Government Intervention in Medicine WILL Cost Lives

The attacks on my pro-free market approach to medicine have continued for weeks without end, in the local newspaper read by a lot of pro-Obamacare zealouts. Below is my reply to the latest.

Dear Cape Gazette,
I recognize you may have had enough of the health care issue for now. Unlike many letter writers, I don’t consider your paper to be public property, and please don’t feel any obligation to publish this. But I did want to send a reply to your columnist Don Flood’s claim that my recent commentary, without mentioning me by name, was guilty of hysteria. Many thanks again for your willingness to consider different points of view.
— Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D.

Government Intervention in Medicine WILL Cost Lives by Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D.

I was amused by a critic of one of my articles in support of a free market for medicine, in which the Gazette columnist called me ‘hysterical’ for suggesting that the upholding of the law by the Supreme Court was not unlike 9/11. [Source: Don Flood, 7/24/12, “Is vandalism a sign of today’s politics?”]

On September 11, 2001, nearly 3000 people died in terrorist attacks. That’s certainly 3000 too many.

But, considering what’s about to happen to our health care system, couldn’t more ultimately die because many free-market-driven innovations will not take place due to the taxes and regulations being imposed by Obamacare?

Consider this recent story in the national news:

An Indiana-based medical equipment manufacturer says it’s scrapping plans to open five new plants because of a looming tax tied to President Obama’s health care overhaul law.

Cook Medical claims the tax on medical devices, set to take effect next year, will cost the company roughly $20 million a year, cutting into money that would otherwise go toward expanding facilities over the next five years. “This is the equivalent of about a plant a year that we’re not going to be able to build,” a company spokesman [said].

Some will say this is propaganda. But private, for-profit companies don’t have the luxury of propaganda or politics. They’re trying to innovate and still make a living, both at the same time.

People who support government intervention in the private sector of the medical economy take it for granted that the private sector will continue to grow and innovate, just as it always has. But what basis is there for taking this for granted?

This is one of the problems with government intervention. Government can pass a law, like Obamacare, and proclaim: ‘See? Everyone has coverage now. We did it.’

Yes, but at whose expense? Nothing is “free.” And there will be expense for those who pay for the ‘free’ coverage for those who will not pay. And what about the not-so-obvious expense of a company that cannot innovate as it otherwise would have?

It’s fashionable in some circles to condemn profit in medicine. Many don’t go so far as to begrudge their doctors making a good living, but nearly everyone seems to agree, or at least feel, that pharmaceutical companies and other for-profit companies have no business making a profit at the ‘expense’ of the ill.

Really? Let’s think about this for a minute. We don’t say: ‘Those cellular phone companies make a profit at the expense of those who need phone service.’ We don’t say: ‘Those grocery store chains make a profit at the expense of those who would otherwise go hungry.’ We don’t say: ‘Those lawyers make a profit at the expense of those who need legal services.’

We routinely tolerate and endorse profit-making in some areas—but not in others, like medical supplies. Why is this?

Nobody condemns profit-making in their own jobs or careers, but they’re quick to condemn it in others’. Why the inconsistency?

If tomorrow government passed a law massively increasing taxes and regulations on any of these industries where we currently tolerate and permit profit, there would be consequences. Along with the public outcry, the product or service — groceries, cellular phone service, automobiles — would noticeably suffer, and innovation, which costs money, would decrease. This is the most insidious problem of all. When innovation goes away, you never clearly SEE the consequences. You just lose something you never know you lost. You are only left to wonder what might have been.

I will not shrink from saying what I know is true: Government policies cripple the ability of the private, for-profit sector to save and/or prolong our lives. People could very well die from the lack of expensive technology that might have otherwise come into existence. In a free market, that very technology would have been available to far more patients than in a ‘market’ controlled by a National Health Board and a committee of politicians allocating health care funds where they see fit.

Various branches of science refer to this as ‘the law of unintended consequences,’ where we don’t find out about the hidden results of an action until it’s too late.

It’s not hysterical to make this claim. It’s the truth. And if this trend in health care continues, in the long run we’ll lose more innocent lives than we lost on 9/11.


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