In Which I Respond to One Question from Monday’s CNN/Tea Party Debate

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Before I get to Michele Bachmann, I want to just — you’re a physician, Ron Paul, so you’re a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

Ooh! I know the answer! Pick me!

Mr. Blitzer, many hospitals already offer charity care options to uninsured patients — particularly to those whose medical expenses are catastrophic in nature. Only in Psychotic Liberal Fantasy Land would the young man in your hypothetical situation be denied care and left to die.

Of course, the fact that hospitals in the U.S. have to eat the expenses incurred while caring for the indigent and uninsured does translate into higher costs for those who can pay their medical bills. After all, said hospitals do have to balance their checkbooks somehow. But no one has ever explained to my satisfaction how the individual mandate is going to circumvent this problem. When by force of law you obligate your citizens to purchase a service, you increase the demand for that service. When you increase the demand for a service, you increase the price of that service. Supply and demand — it’s not just a theory.

No — what will reduce the cost of health insurance is allowing people greater choice. It’s ludicrous that a young individual in particular should be forced to pay for an insurance plan that covers elective procedures and alternative therapies simply because his state mandates that coverage. Hell, if a guy is healthy and has a good job, he should be allowed to buy a dirt cheap plan that only covers the catastrophic accident/coma/brain cancer scenario.

Let’s let the healthy and reasonably affluent pay for their minor medical incidentals out-of-pocket. At the moment, the true cost of health care is invisible to many people. I suspect that most patients who are insured simply fork over their $20 co-pay and don’t give the matter any more thought. The result? Well, the price of health care – as experienced by the average insured consumer – is artificially capped, and we end up with a health care market that looks very much like the rental market in San Francisco under rent control. People go to the doctor too often for things that don’t really need a doctor’s input, just as some renters in San Francisco snatch up multiple apartments they don’t need just because they can. Consequently, the demand for medical care rises, and so do the costs. Economics 101.  

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