August 25, 2009

Running into the Arms of Government

Justin Katz

The reader really must sympathize with Froma Harrop's frustration and ire, and I'm truly sorry for the loss of her husband. The conclusions to which she comes, from that point of view, are, however, plain wishful thinking based on an idealization of an alternative straw to grasp:

An economic note: In 2006, William "Dollar Bill" McGuire, CEO of parent-company UnitedHealth Group, walked off with a $1.1 billion golden parachute (on top of the $500 million he had already raked in) — though he had to return some of it in an options-backdating scandal.

What we wouldn't have done to have traded Dollar Bill's minions for a government bureaucrat. The bureaucrat would have given a simple "yes" or "no" based on official guidelines. He or she would have had no personal stake in denying you care.

Government office workers are not mere binary switches in a machine of rigid operation. Observe, even, the ordeal of some Tiverton students who wished to attend an out-of-district public school. Officials within the system led the families to believe that they were all set until, with less than a month to go before the resumption of classes, five strangers with no qualifications beyond the ability to garner a few thousand townie votes decided that the district could not risk setting a precedent.

Rather than simply imagining the purity of a government system, we would be better served to focus on the question of how McGuire was able to siphon billions from his company without putting it at a fatal competitive disadvantage. Until some employment changes enabled me to switch, a month or so ago, I also had UnitedHealth insurance, and were that still the case, I would have no realistic means of reacting, as a consumer, to Harrop's dramatic warning about the company's method of "service."

The problem that we face is that government mandates and regulations have created a mirror image, in the private sector, of a government program. With or without a public option, increased regulation means fewer entities able to clear the bar and enter or remain in the market, which means fewer providers seeking to exploit each other's excesses and affronts.

Harrop laments that her family had to leverage political influence to get the care that her husband required; the value of such political connections can only go up to the extent that the government involves itself in healthcare.

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Froma has a tragic story to tell. Still I have had doubts about her perceptions ever since she ran a column about women shaving their pubic hair because men wanted them to have a pre-pubescent appearance. I wonder if she ever heard about the bikini.

I wonder why the process would have been different for her if the government was running the show. You remember the government, those are the people who took five days to get water to the stadium in New Orleans.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 25, 2009 11:01 PM
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