And We'll Never Know What We Are Missing

Perhaps the scariest potential effect of the proposed health care bills is the negative effect they likely will have on innovation.  And if we adopt the bill, we will never know what we have lost.  Unlike budgets, which with near certainty will become overdrawn quickly, we will never be able to point to the health care innovation we didn't have.

I want to quote liberally from a Ronald Bailey post, but I encourage you to read the whole thing:

Yet, the elements of market competition that still manage to survive have had the salubrious effect of driving medical innovation and improving patient health outcomes. A new study by the free market Cato Institute, "Bending the Productivity Curve: Why America Leads the World in Medical Innovation" reports:

...In three of the four general categories of innovation examined in this paper "” basic science, diagnostics, and therapeutics "” the United States has contributed more than any other country, and in some cases, more than all other countries combined. In the last category, business models, we lack the data to say whether the United States has been more or less innovative than other nations; innovation in this area appears weak across nations....

...Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff observed:

"[I]f all countries squeezed profits in the health sector the way Europe and Canada do, there would be much less global innovation in medical technology. Today, the whole world benefits freely from advances in health technology that are driven largely by the allure of the profitable U.S. market. If the United States joins other nations in having more socialized medicine, the current pace of technology improvements might well grind to a halt."

In my column, "2005 Medical Care Forever," I suggested this thought experiment:

...what if the United States had nationalized its health care system in 1960? That would be the moral equivalent of freezing (or at least drastically slowing) medical innovation at 1960 levels. The private sector and governments would not now be spending so much more money on health care. There might well have been no organ transplants, no MRIs, no laparoscopic surgery, no cholesterol lowering drugs, hepatitis C vaccine, no in vitro fertilization, no HIV treatments and so forth. Even Canadians and Britons would not be satisfied with receiving the same quality of medical care that they got 45 years ago....

As Rogoff suggests, the nationalized health care systems extolled by progressives have been living off the innovations developed by the "only country without a universal health care system." I wonder how Americans would vote if they were asked if they would be happy freezing medical care at 2005 levels forever?


  1. spiro:

    you sir are a heretic.

    Everyone knows that Obama will continue to inspire innovation for decades (if not centuries) to come. All he will need to do is attend the national conferences of the scientists every year and deliver on of his speeches. He will be, like, the Vince Lombardi of innovation, only way more hip.

    Hell, he may not even need to appear personally or say a word. A picture of Obama stripped to the waist, chest *lightly* oiled - shouldn't that be enough to inspire us, the plebs, to aspire to a healthier lifestyle? You don't see Obama getting no cancer or heart disease.

  2. Mark Alger:

    People inveigh against the negative effects of health insurance "reform" as though those were not the desired ends of those pushing the policy.

    They think there are too many of us on this planet. They see degrading our health care as a way of culling our population without getting blood on their hands.

    They think.


  3. DrTorch:

    Simply look at Lister's development of cleaning compound fracture wounds and washing before surgery. (Similar to earlier work by Semmelweiss.)

    This was rejected by consensus of the health care establishment of his day.

    Fortunately Lister was allowed to persist and it was eventually recognized that his approach was not only sound, it was far superior to the norm of his day.

    THAT is the sort of thing that is crushed with nationalized health care. TPTB will squash anything different, because different will cost mmore.

  4. sch:

    Not only will innovation gradually cease, but, barring a breakthrough in production technology, any drug dependent on recombinant DNA or production
    in cell based factories, ie medications that end in -ab, which currently run in the hundreds to thousands per dose are likely to be progressively
    and highly restricted in 10-20yrs. This will wipe out 20yrs of innovative auto immune disease and cancer chemotherapy. Bone marrow transplants
    at $200k and up each are likely to evaporate. There will be a revival of the committees that existed in the early '70s to evaluate each prospective hemodialysis patient in terms of their reliability, social support and intangibles (John is not a nice man, nix or John is relative
    of the assemblyman, approved. Alcoholic liver disease can punt transplant unless alcohol free for 5/10 etc yrs.) If patient doesn't meet criteria
    no dialysis/transplant,chemo or gamma knife treatment.

  5. the other coyote:

    I am alive today thanks to an "unnecessary" MRI. My primary care physician thought I might have MS, even though my symptoms weren't totally consistent with MS. She ordered a brain MRI, which wasn't cheap. Guess what? I had an extremely rare brain stem tumor that was absolutely life threatening. I was the first person with this particular kind of tumor that my surgeon - at a well-respected cancer treatment center - had ever seen.

    This whole socialized medicine system is balanced on playing the odds. Odds are this treatment will work and odds are the result is that, so the system mandates treating everyone the same. Problem is, we're not all the same, and killing the creativity and flexibility to treat patients as individuals makes us all poorer (and in my case, deader) as a result.

    What really chaps me is I have worked hard to get to a job with good benefits. Why should I be forced to give up mine so that someone who won't take care of themselves can have more? Aesop addressed this paradox years ago in the fable of the ant and the grasshopper and I fully support his conclusion.

  6. palm beach sugar daddy ken doll:

    anal probes. each and every alien abductee has reported being tested/diagnosed with some kind (cold, greasy, ribbed for your pleasure) *anal probes*. clearly, since we're talking about highly technologically sophisticated beings capable of faster-than-light-speed-travel, clearly this must be some serious hotshot medical technology. why then aren't our scientists working on this day&night? why aren't there entire top-secret government installations buried thousands of feet beneath the nevada desert devoted solely to this miraculous medical phenomenon?

    or maybe they HAVE learned the truth about AP's, and are suppressing it! ain't that JUST like a drug company?!? viagra, bladder-control pills, and weenie-growin' ointments advertised 24/7 on every channel, but actual lifesaving **anal probe** technology, they keep for themselves and the sinister elite world government/banking cartel conspirators.

    fine, then. when 2012 rolls around and the yellowstone caldera erupts and the world comes to a fiery cataclysmic end, and they all board their luxurious escape subs at the top-secret sub base in samoa, i hope they forget to pack the lubricant. and they make the mistake of letting the samoans be in charge of loading the food supplies. "frickin' spam AGAIN?!?"