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It's A Gray Area: Government is meddling in health care

April 13, 2013|By James P. Gray

Since my last column about health care appeared in this space, the system has continued to gallop toward disaster.

Today, under the federal government's "leadership," we often pay several times more in the United States for the same prescription drugs that are sold in other countries; an average MRI here costs $1,080, while it only costs $510 in Germany; and doctors here charge twice as much for hip replacement surgery as do doctors in Australia.

In the meantime, more people in our country actually die of treatable diseases like diabetes and childhood infections than in any other Western industrialized nation. And now, under the so-called Affordable Care Act (ACA), the situation will get even worse.

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How has this been allowed to happen?

Because the government continues to meddle with our health-care system, and that has driven up the prices and reduced the number of health-care professionals available to treat us.

The functional libertarian solution is to get the government out of health care for people who can take care of themselves, and then set up a health-safety net system for those who cannot.

During my youth in the 1950s and early 1960s, obtaining good health care for reasonable prices was not even a topic of conversation, and we had all of the hospital emergency rooms we needed.

But then, in 1965, Medicare was passed under President Lyndon Johnson, and that began the government's steady intrusion into health care. As a result, the government virtually dictates what insurance companies must cover, and how much each procedure will cost — to the detriment of everyone.

Today, virtually the only variable cost in our health-care system is what the Medicare and insurance companies will reimburse to the health-care professionals, and, as we have seen, that continues to decline.

This, in turn, has reduced the number of health-care professionals willing to work for less money. Of course, since the doctors are reimbursed according to the number of tests and treatments they provide, most of the doctors still remaining in the system get around that by running — and charging for — more marginally necessary tests and procedures, which radically increases the cost of health care.

So we are losing both ways.

The ACA is scheduled to come into full effect for companies that employ 50 or more employees in January.

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