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Yesterday’s WSJ had an editorial talking about how the introduction of a “voluntary” opt-in to government health insurance spells the end of private insurance as we know it. While there is little particularly attractive about the current “private” system (it is far more socialist than it is market driven already), this is not some idle, spurious claim on the part of the WSJ “ideologues.”

How do I know? Because our family is living it. Our little 18 month old son Isaac, who is in otherwise good health, has yet to speak his first words. My wife and I are relatively unconcerned, since he seems to be communicating well and is in otherwise good physical condition. When our pediatrician recommended that we have him evaluated by a speech and physical therapist, we thought it was an OK idea … until she said that really our only option was to use the public “Early Intervention” program. When I asked if she could send me the number of a private alternative … she was stunned. “I never ever had to think about that.” Upon doing some research about our alternatives, we were told that we were basically plain out of luck – no private alternatives exist for children with our son’s level of need (if we had a much more serious problem, there is ONE alternative, and the waiting list even to be evaluated is over six months long we were told).

I don’t like explaining to my doctor why this infuriates me, but she seemed genuinely exasperated and surprised that I would resist having the Early Interventionist do-gooders come into our home to see our son “free-of-charge.” Knowing that I am an economist, our doctor thought it would make me feel better to remind me that the overall medical system would save money if we intervene now for Isaac instead of waiting until he was 4 or 5 years old.

Of course, that is not why I am out of my mind, and when I politely tried to explain what my moral and economic objections to the government program were, she was plain old flummoxed, and urged me to reconsider.

But this is exactly what you can expect to happen when we get subsidized government insurance generally. Without the partnership of the existing insurers and government, we would be left with just a government system … and opponents of reason would simply argue, “look, the private market simply cannot provide this service.”

By the way, our doctor briefly tried to justify government provision of this early intervention service on the grounds that the poor cannot afford it, and that parents would simply ignore the advice of their doctors and not get the recommended treatments … I was not about to have an argument for why that might justify a subsidy, but a complete takeover of the service? Funny, because in the next breath we were talking about internists in Rochester and she informed me that there are virtually no spots open for new patients. When asked what I would do about it, I said I would abolish the AMA and medical licensing. To her credit, she said she was not part of the AMA … but I am not sure she understood why I said it.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that there are no private alternatives in the early intervention program precisely because the “free” government service has eliminated any possibility for a private company to prosper in this area. Can’t wait for that to happen with my other health care “choices.”

UPDATE: We were able to find a non-profit organization in Rochester to do this. When we inquired about whether our insurance company would cover any of the treatment if we needed to go that way … our insurance company said “NO.” Why? Because there is a “free” option available via the state.

2 Responses to “An Illustration of the End of Private Insurance”

  1. Michael says:

    Sorry to hear that Isaac isn’t speaking yet. It made me wonder if you have tried any sign language for communication. Here is a good site that shows some ASL signs: http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/aslpro/aslpro.cgi. I know that some kids have an easier time with sign language, and many can use it before they can speak. I plan on using for my baby, since I know some sign already.

  2. Harry says:

    Wintercow, I wish I could offer anything to help your present concerns, but I know nothing about that. I’m impressed with Michael’s efforts in that regard.

    But you are also correct in your analysis that where we are going is government control of health care decisions, which are beyond their ken and disastrous in many ways.

    If I were running a drug company right now, I’d be sizing up my prospects, and might seriously consider shutting off the research and development spigot, firing all of those expensive doctors and lab techs, and declaring a big dividend. You have the machinery and chemicals to pump out Mevacor.

    Two of my best friends are MD’s, and they both are thinking about cutting back their hours and encouraging their wives to do the same, since present taxes, not only from the federal government but also the state, make all that effort not worth it.

    Another friend is my foot doctor, who doesn’t subscribe to our local Blue Cross HMO. I pay him in cash (sometimes a check), which he logs in and pays his payroll taxes.

    My dermatologist, whom I will see Friday, practices in the area only because he has family in the Lehigh Valley; otherwise, he would move to North Carolina or whatever place has the lowest malpractice insurance rates.

    We are creating a system where prospective medical students will, and likely have already, said, “To hell with it.”

    Who is John Galt?

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