Thomas Sowell
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Although it is cheaper to buy a pint of milk than to buy a quart of milk, nobody considers that to be lowering the price of milk. Although it is cheaper to buy a lower quality of all sorts of goods than to buy a higher quality, nobody thinks of that as lowering the price of either lower or higher quality goods.

Arguing
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Yet, when it comes to medical care, there seems to be remarkably little attention paid to questions of both quantity and quality, in the rush to "bring down the cost of medical care."

There is no question that you can reduce the payments for medical care by having either a lower quantity or a lower quality of medical care. That has already been done in countries with government-run medical systems.

In the United States, the government has already reduced payments for patients on Medicare and Medicaid, with the result that some doctors no longer accept new patients with Medicare or Medicaid. That has not reduced the cost of medical care. It has reduced the availability of medical care, just as buying a pint of milk reduces the payment below what a quart of milk would cost.

Letting old people die instead of saving their lives will undoubtedly reduce medical payments considerably. But old people have that option already-- and seldom choose to exercise it, despite clever people who talk about a "duty to die."

A government-run system will take that decision out of the hands of the elderly or their families, and thereby "bring down the cost of medical care." A stranger's death is much easier to take, especially if you are a bureaucrat making that decision in Washington.

At one time, in desperately poor societies, living on the edge of starvation, old people might be abandoned to their fate or even go off on their own to face death alone. But, in a society where huge flat-screen TVs are common, along with a thousand gadgets for amusement and entertainment, and where even most people living below the official poverty line own a car or truck, to talk about a "duty to die" so that younger people can live it up is obscene.

You can even save money by cutting down on medications to relieve pain, as is already being done in Britain's government-run medical system. You can save money by not having as many high-tech medical devices like CAT scans or MRIs, and not using the latest medications. Countries with government-run medical systems have less of all these things than the United States has.

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Thomas Sowell

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

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