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Commentary

Commentary: Health Care: Beyond Markets
Washington Post, 11-11-04

This op-ed has a startling thesis: American health care is too awkward, expensive, and patchy because there is too little government oversight of health care markets and prices.

I doubt that any doctor who has ever tried to get reimbursement from Medicare would embrace that conclusion. Or a single male who paid for an expensive health insurance policy through his employer that included a mandated benefit for in vitro pregnancy services – along with the attendant extra cost – thanks to his state insurance commissioner. Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veteran’s Administration are riddled with tens of thousands of health care rules, regulations, and price caps, representing perhaps 44% of all health care dollars spent in the U.S.

According the author, “Americans face a one-in-six chance of exclusion from insurance coverage.” True, insurance coverage is a problem, but if you are Canadian you have about the same odds of not getting in to see your doctor or a specialist when you most need them. The average waiting time between seeing a primary care physician in Canada and a specialist is about 15 weeks – nearly 4 months.

We agree that the U.S. market is riddled with inefficiencies – not because it is a market, but because it is socialism with a market face, i.e. expenses are covered largely through third party payors who fund health care based on price, not quality. That, at least, the U.S. and Canada have in common.



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