Co-pays are gone, premiums are gone, all out of pocket prices are gone!
– Bernie Sanders at the DNC presidential debate on Oct. 15th, concerning his universal health care program.
The healthcare industry is very complex. There are numerous jobs that require accreditation; all the producers of hospital equipment and medicine; the construction contractors that have to be hired to build the facilities and there are probably a hundred or more other factors that are involved in providing health care. To get an idea of the full scope and complexity of providing any goods or services I encourage you to read, “I, Pencil” by Leonard Read, first published in 1956. While reading, “I, Pencil”, remember that making a pencil is a lot less complex than providing health care.
With so many factors involved in providing health care, the idea that one body (the government) can provide it to 320 million individuals seems ludicrous.
The following metaphor is thanks to Robbie “The Fire” Bernstein while on Part Of The Problem with Dave Smith:
The government providing food and drink to sustain life is as feasible as a universal healthcare system. Medical services are only needed if one is injured, falls ill or is giving birth; whereas without sustenance anyone will ultimately die.
Yet if the government decides that food is a right and comes up with a scheme to pay for everyone’s meals; whether it be groceries, restaurants or both; how will people’s behaviors change?
Say the government’s scheme is universal (like their healthcare plans claim) covering groceries, restaurants and even fast food establishments; will most people choose to buy groceries or avoid the time and work to prep the food by opting for food that has already been prepped for them? Furthermore, will people decide to go to a fast-food restaurant with sub-par food or call into a higher-end restaurant for takeout if they have a blank check from the government and such a short time preference that they can’t wait more than ten minutes for their food?
How about elective surgeries, will they be covered under universal healthcare? If you’re at a restaurant and you know that there’s a “universal sustenance program” that covers elective, unnecessary food and drink; will you decide to get an ice tea and water or a type of liquor… not just some cheap bottle but top shelf (cosmetic or transitional surgeries)? Sure, there are puritans or straight edge individuals but how many of them choose to be sober because of their principles and how many choose because of their economic situations?
Remember the alcohol represents elective surgeries. How many more people will go in for LASIK eye surgery, liposuction, facelifts, transitional/hormone therapies, etc.?
The ramifications are immense. What happens to the fast-food joints (health and urgent care centers) that provide cheap, fast, yet lackluster, services to individuals when everyone gets food from higher quality establishments? What happens when people’s actions change and they order more food and drink than were expected — not just more food but the steak and lobster instead of a soup or burger?
We will see some service providers scale down and eventually close their establishments while others will have longer and longer wait times and 86’d meal options. There will be a higher demand for higher cost preventative services like steak and lobster, as well as elective services like wine and liquor.
These ramifications are something to think about. It’s fine to want everyone to be able to get healthcare or to not starve but it is important to look at not only the seen effects of policies and regulations but also the unseen as Frédéric Bastiat made clear in “That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen” published in 1850.