Book Review: “Your Money or Your Life”, By David Cutler

I haven’t done a book review in quite a while but I just finished reading this one and I felt so strongly that I had to put down my feelings on paper.

While this book, by David M Cutler, purports to suggest how to fix the healthcare crisis in the US. It is always wise to consider the source.

In 1993 I was in Washington D.C., working on the Clinton administration’s health care reform effort. Remember the secret group of 500 people out to reform the health care system? I was one of them

Given his history, it would be easy to assume that he would push “Universal Health Care” – also known as Socialized Medicine – and he does not disappoint. While the book comes up with many good suggestions, the main thrust of the argument is strongly in favor of fixing the problem by adding more “insurance” – this time for everybody, provided by the Government.

I would counter that Insurance actually makes healthcare more expensive, but adding an extra layer of bureaucracy. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I don’t need help paying the small bills – Doctor Visits, Blood Tests etc. Removing insurance from these transactions would reduce the cost to the Doctor, as well as giving me an incentive to negotiate. What I need help with are the big bills – my one-day stay in hospital last year generated a dozen bills and came to $16,000.

Why is health care so expensive? That is an obvious question, but one that Cutler never asks in his book. Nor does he mention the effects of taxation, litigation and the free market.

Most Americans who claim to favor socialized healthcare do so because they can’t afford what is on offer (or are trying to elicit the support of those who cannot). Most have no practical experience of how it works in real life. Having been raised in Britain’s NHS (National Health Service), I have seen socialized healthcare from the inside. I have seen the waste, the incompetence and the sheer chaos that inevitably ensues when the Government is allowed to take charge of healthcare.

Yes, I am adamantly against Universal Healthcare. Why? Let me count the ways:

  • We can’t afford it.
  • Government intervention in the free market makes things worse. Why is it that the price of LASIK laser eye surgery – which is hardly ever covered by insurance – has fallen by about 80% in the last 10 years?
  • Universal Healthcare will not lower costs – yet another layer of bureaucracy and regulation will inevitably push costs up. All that it will do is change who pays the bill.
  • Any attempt to forcibly take control of healthcare will result in Doctors retiring or leaving the profession in huge numbers.
  • We can’t afford it: Yes I already mentioned it, but it was so important I thought it worth mentioning twice.

Do I have a better Idea? Actually, I have several; and they will be the subject of an upcoming blog post. And none of them involve getting somebody else to pay my bills.

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