Don't enshrine a bad system

Sometimes the fear of change is so strong it clouds the mind. So it seems with Ronald Bailey writing about healthcare intervention [January 20 cover story: "A call for healthcare intervention from an unlikely source: Charlottesville's top libertarian"].

The call for change is so widespread that even conservatives think they have to do something. What most politicians are doing, however, is avoiding a fundamental fact: for many Americans, our healthcare system is broken, and this failure threatens the system for all of us.

Bailey confuses the delivery of healthcare with the system of paying for it. Simply, the government pays for the Medicare seniors enjoy, and a range of public and private healthcare professionals deliver that care. Both elements are working well.

Bailey outlines the inefficiencies in for-profit payment systems (we call it "insurance"), where overheads are often in the 20 percent range, and the administration of private plans alone costs over $300 billion annually. He also notes that even though we pay on average twice per capita what the rest of the industrialized world pays, our outcomes are abysmal.

Still, Bailey asserts, our system, even with its notorious faults, provides state-of-the-art care. For some. He fails to note that most medical research and innovation is financed by the taxpayers through the NIH, and not through HMO profits.

So, what is Bailey's solution? Force all Americans to buy into the health payment system that is so brutally inefficient that over half of the personal bankruptcies for health-related debt are filed by people with health insurance. What sort of intrusive system to enforce this massive transfer of wealth to for-profit companies (even using taxes if people are too poor to participate) does Libertarian Bailey envision?

The Hook would do us all a service to have an article on the Conyers Bill, now backed by over 40 members of Congress.

Al Weed
Chairman, Public Policy Virginia