Health care offers a perfect illustration of a familiar cycle: government intervention distorts a market, the government intervenes to “fix” the market and further distorts it, more intervention, more distortion, etc. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:
U.S. healthcare isn’t just an historical accident–it is a fatal accident waiting to happen.
Many of the systems we take for granted are historical accidents. Either based on legacy systems hundreds of years old (higher education) or assembled in a short-term, ad hoc fashion (post-1940 national defense/ national security), these systems have expanded into vast patronage systems that are completely out of touch with 21st century needs, costs or realities.
The U.S. healthcare system was not planned; it is largely accidental.
As Jeff Deist of the Mises Institute and I cover in our recent conversation on The US Healthcare Debacle (21:23) (YouTube version), the system of employers providing healthcare insurance began as a means of offering a bit of extra compensation in the 1940s era of wage/price controls.
This historical accident is at the heart of the current system’s dysfunction. Those without jobs are covered by the government at horrendous expense, and those with coverage are terrified of risking it by moving to less secure employment or self-employment: The New Shackle of Serfdom: Clinging to Healthcare Insurance (September 22, 2015).
By removing the consumer from the equation, pricing is now purposefully opaque. The cost for a test or procedure is all over the map, and insurers have few incentives to demand truly transparent pricing.
Meanwhile, the federal/state healthcare programs of Medicare and Medicaid are riddled with the same lack of transparency and are vulnerable to fraud, over-billing and paying for needless tests, medications and procedures.
Few seem to know that the cost of these two behemoth programs exceeds the Pentagon’s budget.
This contraption of private insurance paid by employers, co-pays paid by employees and state programs guarantees paperwork consumes an estimated 40% of all healthcare expenditures. How is that for inefficiency and needless expense?
To continue reading: A Fatal Accident Waiting to Happen