Thomas Sowell

Politicians can throw rhetoric around about "bringing down the cost of health care" or they can even throw numbers around. But the numbers that politicians are throwing around don't match the numbers that the Congressional Budget Office finds when it analyzes the hard data.

An old advertising slogan said, "Progress is our most important product." With politicians, confusion is their most important product. They confuse bringing down the price of medical care with bringing down the cost. And they confuse medical care with health care.

Nothing is easier than for governments to impose price controls. They have been doing this, off an on, for thousands of years-- repeatedly resulting in (1) shortages, (2) quality deterioration and (3) black markets. Why would anyone want any of those things when it comes to medical care?

Refusing to pay the costs is not the same as bringing down the cost. That is why price controls create these problems. When developing a new pharmaceutical drug costs roughly a billion dollars, you are either going to pay the billion dollars or cause people to stop spending a billion dollars to develop new drugs.

The confusion of "health care" with medical care is the crucial confusion. Years ago, a study showed that Mormons live a decade longer than other Americans. Are doctors who treat Mormons so much better than the doctors who treat the rest of us? Or do Mormons avoid doing a lot of things that shorten people's lives?

The point is that health care is largely in your hands. Medical care is in the hands of doctors. Things that depend on what doctors do-- cancer survival rates, for example-- are already better here than in countries with government-run medical systems. But, if political rhetoric prevails, we may yet sell our birthright and not even get the mess of pottage.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate

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