Single payer: rationing both ideas and medicine

BBC News reports that British “doctors are keeping cancer patients in the dark about expensive new drugs that could extend their lives.” Why? Rationing under the UK’s single-payer health care. Single-payer advocates Lyn Gullette and Barry Karlin have done something similar to Camera readers regarding health care reform options (Guest Opinion, September 3). They are trying to ration ideas.

Gullette and Karlin claim that “our choices” in changing health policy include either various ways of increasing political intervention in medicine, or doing nothing.  They neglect to mention reforms that increase individual liberty by decreasing political intervention. After all, politicians control almost half of all medical spending in the U.S. and subject insurance, doctors, and treatments to many more controls.  Are they, like the British doctors withholding treatment options, deliberately not mentioning free-market health reforms?

Gullette and Karlin decry “‘pretend’ reform that advances profits to the insurance industry or prevents effective change.”  So why do they not explain how free-market reforms can address this? Current law punishes us for buying insurance directly from insurers rather than through our employer. It forbids us from buying more affordable policies available in other states. These policies coddle insurance companies and shield them from competition.

British doctors withheld treatment options so as not to “distress, upset or confuse” patients. But British patients deserve to know the ill effects of politically-controlled medicine. So do American readers. Gullette and Karlin should be honest brokers when claiming to present a menu of health care reform options.

This originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on September 5, 2009.

Thanks to Ari Armstrong for suggesting that the authors were rationing ideas.

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