We continue debating the President’s health care pitch at the Portsmouth town hall:
THE PRESIDENT: Another way of putting this is right now insurance companies are rationing care. They are basically telling you what’s covered and what’s not. They’re telling you: We’ll cover this drug, but we won’t cover that drug; you can have this procedure, or, you can’t have that procedure. So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies make those decisions, rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care and providing that information to you as a consumer and your doctor so you can make the decisions?
The quote takes on a whole new meaning if you insert a legislative detail that the President omitted. I’ll put it in brackets:
So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies make those decisions, rather than medical experts and doctors[chosen by the government] figuring out what are good deals for care and providing that information to you as a consumer and your doctor so you can make the decisions?
In a world of limited resources, we cannot just make decisions about medical care based on whether an additional treatment provides a medical benefit. Someone must instead decide whether that benefit is worth the cost. The third MRI on the sprained wrist may provide more up-to-date and useful information, but the benefit is probably small compared to the additional cost. Someone must have authority to decide whether additional care is “worth it.” That person must control the dollars. Ultimately, the health policy debate comes down to the question: Who should make the cost/benefit decision? The pending legislation would move some of those decisions from insurers to the government.
I think it’s a mistake to have government make more cost-benefit decisions on our behalf in part because people are different. The President is talking about government policymakers (who would also happen to be medical professionals) making determinations about “what are good deals for care.” But cost-benefit tradeoffs depend on the particular medical conditions, situation, and preferences of the individual. I would like more of these decisions to be pushed away from insurers to individuals and families, rather than to people chosen by the government to make those tradeoffs for us.
Other posts in this series:
- The President’s overpromise that everyone can keep their health plan
- Putting the government in charge of your health insurance
- Waiting in line
- Government-mandated benefits
- Preventive care does not save money (in the aggregate)
- The House bill would increase short-term, 10th year, and long-term budget deficits
- The President was incorrect — AARP opposes the bill
- The bills would take Medicare savings needed for solvency and spend them on a new entitlement
- Medicare is not a good example of government-run health care because Medicare is fiscally unsustainable
- Even if the public option drops out of legislation, other parts of these bills would put private insurance under government control
- The President says the public option will keep private insurers honest at the same time he proposes cutting payments to private insurers competing with the Medicare public option