Continuing the debate on capitalism to the field of medicine, the question was raised, why has the free market failed to reduce costs in the US health care industry?
That is a large question, but I think John Stossel makes a compelling argument that the current health care system can, in some respects, occlude and stifle the free market in his brief article Control Your Own Health Care and the follow-up Medical Competition Works for Patients.
The first article describes consumer driven health care and mentions Whole Foods's use of Health Savings Accounts.
John Goodman, the ostensive "Father of Health Savings Accounts", provides a brief rundown of his views on our current political options in Grading the Candidates.
Back in February 2007, Mark raised encompassing issues in more detail that also compares plans and discusses practical difficulties: Universal Health Care and Health Care: What's the Current State?
Some deliberations on this topic couple government charity with mandating a more static market, but I wonder if this is necessary or if it's possible to consider these aspects more independently. Is it feasible for the government to be a source of charity while also maintaining a free market?
Of course, the free market is not a simple panacea. I think it is often easier to imagine, particularly in specific cases, that a government edict fixing prices could do a better job -- especially better than the patchwork we have now. The simple rule of such universal health care is attractive because it is so encompassing and absolute, and it seems to most directly match our morality. But its failures may not be so readily apparent and accounted for -- failures of wasted time, resources, innovation, responsibility, health and lives that might actually amount to a poorer system.
What do you think?
Update 11/7: N. Gregory Mankiw wrote an interesting NYT article on 3 common health care statistics which are factual but misleading. Thanks to Jonathan Adler:
1. The United States has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than Canada, which has national health insurance.
2. Some 47 million Americans do not have health insurance.
3. Health costs are eating up an ever increasing share of American incomes.
According to Mankiw, these statements are "dangerous" because they are true, yet "don’t mean what people think they mean."
Update 1/1/08: MB provided an excellent summary of HSAs. The comments which follow the summary are also very educational. Thanks, MB!