Health care: Competition, not govt. control
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The U.S. health care system may be sick, Richard Land said, but the Obama administration's planned takeover may permanently cripple it.
"Our health care system is not a perfect system. It has significant flaws," Land said during his weekly "Richard Land Live!" radio program, but there are viable solutions to strengthen the system and benefit patients. Richard Land Live! is syndicated on the Salem Radio Network.
Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was joined on the July 4 program by John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas and an advocate of a consumer-driven health care system.
Goodman acknowledged that U.S. health care is burdened by its bureaucracy, but greater government involvement will affect everyone negatively, particularly the elderly and the poor. He predicted that many families would move from private insurance to a government-run program based on costs alone, but the quality and quantity of health care will be diminished.
"The only way the government can control health care is to ration it," Land said, describing older, weaker and chronically ill Americans as the "losers" under a government plan.
Goodman said despite claims to the contrary, he believes President Obama is looking to nationalize health care in the United States eventually. But there are ways to make the system better without fatally harming it by government control, he said.
"All over the world they have a problem with rising health care costs; it's not just in America. But the Left only knows two ways to control costs and that is to squeeze the doctors and deny care to the patients," Goodman said. "That is all they know because they don't believe in incentives. They don't believe in markets. They don't believe in entrepreneurs."
Goodman added, "You can't squeeze the doctors and you can't deny coverage if you don't control health insurance," voicing his belief that the Obama administration would make deals with special interests "just to get federal control over everybody's health insurance."
Land noted that once the government is in competition with private health care concerns, it eventually will drive private entities out of business because of the government's unique ability to subsidize its services with tax dollars. "It will not be a level field," Land said.
That's the aim, Goodman agreed, "to push everybody into one big government plan."
Goodman said he expects whatever comes out of Congress to be just the first step in the process, noting, "You can't do anything until you first nationalize the system."
Tightened government control and increased involvement in the health insurance and medical care area would follow in subsequent years, Goodman said.
Land said the push to drastically reform health care is the most important battle to be fought in this session of Congress. No country has ever adopted socialized medicine and ever gone back from it, he said.
Goodman agreed: "There is not a single country that I know of that has [moved toward] any significant privatization of health care."
Goodman, who has extensively studied the British health care system, said Americans should do everything possible to prevent a remake of the U.S. system into the British model.
If person is healthy, Goodman said, nationalized health care is not a threat; "it is when you are ill that the system is a risk to your long-term well-being."
Land, who lived under British health system while a student at Oxford, said it was a "terrible experience." Land said he believes thousands of people in the United Kingdom die each year because they are unable to access the level of health care available to most people in America.
Goodman said Britain's national health board has determined that a year of life is worth $35,000; if a life-saving drug or procedure would cost more than that, the British health care system can deny a patient that treatment, he explained.
The British health care system does control costs, Goodman said, noting, "It is at the cost of human life."
Goodman encouraged Richard Land Live! listeners to visit the www.freeourhealthcarenow.com website to express concern about the government takeover of health care.
The website's petition calls for a system that allows individuals to determine their own medical care and insurance that is patient-centered and can be taken job to job by an employee.
Goodman said his group is seeking a million signatures "to help stop a very threatening piece of legislation."
Free market competition, not government intervention, is the solution to the nation's health care troubles, Goodman said.
When people control their medical dollars, they behave differently, he said. "They shop for care the same way they shop for other goods and services. They compare prices. They ask more questions," he said. "On the provider side, we know that wherever people are spending their own money, the markets act a lot differently."
Goodman noted in the areas of cosmetic surgery and other elective procedures not typically covered by insurance such as Lasik, the price has come down over the last two years because people are spending their own money on these measures.
"When doctors have to compete for patients' dollars, the health care market works well," Goodman said; patients benefit from price competition and improvements in the quality of care.
"We need to give patients more control over the money," Goodman continued, adding that the law needs to change so that individuals have portability in their insurance coverage.
He touted the Health Savings Accounts (HSA) concept, an idea that came out of his policy group and was formalized in federal legislation in 2003.
"Instead of giving all the dollars to an insurance company or to an employer, people get to control a substantial part of those dollars themselves," Goodman said, explaining that individuals who use an HSA take advantage of pre-tax dollars for much of their medical care and arrange for catastrophic insurance for major medical crises.
"Doctors are trapped in a very bureaucratic system," Goodman said. "We are paying doctors today the same way we paid them almost a century ago."
Medicare's payment schedule sets the standard for private insurers, Goodman said, but doctors should be "liberated from this system," noting a growing number of doctors who don't take any insurance payments. These doctors are not bound to the government-mandated schedule, he said.
Goodman said the president has said he wants to change the way doctors practice medicine: "To him, that means that Washington, D.C., figures out how it should be done and it tells the doctors what to do."
That is not going to be good for patients, Goodman continued. "If you cede all the power to the government to decide what your care is going to be like, the decision will be made in the interest of the government's policy, not your interest."
Dwayne Hastings is a vice president with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.