Reply To: 'Healthcare' and the free market


Aman, a heart attack is not a “rather typical scenario” in health care. Situations in which a person faces an unexpected and life-threatening event which incapacitates his choice are a small fraction of health care events. In most situations of receiving health care, a person can choose among the different providers. My sister suffered breast cancer, but she choose her doctor and hospital from among many alternatives. My other sister had a thyroid operation, but she choose her doctor and hospital. When I had a colonoscopy a few months ago, I picked my doctor and hospital. (In routine health care events, like visits to the doctor for blood work or annual physical exams, the chooses of doctors are if anything even more plentiful.) But in all these instances of receiving health care, which are much more common than unexpected and life-threatening instances where a person is found incapable of choosing and has made no prior arrangements for his treatment under such circumstances, my sisters and I were all billed the same outrageous fees as heart attack sufferers are for things like hospital rooms, anesthetics, and so on.

The reason for the outrageous prices is not some unique circumstances of the service provided. If it were, then prices without those circumstances would not be outrageously high. But, prices are outrageously high across the board in health care. Instead, the cause of outrageously high prices across the board is government intervention in health care which has mandated third-party payments while restricting production. Medicare, medicaid, “health insurance” and so on drive up demand. Then the government limits supply by licensing and other restrictions on production. It is the limitation of our choices by government mandate that generates the ill-effects across the board, not the, thankfully, rather rare occasions you postulate. (Even many heart attack victims drive themselves or have a loved one drive them to a hospital for treatment or have made prior arrangements for treatment under such circumstances.) As government intervention becomes more extensive, prices are pushed ever higher year by year. The economic twilight zone you describe does exist but is caused by government intervention, not the market.