Some of the consequences of increasing government’s role in health care are easy to predict. One is that cutting costs requires cutting the amount of care. That means rationing. People judged not deserving of care would be denied it.
Another is that if government uses its increased bargaining power to lower drug prices, there will be less money for R&D. That means less innovation. That could well mean the end of increasing life expectancies.
Some people see these consequences and oppose more government in health care (I refuse to call President Obama and Congress’ proposal a reform; that word implies improvement). Others see those same consequences as reasons for supporting proposed legislation.
Today’s issue of OpinionJournal’s Political Diary (requires paid subscription) shows that Robert Reich, who supports government-run health care, realizes its effects on rationing and innovation, supports it anyway, and said so in a public speech at UC Berkeley in 2007.
Mr. Reich told the Berkeley youngsters: “You — particularly you young people, particularly you young healthy people — you’re going to have to pay more. And by the way, if you’re very old, we’re not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It’s too expensive . . . so we’re going to let you die'”
Reich goes on:
“I’m going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid — we already have a lot of bargaining leverage — to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. What that means, less innovation and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market which means you are probably not going to live much longer than your parents.”
Whether you support more government in health care or not is up to you. But it is not disputable that those consequences exist. They should be factored into your opinion. Supporters of proposed legislation should acknowledge the effects of their ideas. Instead, they usually run away from them.
Kudos to Robert Reich for the intellectual honesty he displayed in his speech. More, please.