Healthcare Soul-Searching in a Time of Coronavirus
Suppose that in 1990, you purchased a perpetual motion machine for $1,000. When it arrived, it didn’t work. Ever since then, you have been trying to make it work. You have taken it to countless repair shops, spending a small fortune trying to get the thing fixed. Year after year, decade after decade, you have spent countless hours and a lot of money trying to make your machine work.
One day in 2010, you take your perpetual motion machine to a repair shop. The repairman says to you, “This machine is not broken. It is inherently defective. It was never capable of working. The person who sold you this machine did a number on you. No matter what you do, no matter how much money you spend, no matter how much time you put into it, you will never make your perpetual motion machine work.”
You’re angry, and you refuse to accept what he has told you. You spend the next 10 years and lots of money trying to make your perpetual motion machine work.
Finally, however, you come to the realization that the man was right. You realize that your perpetual motion machine isn’t broken but rather inherently defective. Broken means it can conceivably be fixed. Inherently defective means that it is incapable of being fixed. You ditch the machine.
That’s the situation we have with America’s healthcare system. It is not broken, as the mainstream media often asserts. It is inherently defective. That means it cannot be fixed. No matter what experts study the healthcare crisis, no matter what reform is adopted, and no matter how much money is spent, it won’t matter. The system still will not work.
I have consistently pointed this out since the time that FFF was founded 30 years ago. In 1994, we published a little book entitled The Dangers of Socialized Medicine, which consisted of essays that we had published from 1990-1993. The book is as relevant today as it was 26 years ago. You can buy it on Amazon.
The best and the worst
America once had the finest healthcare system in history. Medical costs were so low and stable that hardly anyone had healthcare insurance. They didn’t need it. Going to the doctor was like going to the grocery store. How many people have grocery store insurance to protect them against soaring grocery prices? Doctors loved what they did in life. They treated destitute seniors and the poor for free, on a purely voluntary basis. Innovations and inventions were flooding the healthcare industry.
And then came Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s. That was what caused healthcare costs to begin soaring. That is what has bankrupted so many people. That is what has sucked out trillions of dollars from people’s income. That is what’s gave us a perpetual healthcare crisis. That is what killed the finest healthcare system in history.
Suddenly people needed health insurance to protect against soaring healthcare costs. That led the government to provide a tax benefit to employers who provided healthcare insurance to employees, which produced a “locked in” effect that discouraged people from shifting to other employment.
Our prescription at FFF? Radical surgery. That is what we have prescribed for the last 30 years. To restore low and stable prices to healthcare, there is but one solution: cut out the tumor. Get rid of it entirely. That means repeal, not fix or reform, Medicare and Medicaid.
But that remedy was considered by many, including even some libertarians, as too radical. Surely, America’s healthcare system could be saved and improved by continuing with Medicare and Medicaid. Surely, there was a way to make this perpetual motion machine work.
Over the decades, there have been countless healthcare reforms, including mandatory “health savings accounts” proposed by conservatives, designed to fix America’s ongoing, never-ending, perpetual healthcare crisis. That’s what Obamacare was all about. That reform was going to be the “comprehensive healthcare solution” to the crisis. Instead, the crisis only got worse, which caused proponents to then double down and call for a full government takeover of healthcare. Hope continues to spring eternal that the perpetual motion machine can still be made to work.
Meanwhile, like other socialist programs, Medicare and Medicaid produced a mindset of dependency among people. “How could we survive without these programs?” is the common sentiment. “We will all die in the streets the minute we hit 65 years of age!”
The coronavirus crisis has exposed another inherently defective feature of America’s socialist healthcare system — central planning, a system in which the government centrally plans a particular area of human activity rather than leaving the activity to the free market. America’s centrally planned healthcare system has resulted in what Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos,” including shortages of testing kits, masks, and ventilators, along with defective testing kits, and ever increasing tyranny, dysfunction, and oppression. The infection rate and death toll under this dysfunctional system is much larger than it would have been in a free market.
Only one solution
As I have been maintaining for three decades, America’s socialist healthcare system is finished. It cannot be made to work. it is not broken. it is inherently defective. The system needs to be thrown away. Continuing to try to make it work makes as much sense as trying to make a perpetual motion machine work.
There is only one — I repeat: only one — solution to America’s ongoing, never-ending, perpetual healthcare crisis — the complete separation of healthcare and the state. Nothing else will work. All it takes is a faith in ourselves, in others, in freedom, and in free markets.
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