Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's the difference between a gas station and a hospital?

Robert Butler, Executive Director of the Libertarian Party Of Texas, sent me this little gem this morning. 

We hear a lot of Republican and Democrat talking points about healthcare. As Libertarians, it's important that people understand that we have our own voice and our own solutions for the rising costs of healthcare. If you like this story, please forward it to your friends and family by clicking the Forward button below.

So, what is the difference between gas stations and hospitals?

1. Prices - The most obvious difference is price. Gas Stations have big signs advertising their prices so that you as a consumer can decide how much you are willing to pay without even slowing down along the highway. There are federal regulations that prohibit hospitals from advertising and competing based on prices.

2. Upfront Estimates - When you need a mechanic to replace your head gasket, he will give you an upfront estimate of the price. He will often give you a list of less expensive alternatives if they are available. When you ask a surgeon to replace your heart, there are federal regulations and AMA rules that prevent the distribution of price estimates.

3. Competition - If someone wants to build a Gas Station across the street from a competing Gas Station, its quite alright. If someone wants to build a hospital, they have to prove to the Federal Trade Commission that the hospital won't lower prices in the community or cause undue competition.

4. Monopoly - In the early 20th century, the federal government broke up a monopoly on oil and gasoline distribution. In the mid-20th century, they created a monopoly on hospitals and doctors because the American Medical Association said there were too many doctors, too much competition, and doctor's couldn't earn enough money.

Allow me a brief digression....Please go here and then get back to Mr. Butler's excellent email.  The AMA's monopoly is the leading cause of high healthcare costs.  Deregulating this mess would lower costs quicker than any Republicrat or Demoblican scheme ever conceived. Things are expensive when they are scarce (relative to demand).  Ending scarcity or reducing demand is the only way to lower the cost of anything.  It really is that simple.   

5. Do It Yourself - When you go to the Gas Station, you can pay someone to fix your car and fill up your tank, or you can buy what you need to do it yourself. At a hospital or pharmacy, you can't make any decisions on what medications you can take, dosage levels, or treatments. You must have the "official" opinion of a state regulated doctor.

6. Choice - When shopping for mechanics, you can decide to hire your handy neighbor, or find someone with all the latest training and certifications. When shopping for doctors, your only choice is regulated by the state.

7. Purchasing Power - When you buy gasoline, you are paying for the gasoline you actually purchase (and a little extra for the small amount of theft). When you buy healthcare, your price includes a large government imposed subsidy for those who can't afford it, thus making healthcare less affordable to more and more people each year.

So if you wanted to make healthcare cheaper what would you do? Impose more rules or less? Allow competition or create a more restrictive monopoly?

Only the Libertarian Party supports more freedom, more choices, and more competition on healthcare. The Democrats have passed their bill to create a government guaranteed monopoly on health insurance and hospitals. And the Republicans will be campaigning this year on "Repeal and Replace". Yes, Republicans want to repeal or reject the Democrats' reform, and replace it with their own rules, restrictions, and regulations. "Repeal and Replace" is not the answer.

The real answer is to make hospitals a little more like gas stations and end the government's monopoly on healthcare. Vote Libertarian; the revolution is golden. 
Go here to double the effectiveness of any contribution you make to the Libertarian Party. 


Anonymous said...

Not true about choice. Many people use holistic and homeopathic medicine. My understanding is that there's not a lot of repeat business, but the alternatives are clearly there.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see sources on these things you are saying. Citations, links, that type of thing. What you are saying is interesting and if it is true would certainly put a whole different spin on the health care debate.

Christopher said...

People have the choice to go to a witch doctor too. I don't think that really matters. Your ability to choose more ostensibly effective treatments IS diminished by government intervention.

Casey said...

I can fill up my gas tank because it tells me how much I need and I understand that this is the only product I need to use.

MY BODY IS NOT A CAR. I do not want to be prescribing myself medication or taking higher doses based on my limited knowledge of what they.

Anonymous said...

>I can fill up my gas tank because it tells me how much I need and I understand that this is the only product I need to use.

How bout replacing a head gasket? Or rebuilding the clutch? You wouldn't dare do these things on your own, but that doesn't mean the Government needs to step in and regulate the industry into oblivion.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Or, we could all continue down the road toward the plan like they have in place in New Freakin' Jersey, where people can't even pump their own gasoline at service stations.

Let's just intervene in everybody's stuff for the good of everybody.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

This is another great post! Even if Butler did all the writing!!!

Dr Ralph said...

I was not going to comment (given my new resolve to avoid pointless and ugly arguments) then it occurred to me there is a "win-win" outcome to at least part of your plan.

If you're right and some community college grad or a neighbor who likes to tinker can do a better job dispensing medical advice (and pills) than someone who's gone to medical school, put in years of residency and passed a rigorous exam, well think of all the money you'll save.

And if you're wrong, after the funeral I won't have to listen to this nonsense anymore.


Dr Ralph said...

PS -- when are you going to write your Mississippi Memoirs? The world is waiting!

Dr Ralph said...

...That previous remark seems a bit harsh in hindsight.

Let's just say I know what I'm talking about when I say self-medication is not all it's cracked up to be.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

The absence of a Certificate of Political and Federal Election Exposition License (CoP a FEEL) hasn't stopped you from making political commentary!

Tarrant Liberty Guy
Certificate of Political Utterances & Libertarian and Transformation of Republicanism License #249584
CoPULaToR License #249584

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Man... that's my worst post ever.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Actually... think UL (Underwriter's Laboratories) logo... or the National Association of Security Dealers License (even though required by a friggin law)...

But you get the idea. Private licensing boards.

Flee said...

Dr. Ralph I'm still laughing...I'm using your arugment next time my brother starts with me! I'm trying real hard to adopt your resolve to avoid pointless and ugly arugments!

Fester said...

Dr. Ralph, I have two Japanese friends, both are doctors. They went college for only 6 years total, entering medical school right out of high school. Are you going to tell me that the skill level of Japanese doctors is significanly less than that of American doctors who spend 11 years or more training to become doctors? There are other models that could be just as effective as the model the government and the AMA are shoving down our throats, but with government it is one size fits all and anyone who doesn't like it can go to hell.

Many countries have less strict prescription requirements and it is not creating many issues, if you can find a study that indicates that since things like antibiotics are over the counter in Germany or over the counter birth control in Mexico is causing all kinds of problems, I would like to see it.