Steven Brill rolled out an 11-part epic in Time to break the news to us that the U.S. health care system sucks.
In just 20,000 words, Brill supplied repeated examples of hospital CEOs who make 7-figure salaries (that’s 1 million or more for us 5-figure proles). And he provided countless examples of poor citizen schmoes who went broke beyond measuring because they had to pay the list prices of things like cancer cures or hospital blood work out of their own pockets, not the pockets of their fellow citizens (Medicare).
I read Brill’s tome, and so did Slate’s Matthew Yglesias, who discussed it — and came to the predictable conclusion that Brill’s “brilliant” work was ultimately a flop because he didn’t come to the predictable liberal conclusion: Which, as all brainwashed Slate readers know, is that we need still more government in government health care.
Yglesias, who impersonates an economist in his blog MoneyBox, complains that Brill didn’t explain why medical costs are so high. Then Yglesias proceeds not to explain why, either. Hilariously, studpidly, he says the solutions to high health care costs are either universal care (Medicare) or price controls.
I didn’t pick on Yglesias, because he’s a person who writes about economics without knowing anything about how economics works. But here’s what I wrote about Brill’s piece to Slate:
Brill’s Time piece was lousy journalism. He took 11 parts to redundantly/repetitively prove that the health care system is horrible. Consumers and taxpayers get screwed. Doctors and hospital czars have obscene salaries and drug companies make huge profits and buy off politicians to write laws that make health care the bloated, wasteful criminal enterprise it is. He proves that health care is not a free market. But he never talks about/explains why it’s not a real market: It’s because government regs and mandates and subsidies and distortions make a real market impossible. Prices are meaningless and impossible to determine or know by consumers who don’t pay them anyway. Could Brill or his editors have not found half a part of his epic to address the idiocy and damage done by third-party payment schemes? (Send my bill for my new knee to those nice taxpayers in Nebraska and Iowa, please, and make sure I get the most expensive new knee medicine can provide.) Plus, how about the effect on prices of our sacred-cow doctor cartel/union, which uses government laws and licensing to keep the number of doctors down and their fat salaries up (and often obscene). It also would have been nice if somewhere in those 11 parts Brill had found a few paragraphs to bring forth an economist (not Paul Krugman) or free-market health care wonks like John Goodman (not the corpulent actor) or Regina Herzlinger of Harvard to explain why and how government (and political) intervention makes a free market in health care impossible. Has anyone not noticed that when governments run things or design things they are always costly and irrational and backward, plus they suck? Our financial crisis. Our war in Afghanistan. Our Post Office? Our war on _____. If we had government Autocare, we’d have millionaire auto mechanics, $20,000 front-end alignments and no one could afford car insurance or repairs unless they were dirt poor or stinking rich. We’d also have the same idiots calling for universal Autocare because of “market failure.”