American theoretical health research financed by the National Institutes of Health and by American market-oriented pharmaceutical companies outshines the rest of the world combined. And the rest of the world tends to get the benefits at cut rates. American taxpayers finance NIH, which reports results publicly to the whole world.
Pharmaceutical companies that produce benefits for patients and consumers get the profits that support their research disproportionately from Americans, because other countries refuse to spend much more than the cost of producing pills, which is trivial next to the huge cost of research and regulatory approval. Getting these free riders to pay more is, again, Sisyphus's work.
The Democratic health care bills threaten to undermine innovation in pharmaceuticals and medical technologies by sending those with private insurance into a government insurance plan that would be in a position to ration treatment and delay or squelch innovation. The danger is that we will freeze medicine in place and no longer be the nation that produces innovations that do so much for us and the rest of the world.
We are quick to grow irritated with the imperfections of our health care system and with the inefficiencies inevitable (because there is just one buyer) in military procurement. But our grouchiness should not keep up from losing sight of the wondrous American ingenuity and creativity of the American military and American medicine.
It is ironic that an administration that promised hope and change is instead pursuing policies that could stifle American creativity. It is encouraging that, on health care, so many Americans are recoiling from that prospect and, as polls show, starting to appreciate the wonders of American achievement.
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