Yesterday I spoke to a conservative political think tank in Richmond and one of the other speakers was a Republican state Senator running for re-election. She gave a short list of her greatest accomplishments while in office so far, one of which was a bill requiring hospitals to give estimated cost of services if you ask.
Offering this as a great example of "across the aisle" diplomacy, was appalling. Of course the Democrats would love this bill--they love anything that creates more regulations and government intrusion. And for a conservative Republican to sponsor and then be proud of more regulations is the problem with the Republicans. Further, she vowed to carry on the idea and require it on all private physicians too.
The bill carries no penalty if a hospital refuses. It carries no penalty if the estimate is off by 100 percent. The hospital can say any old silly and comply with the law. It's completely toothless.
But beyond that, it seems to me that the conservative theme would be not heaping more regulations on the medical community, but getting the government out of the medical community. How about letting anyone who wants to start a hospital do so, without a "certificate of need?" How about letting someone who wants to start a hospital that discriminates against people start one? If it's their business and their money, if they want to serve only Hindu Vietnamese bald people, what right do I, you, or the government have of forcing them to serve others?
As I sat there and listened, I became painfully aware of just how ubiquitous "government oversight" is in our culture now. You can scarcely spit or pee without a license and some bureaucrat telling you how to do it, where to do it, when to do it, and how much to do.
Isn't it interesting that Franklin Roosevelt's wartime (WWII) government interventions in wages and salaries forced employers to offer health insurance instead. If they couldn't adjust pay scales, they had to offer something to reward excellence, so they picked health insurance.
When people quit being responsible for their own health care, the government penetrated farther and then when folks don't like what they have, rather than extricating the government from health care, folks want more. This is Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing and hoping for different results.
If the problem is the government, then reduce its involvement; don't give it additional responsibility. I would tell people upset about hospitals not giving service estimates: "go to one who will, use social media to expose your interactions, write letters to the editor, agitate, and when enough people begin demanding it, some will offer it. Those will get more business and the opaque ones will dry up."
Oh, that's right, hospitals aren't businesses. Or are they? See how convoluted things get when you have hybrid public-private entities? A public institution does not have to cotton to the marketplace; it's above clients. So everyone can finger point, in a big circle, and nobody needs to do anything. If I were running for office, I would campaign hard to eliminate government involvement in health care, completely, finally, and comprehensively. My comprehensive health care would be you're in charge of your wellness and nobody is going to use the government's gun to extract money from a neighbor for your health care. While that has its own imperfections, the net imperfections are far fewer than the ones currently foisted upon us by a government monopoly.
Government health care makes no differentiation between folks who eat well and those who don't. Folks who exercise or those who don't. Folks who get all the infant vaccines and those who don't. Folks who smoke and those who don't. Folks who use drugs and those who don't. Folks who follow the Kardashians and those who don't. Folks who gamble at Las Vegas and those who don't. Folks who eat at McDonald's and those who don't. I'm offended that folks who engage risky behavior get to use societal violence at the end of a gun to extract my wealth to pay for their wellness. It's just not fair.
Do you think I should pay for your surgery? If so, what else do you want to use violence (government gun) to make me pay for?