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Old July 20th, 2004, 10:47
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Badnarik: How to Make Health Care Affordable

Health care and insurance costs will plummet if excess regulation is eliminated and malpractice awards are made only on the basis of strict liability. Lower costs, along with the savings from downsizing regulatory bureaucracy, will fund tax credits for those who establish Health Savings Accounts for themselves, their families, Medicare/Medicaid recipients, and the needy.

Health care costs are soaring. Health insurance premiums reflect these increases, making coverage unaffordable, for both individuals and businesses. If these trends continue, few people will have access to state-of-the art health care.

Establishment politicians don't have a solution to the health care crisis. They simply propose a variety of cost-shifting measures which are doomed to fail. As the "baby boomers" age, their medical needs will dwarf the capacity of the next generation to pay for them. Health care rationing will be the inevitable result, as Canada, Britain, and other nations that have turned to tax-supported "universal care" are discovering. While these nations are turning toward market-based reforms to save themselves, our politicians seemed determined to repeat their mistakes.

Establishment politicians can't solve the health care crisis because they aren't asking the tough question: "Why are health care costs so high in the first place? What can be done to lower them without causing rationing or the loss of life-saving innovations? How can we make health care universally affordable?"

Costs are high because of the excessive regulation in virtually every aspect of health care. In the companion paper "How to Slash Pharmaceutical Prices Virtually Overnight," I explain how excess regulation has driven up the cost of new drugs. As a consequence, less than half of new pharmaceutical discoveries can be developed.

Fewer new drugs translate into higher health care costs. Even at the inflated prices that new drugs command, every dollar spent to buy them saves about $3 in hospitalizations and lost time. For example, people with ulcers used to pay $28,000 for surgery and were unable to work for weeks. The introduction of Tagametr allowed ulcer patients to stay on the job, while spending only $1,000-$3,000 on medication. One of the easiest ways to lower health care costs is to get rid of excess regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, excess regulation drives up the cost of training physicians, who must then raise their fees accordingly. Just as the high cost of pharmaceutical regulation results in fewer medications, the high cost of gaining a medical license means fewer doctors, so patients must often wait weeks for an appointment. The regulations governing medical schools have resulted in homogenized training of physicians, which often neglects cost-saving approaches such as disease prevention, nutrition, and alternative therapies.

Government-mandated red tape increases the paperwork burden for physicians and their staff. Medicare and Medicaid come with an additional layer of busy work for over-extended physicians, with criminal penalties for clerical mistakes. More and more doctors are refusing to treat patients with government "insurance" to avoid the red tape, late payments, and poor compensation that have become a hallmark of these programs.

Courts today often impose malpractice penalties on physicians who have done nothing wrong so that patients can access the "deep pockets" of insurers. The result has been skyrocketing premiums for doctors, driving up prices and causing many practitioners to abandon high-risk specialties such as obstetrics.

Most states mandate what medical insurance must cover, making everyone buy an expensive "one- size-fits-all" policy instead of one tailored to their needs and budget. Consequently, fewer people can afford insurance at all.

If you elect me as your president, I will end excess regulation of pharmaceuticals, health care providers, and insurance companies. Physicians will be held liable for malpractice, but not for problems beyond their control. Health care costs will plummet.

Taxpayers will save as much as they are now spending on Medicare/Medicaid when they no longer have to fund this destructive bureaucracy. Tax credits can then be extended to any person or organization funding Health Savings Accounts for themselves or others. With such tax incentives to aid in charitable gifting, Medicare or Medicaid recipients can transition into their choice of private health insurance, allowing rapid privatization of these programs.

With such reforms, health care costs will be almost universally affordable. Generous tax credits, made possible by downsizing the regulatory bureaucracy, will spur charitable donors to take care of the medically needy.

http://www.badnarik.org/Issues/HealthCare.php

Michael Badnarik, Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate, 2004
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