Health-Care Rationing is Inevitable? Letters in the Wall Street Journal

Because my annual performance review is coming up, I thought I’d praise an op-ed that Sally Pipes (my CEO) wrote in the Wall Street Journal on December 30.

But while I come to praise Ms. Pipes, others come to bury her: specifically, four letters that the WSJ published in response yesterday. Two were from doctors, and two from PhDs: all were relentlessly critical of the op-ed.

What I took away from the letters was how challenging it is to communicate effective reform to health-care elites – who don’t even agree between themselves what the problem is.

Fred W. Frick, MD, on one hand, believes that we need a government monopoly to decide what treatment we get, because private insurers arbitrarily deny paying for care. On the other hand, Robin Clark, PhD, asserts that private insurers in the U.S. waste money on new prescription drugs that are not significantly more effective than older ones.

These two gentlemen must expect very different things from Tom Daschle’s proposed National Health Board: Dr. Frick thinks that it will prevent insurers from cruelly denying claims, while Prof. Clark thinks it will ensure that insurers only pay claims that the state approves.

John Manzella, MD, re-iterates the longstanding criticism that despite spending more money on health care than any other country, the U.S. ranks in the middle of the pack for outcomes. Unfortunately, he uses infant mortality as an example – one long since debunked.

Richard R. Swanson, PhD, believes that many Americans have “no” access to health care, a claim debunked by a recent scholarly article on the issue. Prof. Clark is also one who appears to believe that the 45 million uninsured are a static blob that constantly receives substandard health care. Ms. Pipes and I have debunked this notion frequently: in her new book, in my comparison of Sen. McCain’s and Sen. Obama’s presidential health proposals, and a previous analysis of California’s uninsured.

However, the most disturbing sentence in all three letters was Prof. Clark’s criticism that “a system based only on employer-sponsored insurance can never do this.” True! And there are no stronger critics of the tax law, which takes our money away from us and gives it to our employers to buy health benefits of their choice, instead of our own, than we in the movement for consumer-driven health care.

The fact that Prof. Clark is unaware of the primary reform that we espouse, shows the obstacles we face in getting our message across. To put it bluntly, I am fed up with those who paint us as defenders of the status quo, and the advocates of government-monopoly health care as “reformers”. We are the true reformers!

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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