Thursday, July 30, 2015

The immense cost of cutting off price information in health care

A National Post article explained how the simple act of informing surgeons about the price of some of the items they use can result in huge cost savings, and thus free up money for spending in more beneficial areas.  Unfortunately the article stopped well short of revealing the full importance of this realization.

In a free society the price of a thing is the indicator of its value relative to all other things.  All the individuals in society prioritize their values using the price integrating mechanism known as the free market.  In this way, millions of people with individual priorities have their say about what is important and what is not.

When a government acts to throttle (regulation) or totally block (monopoly) the price mechanism, the members of society lose the extremely valuable information provided by the price mechanism and thus loses access to the brain power of millions of human beings, substituting for it the opinion and dictates of a few bureaucrats.  No matter how smart the bureaucrats are, it is impossible for them to even come close to applying the reasoning power of the millions who are cut off from the thinking process by government interference.  

This is why a free society sees the price of the most valued things rise so that competitive attention is directed towards that specific area, resulting in higher production, higher efficiency and thus lower costs in the future.  Interference in the price mechanism is thus truly cutting off the values of citizens and leaving them unable to direct competition towards their preferred areas.  A good example in the medical field is laser eye surgery, an area that has seen little government interference and a mostly free price mechanism.  The quality of service has steadily risen while the cost and accessibility of the service has declined to the point where this life-improving treatment is available for just hundreds of dollars per eye.

To provide the best, lowest cost, most diverse market for health care the government must stop using its powers to coerce and punish the producers and consumers of health care services and return to protecting the rights of all citizens to participate and benefit from a free market.

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