Take back your health care
Health care has always been a hot button issue in the United States, but the recent implementation of President Obama’s brand of Affordable Care has made the complexities of health care even more foreboding. With a slew of insurance requirements and crippling costs, it’s no surprise that many Americans find it less stressful to delay getting the health care they need.
Here in Northern Nevada, narrow definitions of what constitutes Native American heritage have restricted the ability of some members of the Tribal Health Clinic to receive health care. Those who are descendents of tribe members or who have blood from two tribes but not enough to qualify them as members of either are at risk of having to pay an annual fine of $695 for a lack of insurance, according to a recent Las Vegas Sun article. These narrow definitions restricting health care to Native Americans—which has until now been a guaranteed right for tribal members, as dictated in treaties with the U.S. government—has now threatened around 7,000 members of the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Clinic with having to pay the fine.
The Native American population is not the only group finding it difficult to afford high insurance rates. Under the Affordable Care Act, business owners have to take on much of the cost of health care, and this has already led to layoffs at many businesses across the country.
The answer to affordable health care is remarkably simple, although it may seem drastic at first. The key comes from deregulation, not only of governmental licensing requirements for medical institutions—including schools, pharmacies and hospitals—but also for medical personnel like nurses and doctors. Insurance companies should be deregulated as well to cover the bare minimum, thereby restoring personal freedom and responsibility for events that are within the individual’s control—this step would also entail de-incentivizing risky behavior such as tobacco consumption or obesity-related illnesses. In addition, government restrictions on medical tools and medicine should be lifted, in essence doing away with the Food and Drug Administration and setting prices of pharmaceuticals back to an affordable and efficient level.
Picturing a United States without the security blanket of the FDA or governmental medical licensing might be scary at first. After all, these institutions were first put in place to reduce occurrences of market failure and to reduce transaction costs that come from unequal information between consumers and healthcare providers. The free-market alternative, however, can do the same thing more efficiently.
In the absence of a tax-draining government institution like the FDA, private companies that offer voluntary accreditation for businesses and products would become more established and force people to be more mindful about what they are consuming. Costs and prices would be driven down, and, in an effort to both gain customers and to avoid product liability suits, pharmaceutical and tool manufacturers would increase in quality and more businesses would provide guarantees.
Reputation would become much more important, as well. This kind of process is already working when it comes to non-governmental organizations providing accreditation to companies that sustainably harvest rainforest timber. By voluntarily applying for accreditation, companies can take control over how they are perceived by the public, and they will strive to make their products stand out against the rest with greater transparency about their methods of production or medical services.
Medical care and insurance is a multibillion dollar industry across the country, and it is one that many people struggle to pay for. Socialized health care may be implemented in other Western countries such as France and Canada, but the United States’ history of free market interactions and potential for a large shift in infrastructure could be a rich environment in which to take back control of our health-care system.