With government's role in health care a major issue both locally and nationally, we cannot help but take issue with Dr. Merlin K. DuVal's ill-informed attack on the private sector that appears elsewhere on these pages.
We won't defend obscene multimillion-dollar salaries for health-insurance bigwigs. Indeed, the very competition that DuVal disparages would go a long way toward curbing such excesses.
To use DuVal's own words, his little lecture on the economics of health care and education is “sheer nonsense.” First of all, neither education nor health care are “goods” in the sense of tangible commodities. Anyone who passed Economics 101 knows they are services — intangible yet valuable.
Furthermore, the law of supply and demand applies to both goods and services. DuVal claims that education isn't consumed, “but is still there for another child. It is a public good.” But he ignores the fact that there is not an unlimited supply; the supply is limited by the availability of qualified teachers as well as funding, suitable facilities, books, equipment and supplies.
Health care is subject to similar limits, although DuVal appears to entertain the fantasy that if government were the sole provider there would be no limits. That, of course, is hogwash, and the sorry experiences of both Canada and the United Kingdom, where public health services are rationed, proves it.
Ironically, perhaps the closest thing to a free market in health care is the federal government's own employee health-benefit system. As a former federal employee, DuVal should be familiar with it. Federal workers, including members of Congress, can choose among a wide variety of health-coverage providers.
Also, contrary to DuVal's assertion, individuals can and do make educated health coverage choices. Young married workers with children may choose coverage that's distinct from what single workers or older married workers would choose.
DuVal also ignores a whole category of major players in health care: private, non-profit insurance providers such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and health-care providers such as Banner Health. To the extent we move toward a competitive health-care model, these organizations will have a positive impact on pricing as well as quality and availability of services.
Just as in education, a freer market in health care is not only possible but necessary.