British Columbia’s Supreme Court Gets an F in Healthcare Economics
British Columbia’s supreme court recently upheld the province’s restrictions on privately funded healthcare, despite the pain and suffering inflicted on people who have been victimized by the government’s broken promise to provide universal healthcare. Justice John Steeves said his decision is supported by the economics of healthcare:
[T]he MPA [Medicare Protection Act] is inherently about the maximization of benefits to society at large in the context of the funding and delivery of necessary medical care. Its purpose is tied to the fair allocation of scarce healthcare resources over which there are competing claims. (para. 2890)
[A]ccess to necessary medical services is based on need and not the ability to pay. (para. 21)
Patients are frequently put on a waiting list for the treatment they need today, which means that the MPA has failed to meet its objective. Steeves acknowledges the failure (paras. 1367, 2925, 2938), then justifies it:
[H]ow ever the government designs the regulatory scheme, it will inevitably be to someone’s detriment. This is because decisions need to be made as to how to allocate resources. (para. 2932)
When universal healthcare began, the government did not say that the needs of Mary would be sacrificed to the needs of John, but Steeves unapologetically reveals the gruesome truth, then claims that the economics of healthcare is a suitable defense for the government’s cruel practice of choosing sacrificial lambs. According to him, the emergence of private healthcare would siphon resources away from the public system, thereby lengthening the wait times (paras. 2389, 2904) for vulnerable people who cannot afford to pay for private healthcare (paras. 2304, 2892, 2930, etc.). All of this is supposedly based on evidence and the consensus of experts (para. 2304).
However, the historical record offers compelling evidence that people of lower socioeconomic status were not excluded under a system of private healthcare.
Furthermore, there is a stark contrast in the way that humans respond to positive incentives versus the way we respond to negative incentives. And since every human action is affected by the prevailing incentives, we see that resources are developed and allocated more efficiently when the actual owners of the resources are doing the developing and allocating.
Access to Healthcare
Healthcare has always been available to those who could not afford it. Former US congressman Dr. Ron Paul wrote:
Before those programs [Medicare, Medicaid] came into existence, every physician understood that he or she had a responsibility toward the less fortunate, and free medical care for the poor was the norm. Hardly anyone is aware of this today, since it doesn’t fit into the typical, by-the-script story of government rescuing us from a predatory private sector…. thousands of privately funded charities provided health services for the poor. I worked in an emergency room where nobody was turned away for lack of funds.
These charitable impulses also prevailed in Canada as far back as the mid-nineteenth century, despite opposition from the elitist medical establishment, who were concerned that occupational incomes would be reduced as a result of rank-and-file doctors providing free service. In Sep
Article from Mises Wire