America’s desperate need to learn from other countries’ apparently superior medical systems is a constant trope of leftist health care policy wonkery, but rarely do comparative analyses go past simplistic single-payer cheerleading. In the latest issue of The American Interest, however, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry performs the valuable service of looking more closely at a few examples of global systems. While noting that they cannot be automatically transplanted, Gobry highlights several features of health care in other countries that seem to work better than U.S. medicine in crucial ways, including innovation in India and smart policy in Singapore.Gobry argues that these successes, though they look very different across varied national contexts, share one principle in common: “They put as many decisions as humanly feasible in the hands of individual consumers.” Read the whole thing to see how in particular that principle is honored in other systems (for more on the lessons offered by India and Singapore, see previously TAI coverage here, here, and here). He then enumerates six key myths that prevent Americans from dispassionately discerning how global health care achievements could be carefully applied to the American context. Myth number five, that health care is unlike any other good or service, is of particular interest. A taste:
Every previous myth is really a consequence of this myth. The thing almost everyone agrees on is that health care is special, unlike every other good or service, and therefore the rules that apply to every other good or service do not apply to health care. Health care is different, and therefore government must run it. Health care is different, so of course a “free market”, as we see in America (and which does not exist), will be a disaster. Health care is different, so it cannot be insured the way everything else is insured. Health care is different, so of course technology gets more expensive as it gets better. Health care is different, so of course people cannot make their own decisions.
Compelling confirmation that this myth is false came recently in the form of a study on cost transparency, which we recently covered here. When informed about the prices of two differently priced but equally effective appendectomy procedures, parents choose the less expensive one for their children. The study found, contra the dogmas that prevail in certain health care circles, that when given the option parents will act not only as rational medical consumers for themselves, but also on behalf of their children. Rational shopping does not disappear just because we have entered “the health care realm,” as Gobry points out. Read the rest of his piece for a dissections of other crucial myths—and for the lessons we could learn from abroad if only we would allow ourselves.