The Times offers a long editorial sharing their wisdom and insights on health care. I found this to be unexpectedly honest and amusing:
Drug Prices. Compared with the residents of other countries, Americans pay much more for brand-name prescription drugs, less for generic and over-the-counter drugs, and roughly the same prices for biologics. This page believes it would be beneficial to allow Medicare to negotiate with manufacturers for lower prescription drug prices and to allow cheaper drugs to be imported from abroad. The prospect for big savings is dubious.
The prospect for big savings is dubious indeed (the Times thumped Kerry on the drug re-importation issue in 2004), but if we join Europe in refusing to pay for new drugs, who will deliver the next generation of breakthroughs?
The Times raises cogent objections to consumer sovereignty rather than dismissing it out of hand:
Skin in the Game. The solution favored by many conservatives is to force consumers to shell out more money when they seek medical care so that they will think harder about whether it is really necessary. The “consumer-directed health care” movement calls for providing people with enough information about doctors and treatments so that they can make wise decisions.
There would most likely be some savings. A classic experiment by Rand researchers from 1974 to 1982 found that people who had to pay almost all of their own medical bills spent 30 percent less on health care than those whose insurance covered all their costs, with little or no difference in health outcomes. The one exception was low-income people in poor health, who went without care they needed. Any cost-sharing scheme would have to protect those unable to bear the burden.
And consumer-driven plans have limitations. Most health care spending is racked up by a small percentage of individuals whose bills are so high they are no longer subject to cost sharing; they will hardly be deterred from expensive care they desperately need. Moreover, few consumers have the competence or knowledge to second-guess a doctor’s recommendations.
What they left out is that employer-sponsored health insurance is eligible for a tax deduction whereas privately purchased insurance is not; Ramesh Ponnuru discussed this in the prestigious pages of TIME (and two rejoinders).