Robert E. Freer

“In a humane health care system, as much of the rest of the world has, no one would have to know the arcane minutiae of how to apply for a high risk pool. Everyone would have (coverage) that qualifies you for health care when and where you need it.” — Liz Jacobs, a health care advocate and spokeswoman for the group National Nurses United

Far from Ms. Jacobs’ ideal, much of the rest of the world does not have a health care system at all, humane or not. To most of the world, “a high risk pool” is a large body of water.

Medical care and insurance are commodities, not rights. In the U.S., the privately funded portion of our competitive system is in constant flux as new medicines, new procedures, new cures are found and delivered to the American people. The public portion of this delivery system is over managed, yet chaotic, detached from the everyday realities of medicine on the front lines.

Commodities cost money. The reality is that all parts of the system have costs, and private enterprise is better situated to find those efficiencies that will lead to the lowest cost through competition. A publicly financed system professing responsibility for all runs up against Margaret Thatcher’s truth that ultimately you run out of other people’s money and must stop.

The inevitable accomplishment of such a system is to force a declining quality of care on the public by removing the competitive dynamism that characterizes our mixed system. Left to the forces of the free market, consumers have choices regarding commodities that they purchase. With government interference, and most especially an attempt by government to manage/control an entire industry constituting more than one sixth of the economy, the consumer will be pushed out of the market and left with fewer choices.

Because the risks of failure are universally personal and life altering, medical care, however, is not just another commodity, that is why doctors are required to complete so much medical education, internships, and residency service. That is also why the prime directive of medical practice is: “First, do no harm.”

Robert E. Freer

Professor Freer is the BB&T Visiting Professor in Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C., after a career in law, government, and corporate management spanning a half century. Professor Freer served as a government trial attorney, assistant to two Chairmen of the Federal Trade Commission, and for the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Picked by Kimberly–Clark Corporation to be its Washington Counsel, he became its youngest vice-president and was responsible for its representation before all governmental bodies, and for energy management and environmental compliance and control. Following his retirement from Kimberly-Clark, he was a principle in several law firms, including his own mid-sized Washington firm, and came to the academic realm as the first John S. Grinalds Leader in Residence at The Citadel and as an adjunct professor at The Charleston School of Law.

Prof. Freer was part of a very small team working with Casper Weinberger and Edwin Meese to create the structure for the Reagan Administration’s transition. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a Commissioner of the White House Fellows Commission and served as Captain of the Grace Commission’s Land Team. He also served as Assistant General Counsel of four Republican National Conventions.

Prof. Freer founded the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel’s Association in 1979. He followed that as the co-founder of the Republican National Lawyers Association in 1985, Washington Episcopal School in 1986, of which he remains Chairman Emeritus, Lawyers for the Republic in 1988, the U.S. Cuba Business Council in 1993, and the Free Enterprise Foundation in 2002, for which he is the current chairman.

Dr. Freer has also edited and authored several books: Finding Our Roots, Facing Our Future: America in the 21st Century, Citadel Values I and II, and the novel, Eagles Quest under the pseudonym Elliott Robins.