Universal Coverage Kills

Members of the Anti-Universal Coverage Club will be interested in my article published today at National Review Online:

McCain, Obama, and the voters would do well to keep in mind what this month — October 2008 — has to say about the quality of medical care when government is in charge.

Federal bureaucrats have announced that, as of this month, the Medicare program will no longer provide financial rewards to doctors and hospitals who harm patients.

That is not a typo. For more than 40 years, Medicare has provided financial rewards to providers when a patient requires follow-up care following a medical error…

It doesnt have to be this way. More than 60 years ago, markets devised health plans that discourage medical errors by forcing doctors and hospitals to bear the financial costs of all such errors. You know them as plans like Group Health Cooperative and Kaiser Permanente. Doctors and patients who choose those plans tend to like them, and the plans receive high marks for quality, which suggests the financial incentives they use serve patients better.

Why does it take Medicare more than 40 years to take such baby steps? Especially when the market developed a solution to this problem over 60 years ago?

The answer is that Medicare — like all universal-coverage schemes — is operated by the government, and government resists innovation. In this case, resistance to innovation kills.

As for the Church of Universal Coverage … well, they may catch the vapors.