Health Policy on the Radio

I joined Bob Glass on his “Radio Free America” show on Tuesday evening. I appear about half way into the first hour.

To correct a minor mistake: I talked about a swimmer shackled with weights; that example actually came from economist Peter Boettke of George Mason. Here’s the direct quote:

“If you bound the arms and legs of gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps, weighed him down with chains, threw him in a pool and he sank, you wouldn’t call it a ‘failure of swimming’. So, when markets have been weighted down by inept and excessive regulation, why call this a ‘failure of capitalism’?”

We spent much of the first hour talking about why health insurance is so often tied to employment. It has everything to do with federal tax manipulations. The result is that, if you lose your job, you lose your insurance (on such plans). Another result is that a lot of people develop medical conditions, then lose their job-tied insurance and have a hard time buying insurance elsewhere. To a large degree the federal government has destroyed the health insurance market.

I talk a bit about Health Savings Accounts, which allows people to use pre-tax money to pay for routine care and spend less on a high-deductible plan. I suggested that expanding HSAs would be a good reform moving in the direction of free markets.

The article I mentioned by Paul Hsieh, MD, and Lin Zinser, about political meddling in medicine, is available through The Objective Standard. See also the web page for Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

In the second hour, we talked about how Obama is trying to steel the rhetoric of “competition” and apply it to his “public” plan, which is all about imposing force to drive out the legitimate competition of the free market.

We also got more philosophical, talking about why health care is not a right. Bob offered some particularly nice comments on that score. The upshot is that you have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but not to goods and services produced by others. A legitimate right does not entail any claim on the resources of others, nor does it permit the use of force to confiscate the wealth or labor of others.

Near the end we talked about Obama’s claims that, under his plan, you’ll continue to be able to choose your own doctors. I said, “That’s like choosing your own bread line in the Soviet Union… You might be free to choose Doctor A or Doctor B. But what’s going to happen with the political takeover of medicine is that the best doctors are simply going to leave the field. The best students are not going to go into medicine. We’re going to be left with the people willing to kiss the backsides of Washington DC bureaucrats. Is that the kind of doctor you want taking care of your health?”