When I was kid growing up on a farm outside Laredo, Texas, I had the rather unfortunate experience of having to rid our lawn of weeds. The important thing I learned about weeds is that to get rid of them permanently, you have to pull them out by the root. If you simply cut off the branches or the stem of the weed, it will come roaring back, stronger than ever.
Regrettably, this important principle regarding weed extraction has been lost on many advocates of the free market, especially conservatives. They’ll carp about all the inefficiencies of socialist and interventionist programs but then they end up advocating their standard solution: “reform,” which leaves the program intact, thereby providing an endless stream of inefficiencies to carp about.
There are few better examples of this phenomenon than in the area of healthcare. You can go to the website of any conservative free-market think tank and find any number of articles addressing the health care crisis. They’ll talk about the inefficiencies in HMOs, universal healthcare, Medicare, and Medicaid, the soaring costs of health care, and the frustrations that doctors are experiencing.
All too often, however, they will not dare to mention the real solution to the healthcare crisis: The need to end all government involvement in healthcare, including the repeal (not the reform) of Medicare and Medicaid, the abolition of the FDA, and the repeal of medical licensure laws. Anything short of that is just trimming the branches or the stem of the weed and guarantees that the weed will come roaring back, stronger than ever.
What would a free-market healthcare system look like? Permit me to share with you a bit of what life was like growing up in the poorest city in the United States, which is where the Census Bureau ranked my hometown of Laredo.
In the 1950s, there was no Medicare or Medicaid. Every doctor’s office in Laredo was always filled every morning with people needing medical attention. Every doctor knew that many, if not most, of the people in his office were too poor to pay.
Yet, I never once heard of one single case in which a doctor turned away a patient because he feared not getting paid. In fact, I never heard of even one receptionist in a doctor’s office haranguing a patient for an insurance card or a credit card.
Nonetheless, the doctors in Laredo were in the upper-levels of income earners. They had the nicest homes in town, except for those people who were receiving oil revenue checks.
How did they do it? The money they made off of the people that could pay their bills was more than enough to provide a very high standard of living for the doctors, enough to subsidize their medical treatment of those who could not afford to pay.
Now, that’s not to say that the poor didn’t pay their bills. Oftentimes they’d pay their doctors in good and services, such as vegetables from their garden, a chicken from their coop, or gardening services. But again, this was not a critical factor in the doctor’s decision to treat them.
You see this phenomenon today in the dental profession, where the government does not have a program for free dental care. A few years ago, my dentist here in Virginia told me that he and several other dentists voluntarily formed an association to provide free dental care to the poor one day a week, with a weekly rotation in which each doctor would provide the free services.
This is the way of life to which America must return. It is a way of life in which we believe in ourselves, in others, and in the free choices that people have a right to make in life. If Americans can ever restore that sense of self-esteem and self-worth and that faith in freedom and free markets, the weed of government involvement in healthcare will be a thing of the past.