The Cost of Medical Socialism

Medical socialism is the situation in which public funds - taxed dollars, other government money - are used to pay medical costs. It is the end state of increasing regulation, in which politicians - having generated regulatory laws over the years that, whatever the original intent, ensure poor service, high prices and misery - answer cries for change by greatly expanding government control over the provision of medical services. The spiral down continues from there. You'd almost think that most people have already forgotten what happened to the Soviet Union and those forced to live their lives in that prison, the ugly final resting place of a centrally controlled culture.

In a free market, unmolested by regulation, the provision of services is subject to competition - and the review and quality assessment of services is also subject to competition. Poor service providers and poor reviewers fail quickly. You, as the buyer, have the ultimate power: choice. In a socialist system, you have no power, because you have no choice. Poor provision of services spreads and prospers at your expense.

In a free market, participants can adjust their investment, production and efficiency at every level through the essential feedback mechanism of price. This allows bad investments to be ruthlessly rooted out, maximizing progress and choice. In a socialist system, price signals are so distorted that bad investments grow. Political patronage rewards the few at the cost of the many; slow progress and bad goods are the norm. Worse, there is no way to assign scarce goods - and the investment necessary to make more of them - through the mechanism of pricing. The result is shortages of essentials, gluts of the useless, and rationing.

There is no free lunch. The resources for your medical services must come from somewhere; someone must pay the price. You do not live in a truly free market. Remember that.

But back to the choice. In the European socialist systems today, the most glaring costs are rationing and the absence of choice - and the suffering and death that results. Under what system would you rather live when you fall seriously ill? The one in which faceless bureaucrats decide you are not cost effective, or the one in which you had the opportunity to have saved money or buy simple insurance, giving you the power to make your own medical decisions in a market of competitors eager to give you good value?

Alzheimer's drug ruling 'a kick in the teeth for sufferers'

Nice chief executive Andrew Dillon said: "Alzheimer's is a cruel and devastating illness and we realise that today's announcement will be disappointing to people with Alzheimer's and those who treat and care for them.

"But we have to be honest and say that, based on all the evidence, including data presented by the drug companies themselves, our experts have concluded that these drugs do not make enough of a difference for us to recommend their use for treating all stages of Alzheimer's disease.

"We have recommended the use of these drugs where they have the potential to make a real difference, which is at the moderate stage of the illness."

...

Professor Roy Jones, director of the Research Institute for the Care of Elderly at St Martin's Hospital, Bath, said: "I am going to be put in the unethical and difficult position of saying, 'I'm sorry, you must come back when you are worse'."

Think about this. What does it say about the society in which you live: that the most basic choices in treatment for serious, life-threatening age-related disease are made for you by someone who cares nothing for your welfare, will never meet you, and whose decisions you cannot influence. There is a better way, you know.

Rheumatoid arthritis patients face unofficial postcode lottery for treatment (PDF):

Dr Kay, a consultant rheumatologist at the Freeman Hospital and Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, said: “Nearly half of the consultants (46%) indicated that they had some form of limitation in their prescribing of anti-TNF agents for RA according to NICE guidance. Of these, 70% said these limitations were mainly in the form of capped funding or capped numbers of patients; staffing or lack of other facilities was a problem for 21% and 9% respectively.

“The consultants said they faced problems such as a fixed number of patients that they were allowed to treat each month, fixed financial caps, bans on treating any more patients until the next financial year, and the fact that different primary care trusts had different financial limits. Waiting lists were also a means of controlling access to treatment, with some patients waiting as long as 156 weeks.”

The nationalized health services of Europe are a more obvious socialism than what is presently happening in the US, via encroachment of schemes like Medicare and what is misleadingly called "health insurance" (more accurately viewed as highly regulated, inefficient health plans). The end result is the same: a web of regulation and socialized costs that chokes the marketplace, distorts price signals, reduces quality and rations availability. And once you choke the commercial side of medicine, you have choked investment in research; investors will depart - and have been, and are, departing - for greener fields in other industries.

This is not the world to be living in when our future is so dependant on advances and competition in research and development of medical technology. So what are we going to do about it?

If We Fail, It Will Be From Ignorance:

Economic ignorance, willful or otherwise, is the death of cultures. The systematic destruction of incentives for progress - engineered by those who do not care to realize they are pulling the house down around their ears - will be the death of you and I as well if it continues. If we permit the ignorant to rule over medicine and medical research, destroying it in the process, then we deserve our fate

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Why put your life and health into the hands of people who have no interest in helping you? Why think that socialism in medicine will work this time, when it has failed miserably everywhere else? As time moves on, those of us reading this now will become increasingly reliant on the new medical technologies of healthy life extension for health and longevity. If the future of medicine is socialist, then we won't be seeing much of that future - the destruction socialism and centralized, regulated systems bring to research and progress will see to that.

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Comments

Good point. If there's a little chance that we will be able to cure ageing in the near future. Then I think it would be fair if the technology was sold to some company for a billion $ (now) and they would get a 1y or 3years exclusive license (after 10-30 years once it's developed). Even if there's a 1% chance that it would work the investor would become a zillionaire or sth very rapidly (because when you're 60 you don't know if you're still alive next year so you'd pay any price) .

So if a chance to develop anti-aging technology is 1/100 (scientists say it's much bigger) and the return from investment would be 1000x very easily then it is a dream business, isn't it ?:)

If it ain't bulls**t then what're waiting for? A Chinesse to buy it first?

Posted by: Tom at October 12th, 2006 10:38 AM

The free market is every bit as bad. It's very easy, in a "free market" to prescribe drugs that make patients come back for treatment over and over.

Ethical/moral socialism and free markets both work well. And vice versa... the problems of unethical free market practices are every bit as terrible and destructive as unethical socialism.

There is no way to "cure" ethics and morals with a better political structure.

It's like trying to fix a broken engine cylinder by moving cylinder's around.

What's more, there is enormous evidence that unethical behavior is *genetic*, and that people who behave unethically, on our current society, have *more children on average*.

Good luck trying to stop them with your libertarian rants.

Posted by: erik at April 8th, 2010 5:35 AM

In a "free market" system without any socialized (universal) medicine, then only the rich get the benefits. What this rant seems to want is a situation where only the elite few get life extension (they can pay for it in an unregulated "free market" which WOULD jack the price to the moon) while the "little people" get to die even younger (because they can't even get BASIC care because there's no safety net care because that is "socialism").

Bah.

Posted by: praedor at August 9th, 2010 8:33 AM

The idea that "only the rich get the benefits" of anti aging advances in a free market is ridiculous.

While early adopters of any new tech are always going to be those who have the means and the desire to pay the higher initial costs, prices don't stay high when economies of scale come into play.

Walmart couldn't have become the worlds largest grocery retailer by choosing to "jack the price to the moon" and only selling food to the rich. They've made a hell of a lot more money by selling reasonably priced food to as many people as possible.

Ray Croc could have built a business around gourmet hamburgers that only the richest of the rich could afford, but that would have been a foolish thing to do when compared to: Billions and Billions Served

Anti-Aging products/services are going to have global appeal/demand, to think that "only the rich get the benefits" would mean that no one is taking advantage of that huge market potential. I find that highly unlikely. On the other hand, the likelihood of Government messing things up is extremely high based on historical evidence, psychology 101 and good old common sense.

Follow the money(and political power)....Socialized Medicine suffers from many of the perceived ills of a greedy capitalist environment while failing to provide the promised benefits. I would argue that it's MUCH more likely that benefits would be limited to the chosen rich and powerful when politicians and lobbyists along with their corporate donors are in control. I'd much rather leave it to the combined power of billions of pocketbooks.

Posted by: Rob Biddle at July 13th, 2011 1:46 PM

No... the best way yo go is to ALWAYS the happy medium. You should have BOTH a socialist AND private system. You should have private for the reasons you stated, but also a shitty public system for people who can't afford it. Such as in Canada. Most the time shitty free service works, and when you are the rare individual that doesn't fit into the textbook, the private specialist solves the problem.
In your system only rich people have access to live... Life extension technologies or any medicare technology for that matter are very resource intensive and like a car, even with competition a car is going to cost a shitload of money. Because people like me spend our time and money trying to help other people instead of hording it like selfish socially irresponsible pricks, we would have to die for this by your system... and thus you would be left with a future of just rich sociopath dicks. That is the ultimate form of injustice and will start more than a revolution.
If life extension technology is only available to the rich, then the rich will quickly be executed by the much more powerful larger middle class/poor. Communism happened because of much smaller disparities between people. Life extension treatment is the largest disparity possible. I don't mind not being rich because I don't need A Ferrari, or mansion to be happy.... But I do need to be alive to be happy. Even if you are a totally selfish egotistical douche bag who doesn't give the slightest shit whether other people can live or die, it's in YOUR best interest to have a socialist system that leeches off the ideas/progress of the capitalist system. Otherwise you will have to add mob execution to your list of causes of aging... Both egotism and empathy are needed in order to be successful. It seems like you have only egotism.

Posted by: Cliff at August 10th, 2014 11:21 PM

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