I have been listening to the healthcare debate with some interest. I mean, this proposed legislation may be the most expensive entitlement program in the history of the United States.
One of the key arguments is that healthcare expenses continue to rise faster than other goods and services. You know, that argument may or may not be a good argument for the healthcare bills currently undergoing review.
Consider this simple example: When I was a child, I knew someone who injured his foot while mowing the lawn. The foot was badly injured, and because of the extent of the injuries, the foot was amputated. I was chatting with an online friend whose husband was badly injured in a similar fashion, and he is undergoing several reconstructive surgeries. The foot will be saved and functioning. And this summer, I was on a ship, doing the tourist thing. They were talking about the various compartments and what the sailors did in the compartments. One of the things they showed us was a saw, used in shipboard amputations in the 18th and 19th centuries.
It occurs to me that we have made stride in the healthcare we can expect. Two hundred years ago, two strong male nurses held you down while a doctor quickly sawed off the limb. And most of the time, you survived the ampulation. There was no anesthesia, antibiotics and the like, and so the whole procedure was relatively cheap. Twenty years ago, unless you were in some of the best medical centers in the world, you received anesthesia but the foot still was removed. You received antibiotics and your chance of survival was near 100 percent. And the procedure was more expensive. Now with the vascular surgeons and graft specialists, specialized drugs, etc., you are much closer to being made whole, after several surgeries and physical therapy. And the cost rises. But the number and quality of services also has risen.
When people talk about prices rising, one has to consider that over time, the nature of services or goods may change as well, and just looking at cost increases is not the way to go.
Oh, and besides, if you want to talk about escalation of prices – why is that a primary reason to get the government involved in the first place? We live in a free market, and we don't want to trust a free market.
I am not saying we should or should not support healthcare reform. What I am saying is that price escalation should not be listed as a reason in any politician's position paper.