Competition has always been the cornerstone of high quality and low cost. If there were only one grocery store (or grocery store company) here in Albuquerque, that store could set the price of its goods at whatever level they chose. Fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, just about anything with a shelf life would sit longer because consumers wouldn't have a choice to purchase better fresher produce somewhere else and the stores lose money when they have to dispose of spoiled goods.
It's called the market and it's really quite intuitive. If you were able to sell some product or service that was in demand and you were the only one able to produce that good or service, you could pretty much charge whatever you wanted. Food is certainly one of those items that every one of us needs and must buy - so is health care.
Yesterday, the House Health and Government Affairs Committee passed unanimously a single payer health care scheme that would in essence create a state run monopoly on health care in New Mexico (ABQ Journal - Subscription). How does the saying go...? If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free.
Nothing, we repeat... nothing is free. We all pay for health care. In fact right now, in addition to our own health care we pay for indigent care with our tax dollars. Currently, every emergency room must treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. How much more "universal" can you get?
What so called "universal" health care schemes do is create a government run health care system complete with all of the coercive influences and legislative power of the state. It would be similar to centralized control of the economy. The state is not equipped to make the millions, even hundreds of millions of decisions required to keep an economy moving, much less healthy.
(Sidebar)Hospitals are complex operations (pardon the pun) that require thousands of decisions that directly affect quality and cost. More importantly, theses decisions often have life or death consequences.
The 70 year Soviet experience proved our point. Shortages were the norm and the quality was so poor that when they finally started to open their markets, McDonalds had to build their own meat processing plant in order to obtain high enough quality ground beef. We're talking McDonalds here. Not that we have anything against them but their ground beef isn't exactly filet mignon.
We are often told that the goal of "universal" health care is to get those who can't afford health care out of the state's emergency rooms. Single payer healthcare plans won't get the poor out of emergency rooms (or their "universal" scheme equivalent); they'll simply put the rest of us in there with them.
Long lines, poor care, shortages of doctors, nurses, and staff, not to mention strikes will be a very real part of our health care future should a single payer scheme be implemented. Governor Richardson's plan would be better than a single payer scheme but would bring the full weight of government to bear on doctors by forcing them to accept all insurance plans regardless of whether or not the payment covers their expenses.
Once you get past the class envy - do you really believe that doctors should or would work anywhere for free... would you? We already have a problem keeping or getting doctors in this state, it simply makes no sense to create a health care system that covers everyone but results in a situation where there are no doctors and nurses to cover them.
In the final analysis, government intrusion into health care is dangerous at best - and would more likely be a complete disaster. What we need for government to do is to create an environment where competition can flourish and the consumer can make informed decisions about the health care plans available. Comparison and choice are the heart of competition - something a single payer health care scheme cannot and will not provide.