Okay, Andrew Sullivan has now called Megan’s post a “must-read“, and I’ve heard from another source that the conservative-libertarian crowed really seems to like it. I have to reiterate: this is ridiculous.
What is the catastrophic outcome Megan is afraid of? It is this: that the government will start trying harder to help fat people lose weight. Seriously. This is the dystopian example that she provides of how increased government involvement in the health market will “curtail future freedoms”.
She provides two examples of the kinds of programs she’s talking about. One is a hypothetical government behavior change communication program for overweight people, which she argues will not work. Again: why is she afraid that the government, when it comes under pressure to save money on health care, will thus be driven to spend money on a program that does not work? The other program would be hypothetical government coercion not to eat fattening food. Again: every single advanced country in the world except for the US has government-supported universal coverage. There is not a single case of a government that forcibly restricts the food consumed by citizens. This is ludicrous, on a Jim DeMint level.
The other harm Megan claims from universal health insurance is that it will destroy innovation in the health care sector. How? Well, “in the absence of a robust private US market” — what? Hold it right there. Who proposed getting rid of private health insurance in the US? Exactly no one. Certainly not the health care reform bills currently in Congress. And if they did, there would still be the private health insurance market in France, the private health insurance market in the Netherlands, the private health insurance market in Germany, and so on, to pick up the slack. In each of those three countries, private health insurance covers almost the exact same percentage of total health spending outlays as in the US! Most countries in the world that have universal health coverage have robust private insurance markets. What health care universe does Megan inhabit?
Even if the above mistakes weren’t enough, there is simply no evidence that innovation in effective health care is mainly driven by the private US market. And when Megan says there’s a crisis in pharmaceuticals innovation going on these days, she’s right. The crisis is this: private pharmaceuticals companies aren’t producing, or even working on, a significant number of new drugs for major health problems. No new lines of antibiotics to fight antibiotic-resistant strains of TB and other bacteria. No new anti-malaria drugs. And so on. The pharmaceuticals companies claim it’s because patent terms are too short. Whatever. If the private US insurance market is supposed to be driving innovation in pharmaceuticals, then the private US insurance market is failing.
Look, Megan’s post doesn’t make any sense. That conservatives of a free-market bent read through it and think that it does shows that they have been conditioned by 30 years of Friedmanite language to react positively to a particular ideological style of rhetoric and set of catchphrases even when those catchphrases have been assembled to form a proposition that is incoherent.
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