Rocky White Wants More Bureaucratic Medicine
by Ari Armstrong, July 18, 2007
Rocky White has got the "good 'ol boy" Western outfit. He's got the personable demeanor and country charm. No doubt he's a fine doctor when it comes to healing people's bodies. But when it comes to health policy, White is peddling snake oil.
In defiance of the Western values of independence, personal responsibility, and liberty, White calls for nearly total government financing of medicine and dramatically more bureaucratic control of medicine in Colorado. White presented his case to the 208 Healthcare Commission on July 17 -- a meeting about which much remains to be said.
I'll evaluate the details of White's proposal at a later date. For now I'll briefly reply to his comments to the Commission, which are available as an mp3 file. (The audio file does not contain White's replies to questions.)
White, who said that he wrote the bill that eventually developed into the authorization of the 208 Commission, claimed that modern American medicine is a "free-market system." Yet White's own comments contradict his claim:
Twenty-three percent of our patient population is Medicaid. Twenty-eight percent of our patient population is Medicare. We lose 30 cents on every dollar that we see in patients in our clinic, by seeing Medicaid patients. So 23 percent of our practice, we're losing 30 cents on the dollar. ... On the 28 percent of the population that is Medicare, we're basically breaking even. So already now we've got 51 percent of our practice where we're either breaking even or losing money. The uninsured population in the San Luis Valley is 24 percent. So you guys do the math. You don't have to be a practicing physician or an economic specialist to understand what we're dealing with in the San Luis Valley.
So, by White's own admission, more than half of the problems that his clinic faced were caused by Medicaid and Medicare. Another presenter stated that, for hospitals, Medicare pays only 75 percent of costs, while Medicaid pays only 65 percent of costs. For White to accuse a non-existent "free-market system" for the failures of America's two largest government-controlled health programs is ludicrous.
Neither is health insurance sold in a free market. As I have reviewed, health insurance is largely controlled by a maze of federal and state controls. Federal tax distortions entrenched high-cost, non-portable, employer-paid insurance, leading to skyrocketing medical costs. Then a myriad of federal and state controls artificially inflated the costs of medical services and insurance even more, making them unaffordable for many.
There is no free market in American medicine. Existing political controls on medicine are the cause of current problems. Yet White's "solution" to the problems caused by political meddling in medicine is to impose more political meddling in medicine.
Why was our system so screwed up? ... [B]elieve me, the last that I wanted to do was to look at a single-payer system as the answer to our health-care system. It was the one solution that went to the bottom of the file cabinet. ... And, finally, I had to come up with the conclusion that until we take away the profit motive of the financing of health care, we cannot fix our system.
Notably, White's proposal would not remove "the profit motive" from Colorado medicine. Instead, it would further replace the profits of voluntary association with the profits of bureaucratic dictates. (After all, various party bootlickers "profited" even in the Soviet economy.) Not only does White's proposal not go "to the bottom of the file cabinet," it merely imposes more of the same types of controls on the existing mess.
White claimed, "I want all the players at the table, and I want them talking." Yet the 208 Commission that White helped to create has now banned from its table any discussion of free-market reforms, reforms that move in the direction of individual rights and voluntary association rather than in the direction of more political control. And not once during his presentation did White suggest that the advocates of freedom and individual rights in medicine be allowed to pull up a chair.