We hear a lot of Republican and Democrat talking points about healthcare. As Libertarians, it’s important that people understand that we have our own voice and our own solutions for the rising costs of healthcare. If you like this story, please forward it to your friends and family by clicking the Forward button below.
So, what is the difference between gas stations and hospitals? More after the jump…
1. Prices – The most obvious difference is price. Gas Stations have big signs advertising their prices so that you as a consumer can decide how much you are willing to pay without even slowing down along the highway. There are federal regulations that prohibit hospitals from advertising and competing based on prices.
2. Upfront Estimates – When you need a mechanic to replace your head gasket, he will give you an upfront estimate of the price. He will often give you a list of less expensive alternatives if they are available. When you ask a surgeon to replace your heart, there are federal regulations and AMA rules that prevent the distribution of price estimates.
3. Competition – If someone wants to build a Gas Station across the street from a competing Gas Station, its quite alright. If someone wants to build a hospital, they have to prove to the Federal Trade Commission that the hospital won’t lower prices in the community or cause undue competition.
4. Monopoly – In the early 20th century, the federal government broke up a monopoly on oil and gasoline distribution. [Not quite. The government actually paved the way for the current near-oligopoly through legislation and regulation. See comments below and Thomas DiLorenzo for more information.] In the mid-20th century, they created a monopoly on hospitals and doctors because the American Medical Association said there were too many doctors, too much competition, and doctor’s couldn’t earn enough money.
5. Do It Yourself – When you go to the Gas Station, you can pay someone to fix your car and fill up your tank, or you can buy what you need to do it yourself. At a hospital or pharmacy, you can’t make any decisions on what medications you can take, dosage levels, or treatments. You must have the "official" opinion of a state regulated doctor.
6. Choice – When shopping for mechanics, you can decide to hire your handy neighbor, or find someone with all the latest training and certifications. When shopping for doctors, your only choice is regulated by the state.
7. Purchasing Power – When you buy gasoline, you are paying for the gasoline you actually purchase (and a little extra for the small amount of theft). When you buy healthcare, your price includes a large government imposed subsidy for those who can’t afford it, thus making healthcare less affordable to more and more people each year.
So if you wanted to make healthcare cheaper what would you do? Impose more rules or less? Allow competition or create a more restrictive monopoly?