Health care revisited

Published 6:28 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some believe that health care should not be market based. They misunderstand economics at the personal level.

Health care should be treated as a commodity just like everything else that you and I buy and use. While it is not currently a well-functioning market, a market that doesn’t function well is still going to offer better service than a poorly thought out government one size fits all system. As those in Washington consider possible options, there are several things that should guide them.

If we are to maintain our current policy that requires hospitals to provide service in emergency situations, then we should be able to restrict their emergency services that are paid by the taxpayers to those truly needed for immediate services.  No policy should enable those who manipulate the system by waiting until 5:01 p.m. to seek service in the ER rather than less expensive options of going to a clinic.

In no other realm of the market do we, the consumer, request service with limited or no understanding of the cost of the service.  Asking providers the upfront costs involved and if there are other options that might be less expensive might drive down costs.

Over the years, insurance policy has done much to disrupt the market system.  Consider health care service compared to car shopping.

Blocking new providers or new technology from entering the market place has done virtually nothing to extend health care. New options should have a high priority as any policy is developed.

Sadly, few understand the underlying costs of health care. Without that knowledge, it makes it far easier to shift costs among patients. This shifting is a major factor in the insurance rates.

Currently providers are constantly under the fear of unfounded lawsuits. This requires them to buy expensive liability insurance, often having to agree to financial settlements rather than take the time and risk of a trial by an emotion-driven jury. It also pushes providers into subjecting patients to expensive medical tests that might not be needed.

Any plan should consider giving a tax incentive to those providers who are willing to provide services at free clinics or to patients free of charge.

The majority of those who choose to serve as medical providers do so to help others. Some might consider this type of extra service if they could focus on providing for those in need without overloads of liability and paperwork.

These factors make health care a unique market, requiring certain policy interventions to improve outcomes.

A careful consideration of these issues would better focus those in Washington on increasing health care supply and care rather than control.

All of the conversation over the last eight years has been focused on health insurance.

It has not been focused on medical care, but rather how can the current providers do more with less.

The end result is that Obamacare has driven deductibles so high that the insurance is of limited value.

My belief is if we carefully keep medical care as the focal point of the discussion, we can improve service without driving families into debt.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is