August 17 2010
IWF's Sabrina Schaeffer pointed out recently that when the government takes control, people in power are forced to pick winner and losers. This is true in many cases, but perhaps we should be most concerned about who the winners and losers will be in health care reform. Health is vital to our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. And the decisions about what kind of care we need are very personal.
I read an article from The Fiscal Times that sadly illustrates the lack of wisdom in a government-run health care system. The article explained that a recent decision by the FDA would allow insurers (including Medicare and Medicaid) to refuse to pay for Avastin, an expensive breast cancer drug.
Of course believers in the free market (like me) will say that no insurer should be forced to cover certain drugs, but should have complete choice in order to pass the lowest costs on to consumers. However, the most recent health care reform legislation - the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - is a long way from a free market approach to health care. In fact, it is the opposite. It relies on the government to collect taxes that vary according to an individual's income, and then to distribute health care benefits that vary according to an individual's needs. And then, most concerning, it relies on the government to make decisions about what is best for our health as individuals. Of course our society wants to care for those who are truly in need, but a government-run system is an inefficient, unfair way to do this.
The fact is this: the FDA and 47 new bureaucratic entities created by the PPACA will be the ones making choices about which drugs are in and which drugs are out. Legislation will require Medicare and Medicaid to cover some drugs and not others, and, in efforts to lower costs, the programs will be forced to offer only the drugs that are required or that are cheap.
When we use government as a means to control costs, it will be lawmakers and politicians who decide which drugs are covered for which people. This should matter most to Americans in middle-to-low-income groups who can't afford to pay full price for these very expensive drugs. Whichever type of insurance you choose, you should be able to talk to your doctor about which drugs are right for you. If Uncle Sam has to be present at every consultation between doctor and patient, he's going to fail. There are too many unique people with unique needs in the United States to leave important decisions about prescription drug coverage up to the government. There seems to be no end in sight to the government's choice of winners and losers. Brace yourself, because you might be losing out next.