Swaying Hearts and Minds to Free Enterprise in Healthcare — Part I (of 3): Planting the Seeds of Freedom

May 23, 2016

The Blog post was written by a BRI Student Leader who wishes to remain anonymous.

Just a few weeks ago, I departed Benjamin Rush Institute’s 4th Annual Leadership Conference emboldened in my beliefs that a strong free enterprise system—including political equality, the rule of law, transparency, and limited regulation—offers American healthcare its best chance to rein in costs, foster innovation, and serve the needs of the poor.

Throughout the conference, students, physicians, and policy leaders discussed not only the solutions to healthcare problems, but how we will go about beginning difficult conversations with those who disagree. Dr. Arthur C. Brooks, PhD, eminent conservative scholar and American Enterprise Institute president, spoke directly to this notion when he introduced the subject of political motive asymmetry. That is, many people in the United States today believe that their beliefs and intentions are virtuous while those of the opposition are rooted in selfishness and maleficence. “Conservatives hate the poor,” cry liberals. “Liberals are ruining America,” the Right screams back — hence, our current state of gridlock and malcontent with Washington D.C.

To make strides on the many issues we face, the political spectrum must be willing to enter into respectful, good faith discourse on the issues. In the words of Brooks, we must not be uniform in our beliefs, but we must be unified in our respect for each other.

BRI free enterprise in healthcare

Therefore, I relished the opportunity when it presented itself recently, to begin a dialogue with several of my liberal friends on the effects of free enterprise in healthcare. Although I may not have flipped their opinions, I hope I planted ideas in their minds that will inspire them to think critically about the path forward. The debate was productive because it began with recognition of our common ground: a desire to restore sanity to a system that has become untenable to navigate and pay for.

Although it is feasible to obtain competent knowledge of policy through diligent study, facilitating transformative discourse takes delicate skill and much practice. The healthcare solutions we desire to implement will not occur unless we begin changing the hearts and minds of those who oppose us. I implore you to begin planting free market idea seeds now, so one day soon people across this great nation will reap the rewards.

Because I have taken on having conversations with many people as a way to advance understanding free enterprise in healthcare, over the next few weeks I will share the main questions and arguments I have encountered. I hope that others will find them interesting and empowering so that more of us can also promote these vital ideas . . . all while never forgetting to start from a basis of mutual respect, while not losing one’s vision or principles.

I’ll start with the most pervasive and overarching myth and misconception, namely that…

We already have a system that is close to being a free market, and it’s produced the catastrophe we are in today. What makes you think more free enterprise reforms will improve American healthcare?

As it stands today, the US healthcare system is far from a “free” market. Over the last half-century, the market has faced unprecedented new regulatory and administrative burdens in addition to the entrance of the government as the largest “payer” for healthcare. In parallel with the establishment of government health programs (Medicare and Medicaid), our system has become infuriatingly convoluted. Government, both state and federal, impose undue regulatory burdens on doctors and insurers that unanimously confuse all parties while placing unnecessary burdens on the delivery of care. The cost of these regulatory and administrative burdens is ultimately passed on to privately insured individuals and US taxpayers—who are often the same people.

A fundamental characteristic of free enterprise is the individual’s ability to engage in mutually beneficial, voluntary exchange. Unfortunately, American healthcare has evolved in a manner that distorts individuals’ decision-making ability, especially when it comes to price and quality. Patients find it nearly impossible to make informed decisions for themselves because prices are either hidden from view or distorted by a mass of tangled insurance benefits. Our healthcare providers are forced to accept intense administrative oversight and to collectively spend billions of dollars on administrative staff in order to receive payments for their services from insurers. Physicians are increasingly forced to practice within a confined environment with reduced autonomy to make the right decisions for their patients. Instead of being completely attentive to what is right for their individual patients, providers are influenced by what the government and private insurance will reimburse them for.

If we had a true free enterprise system in healthcare, every person would have the ability to make informed medical decisions without the disruption of intermediaries. Empowering both producers and consumers of care to participate in mutually beneficial, voluntary exchange without coercion is key to improving the American healthcare system.

I hope this has given you some food for thought and more than talking points supporting free enterprise in healthcare — substantial facts and evidence to bring to any respectful discussion, whether you seek to inform those against free market healthcare, or if you are currently one who opposes free market healthcare. Please stay tuned for Part II: What about the Poor? And, How should doctors be paid?


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