There is no free market in healthcare. Instead of healthcare, we can also use the word medicine, which perhaps takes on a slightly different meaning. Regardless, medical care in the U.S. is not free. It is not even close. We like to talk about socialized healthcare in other countries. But we already have some form of socialized medicine in the U.S. Perhaps it is more accurate to call it fascist medicine.
Everything is highly regulated, both at the federal and state levels. Insurance companies are highly regulated. There are license laws. There are prescription requirements for certain drugs. There are strict patent laws. There is Medicare and Medicaid. There are a number of other subsidies. The lists of rules and regulations are so vast, it is hard to know where to begin. And let’s not forget about Bushcare, the massive boondoggle to further socialize drugs. Yet, at the same time, it is a windfall to the pharmaceutical companies.
Things in the U.S. are a lot different than they were in the 1950’s. There was not a completely free market in medicine in the 50’s, but it was far more free than it is today. Yet sick people weren’t left on the streets to die. In fact, medical care was relatively cheap. And the service was far better, with many doctors making house calls.
Today, it is a mess. And now we have Obamacare to contend with. Prices of medical care and health insurance keep going up, at a far faster pace than price inflation. Meanwhile, the quality of care does not seem to be improving much, except in those few areas with significant technological advancements. In some ways, medical care is actually declining.
I still question whether Obamacare will ever be fully implemented. It is a complete mess. I’m not sure there is any single individual on earth who understands the whole thing. It is a nightmare for businesses. It will keep some small businesses from growing, in fear that they will have to abide by Obamacare when they hit a certain threshold. I’m just not sure if we will see certain provisions revised or repealed, or if we will see all of Obamacare repealed.
While there is not much room for the free market to innovate, there is a little room. The free market usually finds a way to slip through the cracks. We have seen what the free market can do when government involvement is more limited, such as in the technology industry. I still have hope that we will see new innovations in delivering quality healthcare.
I can imagine entrepreneurs getting creative to skirt around the government bureaucracy. I have heard the idea of parking cruise ships offshore in international waters and taking people by smaller boats out to the cruise ship clinic for medical care. Then the doctors can practice freely, at least until the U.S. government tries to regulate that.
I can envision more doctors working on a cash basis. Perhaps they will file for insurance. But I can envision some doctors not even accepting insurance. They will just have a flat fee schedule for visits and certain procedures. They will allocate resources based on money, instead of based on time or political connections. Things run much better when they are allocated based on price.
I think we will also see a revolution in holistic medicine. With the internet, there are far more people today who are in to healthier eating and taking vitamins and supplements. People will look to live healthier in order to avoid the disastrous medical care system. I can also envision more people looking to alternative medicine from what is offered in the mainstream. There is an epidemic of chronic diseases and most doctors just want to treat the symptoms. They tend not to look at the overall picture and it is not often that a doctor will recommend natural treatments such as diet, exercise, and supplements.
I really don’t know how everything is going to play out. But it is going to be a continual competition between the government bureaucracy and the free market. While modern medicine is mostly a disaster compared to where it should be, I do have hope that the market will make some great strides. Maybe one day we can enjoy a boom in the medical industry similar to what we have enjoyed with technology. Maybe we will actually see prices going down while quality is going up.