Medicine Needs Profit Just Like Any Other Enterprise

The latest from Gallup Poll: Presented with three separate scenarios for the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 58% of U.S. adults favor the idea of replacing the law with a federally funded healthcare system that provides insurance for all Americans.

In other words: More than half of Americans want socialized medicine. That’s what “federally funded” medicine is. Government pays the bills, guarantees the service; and determines how the service is performed. Medicare already works this way, and now the push is to extend Medicare to the whole population.

It’s little wonder Bernie Sanders is so popular. He wants socialism — including but not limited to socialized medicine — outright. Hillary Clinton was for socialized medicine before it was cool. And Donald Trump, who won over the majority of Republicans, has said “he” will make sure everyone has medical care. Once he’s president “he” will mean us — i.e., the taxpayers, those of us who pay taxes.

These poll number make sense. Most Americans, I believe, don’t think that medical care should be provided for a profit; or at least not “too much” profit, whatever that means.

The reasoning goes like this: “We need health care to survive. It’s outrageous that anyone — doctors, hospitals, insurance companies — should be making a profit at something that fosters survival.” I hear this again and again, from Bernie Sanders supporters and Donald Trump Republicans alike.

I find this fascinating. We want there to be profit — or at least are willing to tolerate profit — when it comes to things like automobiles, clothing, smart phones, televisions and computers. Ditto for entertainment and sports. Somehow, it’s not morally repugnant for producers of these items/activities to make a profit, sometimes a huge profit. (I’m not suggesting it is morally repugnant.) But the moment something becomes life or death — or otherwise seriously important, like education — we don’t like the idea of profit, not the majority of us. We turn up our noses at it. It shocks and offends us. We rush to government to make it not so.

It makes no sense. Profit is an indicator of freedom. Profit happens because people are free to produce, create, innovate and competently deliver services or make products. The more freedom, the better the results. The better results, the more profit there is.

You would not want to live in a world without profit. A world without profit would be one where there’s only stagnation, no innovation, no results, no efficiency. Redistribution or “spreading” of wealth is beside the point, because without profit, there are far fewer (if any) goods or wealth to distribute. Without profit, there are no interested parties. Everyone is a disinterested, removed bureaucrat. Nothing suffers from such a mentality more than medicine.

Medicine is, at the core, service-oriented and patient-oriented. In economic and psychological terms this means: Customer-oriented. You can turn up your nose at the idea of profit in medicine all you want. The fact remains, and will always be true, that if you want customer-friendly doctors and nurses, you’ll have to pay them well, and you’ll have to do so in a free market where it’s possible for them to go out of business. Under socialized medicine, which a majority of Americans now seem to want (based on Gallup polling), there’s no possibility of medical providers going out of business. That’s the moment doctor’s offices, quite literally, become government agencies. If you think things are dysfunctional now in medicine, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Why is it morally fine to make a profit at being a sports star, or an entertainer, or to create video games and smart phones, while it’s morally questionable or wrong to make a profit at being a brain surgeon, a heart surgeon, or even someone who provides relief for your sore throat or aching back?

We have to get past this idea that important things like medicine are somehow above profit. To eschew profit is to eliminate freedom. Profit and freedom are more desperately needed in fields like medicine than in any other enterprise, precisely because medicine is so important. The same goes for education, by the way, another field where we minimize profit and free markets in favor of government controls, regulations and monopoly.

Go ahead America. Rid the world of what little remains of profit, self-responsibility, self-interest, pride and innovation in medicine. Let the government run everything. See how much better it makes your lives, when health care providers are no longer free to benefit from what they do, and trade with others as they want.

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