Friday, September 26, 2008

Resistance to Federal Assistance

Yesterday FMP received the following comment to the post Among These are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness from our reliable reader, Anonymous:

How can we expect to be "free market" physicians when we don't allow those currently treating our wives and children to do the same? I know it is uncomfortable to talk about this, but by giving in to using social (programs), we are exacerbating the problem rather than solving it. We cannot use these programs now, but expect others not to use them or not accept their payment when we are the ones providing care and paying taxes. Just a thought that we all should consider.

(It is FMP's understanding that Anonymous was referring to medical students who personally may not approve of expanding medicaid and other welfare plans, but nevertheless accept aid from those programs for their families while they are in medical school. Should they utilize a program they personally disagree with?)

The comment raises an important question. As Free Market Physicians, what is our responsibility regarding national and state welfare programs that we don't approve of? In a time when we may disagree with the expansion and universal establishment of federal health care programs, should we deny ourselves federal aid that we otherwise qualify for?

As Anonymous acknowledged, the subject is indeed a little bit sensitive. But let's look at it from a market perspective.

All along we have argued that, like all other markets, the medical market is best governed by the consumer. Low prices and high quality products are achieved, not by government intrusion, but by consumers actively selecting the products that best suits them. With that understanding, let me compare our current discussion with another market movement.

There are those that believe that "Corporate America," or the big national businesses- the Walmarts of the industry, have been unethically driving local businesses and producers out of the market. They are saddened by the loss of culture and personality in small communities when the big national stores arrive. Apparently, people cannot resist the attraction of low prices. As the locals forsake their neighbors' businesses to shop at the retail outlets, local industry dies.

We free marketeers probably see nothing wrong with the situation. We may have sympathy for the local loss. But we argue that the consumer has been presented with a choice. The consumer knows best what his or her needs are and has evidently chosen lower prices because that value trumps other values. The consumer apparently values lower prices and convenience more than he or she values local industry and personality.

Let's go back to the medical market and the enticement of federal aid. In each community a medical market is available with variety of prices and services. The medical care may vary and the prices and means of paying vary. Involved in the market are such commodities such as health insurances, cash-only practices, and government-paid health care.

The decision of which of the products or programs to use is ultimately at the discretion of the consumers. That's us. This is our opportunity to choose a product based on our personal values. In my case, the values that should determine my purchase include the following:

I want my family to receive the medical care it needs.

I would like doctors who view me as an equal and who counsel, not dictate, treatment options.

I don't believe in taking anything I haven't earned.

I rely on myself, my family, and my God before I look to the government for aid.

I do not believe that paying taxes is patriotic.

I would like use my resources to help those around me- not to have those goods confiscated by the government to help those around me.

It is plain to see that my values rule out certain options on the market. Based on my values, I will choose a medical plan and product that best suits me. Other people with other values will choose the plan that best suits them. There are those whose chief value is taking care of their family, but they have no means to do so. I will not criticize their decision to accept federal aid.

In our market decisions, let us always beware of the bargain. It appears to be human nature to purchase an item marked as "on sale," even if we had no intention of buying it in the first place. Even more provocative are those things marked as "free."

The federal government is advertising "free" health care. It will be aggressively advertising it in the presidential election. Let us buy our health products and services wisely, based on our values. With consideration, I think we will find market options that suit us much better than any federal plan.

Rusty Scalpel

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reader Recommendation: Amateurs Outdoing Professionals

This article, written by economist Thomas Sowell, demonstrates why centrally planned economies will always lag behind free markets. His comments indicate what we can anticipate from a centrally planned medical economy. Thanks for the recommendation!

Rusty Scalpel

Friday, September 12, 2008

Among These Are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

We live in a time where phrases from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are thrown around glibly to achieve personal and financial ends. A current abuse to our great founding documents is the argument for universal health care, construing it as part of our inalienable, God-given right to life.

To put it in context, this reference to the right to life is part of the rationale for breaking away from Great Britain in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men...

We've discussed the subject in length before, but let's briefly use the Declaration to show why the increasingly-popular right to health care is not truly a right.

  1. The “right” to heath care is not self-evident. It is a head-scratcher. There are many applications of the right to life that are self-evident, for example the right to protect oneself against violent assault to preserve life. However, the right to health care (i.e. compel others to care for you) is not one of these self-evident rights.

  2. The “right” to health care is not endowed by the Creator. Our God-given moral agency encompasses the right to do a great many things. We can clearly see that God endowed us with the ability and right to reason, to speak, and to express our thoughts- in other words the freedom of speech. However, to my knowledge, none of us is endowed with the ability and right to free health care.

  3. The “right” to health care is not unalienable. Unalienable means incapable of being alienated, surrendered or transferred. Clearly, the “right” to health care can be transferred or alienated since it does not currently exist in our country. It is not part of our innate human nature. Parts of our population want that right transferred to us by law. By so doing, they blatantly demonstrate that it is not unalienable.

  4. The “right” to health care interferes with the governmental role of securing true rights. Federally-administered universal health care cannot be instituted without the infringement of other freedoms.

The Declaration establishes that universal access to health care is not a right. However, this doesn't mean that universal health care is an undesirable goal. Resistance to a federally-mandated universal health care is not resistance to the goal of making health care accessible to all mankind, or by definition, universal.

It seems very logical and natural to want all members of the human race to have adequate medical care, regardless of their ability to pay. That concept is already incorporated into modern medical ethics. Many physicians volunteer their time and skill to this end. Many non-physicians volunteer their means to fulfill this goal. This service is ennobling and part of that great right to the pursuit of happiness that our Creator has endowed us with.

However, contrast this humane service to a federally-implemented and mandated universal health care system where. What was once a service becomes literal slavery. The difference may appear subtle- in one case we freely serve because of love of God and men. In the other we are legally compelled to support a dependent population.

This is the difference between freedom and slavery, a difference that the Constitution has perfectly defined for over two hundred years. May we understand that difference and cherish and defend those rights with which our Creator truly has endowed us.

Rusty Scalpel