Earlier we discussed the concept that libertarians, contrary to popular conception, are not anti-government, but simply want to limit government to its proper role of guarding against aggression.
We can look to specific examples to see that principle in action.
Consider health care for a moment. Early indications from California’s implementation suggest that the Affordable Care Act is having its intended effects at a lower premium than predicted, lauded by supporters in a “so there” spirit. Such misses the entire question of how much better and more affordable health care would be if government stayed out of the health care industry altogether.
Government has a legitimate interest in protecting citizens against violence and fraud. Otherwise, what is the justification for interfering in transactions between willing participants such as doctors and patients?
Government regulations limit the supply of doctors through artificial licensing requirements enforced by law, which drives the price up and limits access.
Required government paperwork increases costs of operations, making it more difficult for newcomers (who traditionally compete via lower prices) to enter the field, and discouraging independent practitioners in favor of large organizations.
Government regulation of medical supplies and drugs tremendously increases the cost of bringing a drug to market and limits innovation.
Government regulations and policies for insurance companies greatly limit competition and encourage a third-party-payer mentality that separates the consumer from the cost of services, driving the cost up because of both a lack of oversight and an unnecessary middleman.
All these are so deeply embedded in American society going at least back to World War II that it is difficult to calculate the real cost of such ill-advised interference in an area government was not designed to address. However, a recent news story gives some indication.
A story reported in the Bangor Daily News tells about a doctor who has stopped accepting any form of insurance, either public or private. While his practice dropped from a couple of thousand patients by “several hundred,” Dr. Michael Ciampi told the newspaper he expects his practice to perform as well or better financially because of the great decrease in his expenses.
That decrease has allowed him to drop his prices as well. He told BDN that under insurance, he had to charge $160 for an office visit with an existing patient facing one or more complicated health problems. Now, he charges $75, and that patients with an earache or strep throat can avoid spending $300 at a hospital emergency room with an appointment at his office that will only cost $50.
Ciampi said he collects payment at the end of the visit, freeing him of the time and costs associated with sending bills.
That has the additional advantage of giving him more time to spend directly with patients rather than handing them off to physician’s assistants.
In brief, the change allows him to serve his patients the way he sees fit rather than the way insurance company and Medicare policies dictate.
For sake of argument allow that regulators are motivated by a desire to protect society rather than by petty tyranny. Experience shows that unintended side effects simply increase the costs, while creating secondary problems, exacerbating the original problem, or failing to solve any problems.