Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Choices are there to be made

In life, there are choices to be made. This is why we have the field of economic study. If all materials, resources, time and energy were infinite, then we wouldn't really have to face choices. We could do what we want. There would be no downside.

But the amount of wealth, our available time, our leisure and work, the amount of land, the assets we own and the amount of time we live on this earth, are definitely limited.

So, either we make choices for ourselves, or we let other people do it for us.
When it comes to public hospitals, we gladly surrender thousands of dollars in taxes for "a system". At every election, politicians boast eagerly how they will boost funding for "the system". That is, they will take more of your money, and your savings, and spend it on where they want.

The justification for this system is based on envy and emotion - that all people should have equal health care. A "safety net" of sorts, or a guarantee. It is well intentioned, but that doesn't make it any less harmful or wasteful.

But not all people have equal health needs. And the only person who best knows what their health needs are, is those people themselves !

So either we pay for a "system" and then hope that all the people will get what they need (despite 100 years of evidence showing failure after failure). We pay for the government to buy massive blocks of lands, and for builders to build new hospitals and shiny wards that cost hundreds of millions. We pay for nurses and doctors. We pay for licensing bodies which regulate and restrict the people who can work as nurses and doctors. We pay for administration staff and security guards. We create thousands of pages of regulations, quotas and benchmarks for the system to meet. JUST SO.. in the end.. patients don't hand over their own money for services received.

Or we take responsibility and allow people to pay for services received.

We encourage people to save money. To take out ONLY the amount of private health insurance they need. We shop around. We become sensitive to which health problems are the most serious and costly to treat (i.e lung cancer) and we take action to avoid this (smoking less cigarettes for example). We exercise more, we eat well, we have medical checkups if there are cholesterol or blood problems, we adjust our diet. In short .. we manage our own health. Those who manage it well are rewarded, those who don't are punished.

People who smoke and inject drugs into their system are screwed. Yes.. they are going to be punished for their choices. The only alternative is that all taxpayers, despite their ability to be responsible for their own health, have to fund a system which takes care of these people at massive expense. The cost of "the system" is enormous. And what kind of system do we get for our money?

Well lets look at Britain's NHS for example - often held up as a shining example of what governments can achieve when they spend big on public health:

Edward Paul Brown was a premature baby whose birth and death took place within minutes of each other on February 23rd 2007 in a lavatory in Queen's Hospital, Romford.

Eighteen weeks into her pregnancy, his mother, Catherine Brown, was told that there was no amniotic fluid surrounding the baby in her womb. This meant that the baby's chances of survival were minimal and her own life was threatened. Catherine Brown took the "devastating" decision to abort.


This Is London quotes Catherine Brown's mother, Sheila Keeling, who was present as her daughter went into labour:

"I was running around frantically trying to find gas and air for her and pleaded with nurses, who seemed very matter of fact, to assist," she said.

"The staff I did find told me they did not have the training to help. Catherine was left to deliver the baby alone with just me for help before cleaning herself up and going back to bed. It was horrific."

Read it all, in its full horrifying detail: