Saturday, November 09, 2013

Obama and Ptolemy

After Obama made his public apology to America for his healthcare-implementation snafu while speaking with Chuck Todd, I wrote the following on Twitter:

I'm glad Obama has apologized for the Obamacare mess, but will this now mean dismantling ACA, or merely adding Ptolemaic epicycles to it?

Dr. Vallicella recently linked to this article: "Ten Lessons of ObamaCare" by Robert Tracinski. Almost as if echoing my sentiment, Tracinski writes:

With a law that runs to 2,000 pages and regulations running to thousands of additional pages, and all of that interacting with the implementation efforts of hundreds of bureaucrats and computer programmers, the business decisions of dozens of insurance companies, and the personal financial decisions of some two hundred million adults, it is simply impossible to project all of the consequences. Yet the hubris of central planners and regulators is to assume that they can anticipate and control these results.

In practice, this means that they end up passing the law so we can find out what's in it, then tinkering with it endlessly afterward, with each ad hoc fix creating unintended consequences of its own. That's how we end up "reforming" health care, or education, or finance, etc., etc., decade after decade, and somehow never getting it right.
(emphasis added)

The italicized part is the point I was trying to make in my tweet. You introduce a mass of new regulations, then deal ad hoc with the mass of undesirable consequences. Epicycles, indeed.

Less regulation means more room to breathe, more room for a self-correcting, market-driven system to work its brutal-but-healing magic on a massive economy that should, by rights, be as decentralized as possible.

And does American healthcare truly suck as it now stands? You decide.

Korea's healthcare system is largely centralized, i.e., government-funded. A coworker of mine had an emergency recently, and he told me, post-crisis, "Don't think about having a heart attack anytime soon.* My girlfriend checked all around, and the nearest hospital that will take you is 25 minutes away. The hospital up the street is closed in the evenings, and other hospitals provide only specific services, like setting broken bones. If you have a heart attack, you will fucking die." This lines up with all the other nightmare stories I've heard coming from countries with centralized healthcare: long lines, patients with minor complaints hogging the ER and keeping people with more serious problems from being seen quickly, people dying en masse in France during heat waves because of a lack of staffers and simple air conditioning, people taking advantage of the "free" care in Britain to cadge prescription drugs, etc. Let's face it: the US system is crushingly expensive and far from perfect, but when you call 911 because you're having a heart attack, you can bet the ambulance will be at your door within five or ten minutes, unless you live way out in the boonies, and you can further bet that you will be treated—guaranteed. Centralized healthcare doesn't inspire trust or confidence. And for the last goddamn time, it isn't "free." Your taxes pay for it.

*No, this coworker didn't have a heart attack. He was simply using heart attacks as an extreme example to make a point about the slothful nature of Korean healthcare.



Bratfink said...

You may want to check this out in case you have not seen it yet:

Kevin Kim said...

Someone's just piling on.