Ippel: Buying Your Car, Buying Your Healthcare

December 29, 2014

by Bruce Ippel, M.D.

Having a car is very important for most Americans, but cars are technical and dangerous and expensive. What amazes me is how much more safe and comfortable and efficient cars have become in the last 30 years.

Modern healthcare is also technical, dangerous and expensive. Medical and surgical care also has become much safer and more effective than ever before. And buying good healthcare also is important for Americans. This is about the difference between the two.

As a physician who happens to work on his family’s cars, the real-world complexities that bring a modern car and modern healthcare are similar. However, with cars, if you shop around and know how much you can spend, you likely will get a fine, safe product at a good price. Our car companies are keen on delivering exactly what you want (even before you know what you want) and at a price you can afford.

These car companies do it with magic, the magic called the free market. This magic is powered by you making your own decision on where your money can give you the best deal. But healthcare delivery is controlled by government and layers of expert regulators. The magic of the free market, which is the incentive to be creative and efficient and willing to try out good ideas, is totally absent — replaced by well-meaning folks without financial constraints using ineffective tools. Their goal is to not please you but other bureaucrats. The only magic government has is the ability to make large amounts of your money disappear.

But you’re not too stupid to use your experience, plus what your friends say and what’s on the Internet, to buy the kind of healthcare you want at a price you’re willing to pay. Whenever and wherever else you’re allowed to shop around, you do it well — cars, groceries, cell phones, you name it. You could have killed yourself or your children if you had bought defective cars or groceries. That hasn’t happened. Why? The same market magic protects you all the time, you and all those around you.

How did you and your doctor miss out on this magic and get buried in this terrible healthcare delivery set up? We’re all guilty, Democrat and Republican, it doesn’t matter. Politicians know it’s much easier to get your vote if they propose some kind of government control to fix the healthcare situation. And as with the drug “problem,” every time they fix it the problem gets worse.

If a less-government-is-better candidate proposes the kind of free-market solution that works for everything else, he or she would face millions of bucks from the healthcare industry. Their campaigns would die a quick death. Moreover, we’d need a bunch of such folks elected to make the government back out of healthcare. On top of that, we’d have to buy them time for the magic to work — a several-years-long chance to work, all the while being bombarded by screaming media about how the sky is falling.

We’ve been duped into dreaming the dream that government can give us pie in the sky.

Bruce Ippel, M.D., is a solo rural family physician in central Indiana and an adjunct scholar of the foundation. He and his wife of 42 years have 10 children. For the last 38 years, Dr. Ippel has run a private “hardscrabble” clinic serving the under-served.

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