2011's Most Moronic MSM Article 1

Why health care competition won't work - or so an egghead thinks.

It's the beginning of a new year, time for an long parade of awards for The Most This or The Best That of the year gone by.

As luck would have it, we recently stumbled over an article of such shocking wrongheadedness, so utterly mistaken in every fundamental way, as to question whether its author resides on the same planet as we do or how he moves through the day without the aid of psychotropic drugs.  Therefore, we anoint the article "Why health care competition won't work," written by GWU professor Amitai Etzioni published and published on CNN.com, as 2011's Most Moronic MSM Article.

Futility Writ Large

Of course, there's intense competition for this august award, and it's somewhat surprising that Paul Krugman of the New York Times didn't manage to carry it away.  It might also be startling that the Huffington Post didn't get the nod, except that our stomachs are insufficiently strong to actually read the thing very often.  That tends to be a disqualifier.

Yet we are confident in the worthiness of our choice.  Let's trudge carefully through this piece of monumental idiocy to discover why it stands head and shoulders above its challengers - and, what's more, manages to do so without recourse to invective, ad-hominem attacks, or the other sludge that so characterizes Leftist writing.

To begin with, consider its very title: "Why health care competition won't work."  Notice that it's not "Why health care competition isn't working" - we might actually agree with such an article since our health care "markets" clearly aren't having the price-lowering, service-improving, efficiency-increasing, customer-satisfying effect that markets are supposed to have.

No, Prof. Etzioni is saying that competition in health care simply cannot work - we might as well just give up and stop trying!  Or, more specifically, we should gladly succumb to a monolithic taxpayer-funded universal single-payer national healthcare system, since there's just plain No Hope anywhere else.

How can this be, when virtually everything and everyone else in the Western world has benefited enormously by competitive forces?  Quoth the good professor:

As patients, we are just not equipped to absorb and process the information needed to make healthy choices on our own.

To highlight the issue at hand, it is best to start with the circumstances in which competition does work. It requires that the consumers purchase items that are relatively small in cost and consequences (a can of beans, a tube of toothpaste, a pizza), that they repeat the purchase often, and that the consumers are able to readily receive and absorb relevant information.

When these conditions are met, consumers can find out which products meet their needs by trying one, then trying some others, then casting away (or not purchasing again) those that fail -- without undue costs or harm. And consumers must be able to obtain the information about what the products contain, which they cannot figure out by simply tasting them or trying them on (hence the standardized nutrition labels that describe what foods contain, such as the number of calories and amount of sodium).

None of these conditions is met by most health care "products." [emphasis added]

Befitting a card-carrying member of the Elites, observe his contempt for those of us not as well-larded with Ivy League degrees as he: we are simply too stupid to make our own decisions about healthcare and should just gratefully accept whatever is decreed by our betters.  Perhaps we have sufficient mental intellect to select, as he says, our own cans of beans or tubes of toothpaste, but for anything that really matters, no.

Our Gentle Readers, many of whom do not hold Ivy League diplomas, have no doubt already identified fallacies in Prof. Etzioni's argument.  Cars, for instance, are certainly not a purchase that most of us repeat often; yet even the most ardent statist would not dare argue that intense competition has not both improved automobile quality and lowered the price.

Of course, statists wish to limit the range of choices available to us by regulating station wagons out of existence and cramming unreliable electric cars down our throats, but not even doctrinaire Marxists suggest that each family should simply be issued whatever government car some bureaucrat deems most appropriate, at least not yet.  No, we are all perfectly capable of picking our own ride, based on our own resources, needs, and preferences.

Are medical procedures unique in causing "undue costs or harm"?  The unfortunate purchasers of exploding Ford Pintos, rolling Ford Explorers, or incendiary Chevy Volts might beg to differ.

What about the lack of information about health care products that would assist buyers in making a wise decision?  Here, it sounds like Prof. Etzioni almost has a point - until you take a quick peek back in time, and realize that standardized food nutrition labels date back only a few decades.  Yet, somehow, human beings have been buying and eating food for lo these many years, with productivity and quality increasing and prices dropping for almost all of that time.  Somehow, shoppers managed to find out enough information to make generally wise choices.  In fact, comparing photographs of Americans today with those of, say, the 1950s, it might almost seem that Americans have been making worse nutritional choices since the government required the facts to be clearly displayed.

One could imagine a Communist author in, say, 1950, demanding government provision of all food on the grounds that "consumers cannot readily obtain information about ingredients or nutrition in commercially-sold foods."  Nonsense!  A simple standard label resolved whatever problems there might have been.

Fortunately, thanks to Al Gore's amazing invention, we don't even need a government regulation to demand information about health care.  There are countless websites allowing individual patients to rate their doctors, their hospitals, the services they received, and so on.  Today, doctors and other medical practitioners are rated just as consumers rate plumbers on Angie's List or books on Amazon.  And wouldn't you rather read the view of an actual patient than the judgment of some bureaucrat anyway?

Prof. Etzioni's disdain for the intellect and common sense of ordinary Americans is contemptible, but that by itself that wouldn't raise his intellectual offal to the heights of lunacy it commands.  One article of exposition is insufficient; we'll carry on exploring his illogic in the next article in this series.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Economics.
Reader Comments

For competition in health care you would have to have, in my estimation, no medicare or health insurance as we know it today. When one goes to the doctor no questions are asked in regard to costs. We reply on the health insurance companies and the government to keep costs in line. That is a joke of a solution. When the patient does not question cost and pay for the visit to the doctor or the procedure then costs go out the window.

For my money, I think that in terms of medicare the recipient should be given a health care credit card with a predetermined amount of money each year deposited in that account. Then allow the recipient to have to pay for it himself. Should he have an excess at the end of the year then the money would increase to take acre of later expenses in excess of that year's costs. A recipient could purchase supplemental insurance to take care of excess costs should they need additional coverage. It's too late now for current seniors to have to swallow that but the younger generations could be moved into that type of coverage. In regard to the younger generations their health care should be moved into a similar type coverage. Instead of mindlessly sending money to insurance companies use heath care savings accounts. The money would be tax deductible when deposited into these accounts. The money would increase in value should the person not need as much money for illnesses and would on their side of the ledger when they died and that money could go to their heirs straight to their health care savings accounts. These people too could buy additional supplemental policies to coverage large needs for catastrophic needs. The people would respond by shopping for services instead of blindly accepting whatever they are charged. While it is true that you can go online and check out a doctor, it really does not help with the costs, only the doctor's abilities. A doctor should not be paid like a union worker, the better ones should command a higher rate than the less gifted ones. Let the marketplace work.

A part of this system also has to be tort reform. We are donating billions of dollars to the trial lawyers by allowing them to sue for anything. I get emails daily from some law firm trolling for someone wanting to sue a doctor. Need I cite the John Edwards example as to the absurd lawsuits that he made $75 million personally to be a real need for reform? His specialty was babies born that were not perfect. What a joke. Stop this and you will see medical costs go down.

There is also the effect that patient-pay health insurance will have in regard to costs. That effect being a huge savings on administration costs and fraud. These savings are so large that it would be hard to estimate but you and I have heard repeatedly by our leader/kings that there is over $500 billion in medicare fraud alone. Would these help lower costs? Of course, there should be no debate on this except from the statists who are so married to their beliefs, like Krugman, that they have to save face and argue that 2+2 does indeed equal 5. We can reform health care and it need not be that hard.

January 10, 2012 1:09 PM

I can't wait for the government to start issuing us homes. In my 70 years I've purchased only four homes, but somehow managed to do it without the government or anyone else (except a spouse) offering "help".

As bassboat points out with insurance covering 99% of all costs for healthcare it's not likely that anything approaching competition is likely to happen. If we had automobile insurance that covered oil changes, tires, and other consumables or homeowner's insurance that covered painting, and other normal maintenance can anyone imagine the costs of those two items.

Healthcare insurance that doesn't cover regular checkups and other "normal maintenance" is considered to be "not good enough". It's got to cover every and anything that a person might see a physician for or it's not good enough. Then people complain about how much it costs. Wonder why? How about insurance that covers major surgery? It'd be a lot less expensive, and minor surgeries might well cost less.

January 10, 2012 1:39 PM
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