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Market Driven Health Care Saves Lives

Opinion Editorial
November 9, 2009

By Donald Beezley

Connor was so sick when my wife and I took him to the emergency room; lethargic and unresponsive. I remember someone saying it looked like [type 1] diabetes. We knew nothing about diabetes or the implications. We knew how bad it looked. As parents, we worried about worst-case scenarios.

After making it through ICU, a lot of tears and fears and a crash course in diabetes management, we took Connor home. He was only fifteen months old that day as he faced the future with a demanding, lifelong disease.

It’s been five years now.

One image I still recall so clearly from those first days is my little guy, holding out his tiny hand whenever I’d say, “it’s time for a test.” My wife or I would then prick his finger to check his blood sugar at least six times a day.

Connor’s little hand, held out his so innocently and trusting, was the great symbol of a struggle that was just beginning. He didn’t know his disease was a harsh task master that never sleeps and would be with him the rest of his life. Now six years old, he’s my hero for how he handles it. Only once or twice has he said, “Papa, sometimes I wish I didn’t have diabetes.”

It’s not fair.

But it’s fact. His quality of life depends on daily insulin injections and constant blood sugar monitoring. It depends on advancements like the insulin pump he now wears 24 hours per day as a preference to multiple, daily syringe injections.

It depends on having the right supplies when he needs them: a blood glucose monitor; test strips; 3,000 syringes or 150 insulin pump infusion sets per year; the right insulin and more. If he doesn’t have them, his sentence is lower quality of life, severe health complications and early death.

Connor’s only six years old now. He needs a sense of certainty about his health care for decades to come. That means it must be under his control.

President Barack Obama thinks government bureaucrats can determine what Connor needs, when he needs it, and then get it to him–and to hundreds of millions of others. This is a lie. The President’s scheme to seize control of our bodies through our health is dangerous, and will leave us helpless victims with no control over our health care. Government control also means an inevitable decline of supplies, and rationing via simpleminded regulations.

Only a system of competing prices, profits and producers–capitalism–results in the right thing being in the right place at the right time. Without prices and profits you have scarcity, rationing and poverty: the Soviet Union was one of the most fertile regions on earth; an army of central planning bureaucrats couldn’t keep bread on the shelves for a reason.

It doesn’t matter if rationing is “in the bill.” Shortages are unavoidable without a profit-driven market providing price and profit signals to consumers and producers. Under government control doctors, insulin, test strips and all health resources will be disconnected from the needs and priorities of real people and driven instead by political priorities and the stunted thinking of bureaucrats. Freedom and capitalism respect the choices of individuals and provide incentives that align the interests of disparate people. This is true of healthcare just as surely as bread or anything else.

Does this mean reform isn’t needed? No. For all its plusses of extraordinary quality and availability, the American healthcare industry is inefficient and expensive. There are four essential reforms offer an immediate start to protecting the lives of Connor and every American. To start, the federal government must assert its authority under the Interstate Commerce Clause and knock down foolish, expensive barriers to health insurance purchases across state lines so Americans can buy the insurance they want.

As another important reform, state governments must end coverage mandates that radically increase the cost of insurance and enrich health insurance companies at patients’ expense.

In addition, lawsuit abuse must be curbed with sensible malpractice guidelines and limits.

And finally, tax policy that disconnects patients from their doctors must be changed by moving tax benefits to the individual level while empowering individuals with vehicles like Health Savings Accounts.

Mass consumer markets undefiled by government have good results: the number of suppliers competing for customers increases, supply expands, cost falls and quality increases.

My son doesn’t deserve to have his life diminished by a government run healthcare monstrosity.

He and all Americans deserve a free, vibrant, competitive market in health care.

Donald L. Beezley is a guest writer for the Independence Institute and is the Managing Member of HealthSource Regional Development, LLC. He consults to medical practices across three states.