Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bad Babs

People who think that government intervention will decrease health care costs are extraordinarily naive.

The Senate took the first tangible step Thursday in what will likely be weeks of wrangling over health care, approving a measure by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski designed to enhance insurance coverage of mammograms and other screening tests for women by making them free of charge.

Making medical procedures "free of charge" does not make them free, it simply means someone else will have to pay for them. When others are footing the bill, services will be over-consumed, therefore raising costs of the procedures (or requiring that patients accept lower quality screenings or have to wait a long time to get the screenings). This is as certain as the law of gravity.

Like a true politician, Mikulski's prepared statement for the press uses all the popular buzzwords (even stupidly referring to health care as a "women's issue") while overlooking all the unintended consequences that will result from this mandate on insurance companies.

"This amendment makes sure that the insurance companies must cover the basic care that women need at no cost," she said. Mikulski called health care "a women's issue" and demanded "universal access" to "key preventive services" for women, including annual screenings for heart disease and diabetes.

I have deep sympathy for anyone who believes that a bunch of politicians are going to meaningfully reform health care, considering those same politicians haven't figured out that current government regulation (perverse tax incentives, licensure of doctors, the FDA, etc.) is what makes health care such a mess to begin with. As any good doctor will tell you, you can't treat a disease until you make the correct diagnosis.