Reform health care with evidence, not ideology

By Rick Kvam, M.D.
Letters, Rochester (Minn.) Post-Bulletin, Sept. 1, 2011

Dr. Mark Liebow's  op-ed supporting single-payer health care reform flies in the face of current cries for smaller government and less regulation. Good. We need logical strategies, not simplistic formulas, when U.S. health care spending is a $2.1 trillion gorilla menacing every state and federal budget.

Guided by evidence, not ideology, one finds that in health care, the unbridled free market returns a very poor value. We boast the most market-driven health care in the developed world, and, not coincidentally, far and away the most expensive. Our per capita costs are double those of other industrialized nations (in spite of 50 million uninsured!), but our outcomes (life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.) are nevertheless worse. Workers' inability to switch jobs for fear of losing health care coverage (“job lock”) is a major drag on our economy.

Nobel Prize-winner Kenneth Arrow showed almost 50 years ago that health care is a highly imperfect market, and that “the laissez-faire solution for medicine is intolerable.” We can no longer afford to insist on a “uniquely American” system that is uniquely wasteful.

As demonstrated in ALL other developed nations, a coordinated health care system (whether single payer or a private mechanism) will provide better care and cost less. Our health care crisis requires a rational solution, not free market skim milk masquerading as cream.

Dr. Rick Kvam resides in Rochester, Minn.