not paid for what you’re doing… you’re not going to stay in the field,” the local pediatric cardiologist said.

Schroeder’s comments came as part of a Thursday evening forum the Senate Bill 208 Commission hosted in Grand Junction to receive feedback on its five possible health care reform proposals.

These meetings all seem to go about the same way. Those who seek “concentrated benefits” of government wealth transfers show up in large numbers, while those on whom the costs are dispersed mostly stay away. Yet, as I noted previously, Brian Schwartz spoke eloquently at one of the meetings of the hazards of government-controlled medicine. I was heartened to read Dr. Schroeder’s comments. And Richard Watts tells me that he advocated liberty in medicine at a hearing in Craig.

Of course, the issue of payment discussed in the article is only one of many problems with government-run medicine. Medicaid and Medicare already pay doctors less than what services cost to provide. The bureaucracy and political meddling also induce especially the best doctors to leave the field. Political controls harm doctors as well as their patients, as both groups look to influence politicians and bureaucrats, rather than enter into voluntary, mutually beneficial relationships with each other.

Unfortunately, many who work in related fields are drawn by the siren song. Saccone continues:

Kristy Schmidt, director of community and consumer relations for the Marillac Clinic, said requirements for individuals to have their own health insurance are a good idea.

“Having everyone pay into the system will decrease costs for all,” Schmidt said.

But Schmidt’s statement is false. Forcing people to purchase health insurance violates their rights to control their own resources without addressing the underlying problems caused by existing political controls. Obviously, the point of the mandate is not to “decrease costs for all.” The point is to force some people to subsidize others through insurance. Because politically-enforced insurance would act more like pre-paid medical care, it would encourage people to seek more care without regard for cost, thereby increasing average “costs for all,” at least until price controls and rationing kicks in.

No, Dr. Schroeder offers the correct diagnosis and the correct remedy: “The role of government should be to get the hell out of the way and let the doctors meet with the patients.”