Reforming Healthcare: Look to traffic cops and football

Many very intelligent and perceptive conservatives have advocated free market steps that would "bend the curve" of healthcare costs downward. However, I believe that with intelligent reform based upon tried and true principles we can do better than that. We can start a whole new curve! This should be the goal of reforming the way we pay for healthcare. If we do nothing but bend the curve slightly lower, we will find ourselves faced with a system that still rises along a curve that has been artificially elevated since 1965.

Our healthcare system is not a free market system and our economic system, though identified as such, is not really a free market system. True, no system could ever be completely unregulated unless there were no laws. Few would advocate such an approach.  That would be analogous to a free and unfettered traffic system with no lights or traffic cops. Anarchy would result.

Just as the traffic laws are supposed to regulate the otherwise free flow of orderly traffic, government was supposed to regulate the otherwise free flow of commerce to ensure that accepted rules were observed. Traffic lights are not designed to ensure that bicycles catch up with sports cars. Speed limits are posted to prevent accidents, not to prevent some people from arriving at their destinations sooner than others. Police do not slow traffic down so slower vehicles can catch up.

Government has crossed the line from its intended regulatory function and has gotten into the game, choosing favorites and obstructing traffic so that favored groups can catch up. This has resulted in a huge traffic jam in which all are held back.

Let's suppose that there were two football teams called, for simplicity, the red and blue teams, locked in gridiron battle. Recently, the government had taken over the referee's union in order to "increase competition." Let's suppose that a receiver for red team catches a pass and it's first and goal. On the following play, another pass is thrown, when suddenly a referee jumps up, catches the ball and runs out of bounds. The blue team is given the ball on its own ten yard line with a first down. All of us, especially fans of the red team, would be incensed. Instead of acting as referees, making sure that all teams play by accepted rules, the government has gotten into the game.

The feds claim it is done because they want to "help" the disadvantaged team and increase competition.  However, we can no longer determine by fair play which team is better, or which really wins. The referees determine that by interfering in the game.

What would be the ramifications of this system? Well, the team that spent more time and money on becoming better would have had made their investment for nothing. They have paid more for the highest caliber coaches and the best players. In turn, they hoped to reap rewards by moving into the playoffs, selling more tickets and winning endorsements. Now, they can expect none of that.  Other businesses that invested in the team also lose. The franchise holders who sell souvenirs, the hot dog venders and the ticket companies all lose money and their employees lose jobs.  The team realizes that there is no point in excelling, so they stop trying and drift into mediocrity.

On the other hand, the losing team suffers as well. The limited investment they made in poor coaching staff and inferior players has not adversely affected them. Their shorter practice hours have resulted in no undesired consequences. However, over time people stop buying tickets because they recognize that the team is terrible. They stop practicing at all and become even worse. There is no reason to work hard because no matter how bad they are the referees will help them. The bad team slides even further into the depths of incompetence. The playing field has been leveled and both teams are now worse than before. Yes, the ticket prices are lower, but the quality is much poorer. Over time, the poorer team forgets how to play football entirely but they get points for just coming to the stadium.

Some football teams try to remain competitive, and for a time part of the league demands that their independent referees not interfere. It costs more to see their games, but they are really good games. Let's say that currently about 60% of the games are controlled by the new federal referees. However, the federal referees also want to control the other 40%. The cost of seeing good football games has increased substantially. Some people never get to see a good game. Many are denied access when they try to enter the stadiums of the good teams because there are too many people and the ticket prices are higher. We are now faced with a "football crisis."

So, how would we fix the problem?  Would we invent a complex new football system?  Would we increase the role of the government referees so that competition could be increased?  The new system might restrict the kinds of plays allowed to those most amenable to interference.  If running the ball were eliminated, referees would have more opportunity to intercept passes and increase competition. Perhaps we would then increase the number of footballs and players allowed on the field. Or, in order to "increase competition" among teams, maybe we would increase the number of referees to eleven and simply allow them to play as they wished. Whichever teams were best able to strategize to decrease the effect of the referees would be most successful. Better yet, those teams most able to play along with the referees would always win.

Of course, any sensible person would recognize the proper way to "reform" football would be to simply get the referees out of the game as players, not allow them to continue to interfere in 60% of games while improving the rules for the other 40%. The referees should be restricted to unbiased regulation of the game. They should not be allowed to interfere on behalf of a team that had poorer players, an incompetent coach or spent less time training.

But, football is just a game. Then why is it the case that meaningless games are run fairly but the same simple principles are not applied to the economy in areas such as home mortgages and healthcare? We can easily understand how it would be impossible to run traffic or sports in such a manner but many are persuaded that other, much more important aspects of our lives can be successfully managed this way.

The old and corrupt rules must be thrown out if we are to really salvage healthcare, our economy, and our Liberty. Government must be relegated to the role it was intended to play. It should keep all of the players honest, but it should never itself be a player in the game. How can any sane and well meaning person fail to see the truth in this? The frightful answer is that they could not.