A good summary of the problems with American health care, and of what the future holds is from Competitive Enterprise Institute‘s Gregory Conko. In his piece Health Care Crisis About to Get a Whole Lot Worse he writes:
Most of the problems in America’s health care system — high and rising prices, lack of consistent and reliable access for millions, rampant cost shifting, and an inability to distinguish between effective and ineffective services or between high and low quality, to name just a few — stem not from some supposed market failure, but primarily from existing government interventions in the market for health care and health insurance.
One of the government interventions that leads to market dysfunction is the reliance on employers to provide health insurance for so many Americans. This happened because of government policy, not by accident. As a result, workers have little choice in their coverage, and some feel tied to their present jobs just for the insurance.
Americans — some anyway — complain that health insurers will collect premiums for years, and then not pay when the covered become sick. There’s also not a vigorous market for health insurance for individuals, partly because the employer market swamps out efforts to sell to individuals or families.
Contrast this situation with the market for automobile insurance. This is a product that is regulated, to be sure, but much more lightly than health insurance. It’s something that no employers purchase for their workers and their private cars. Instead, drivers have to seek out and purchase their own policies.
And what is the result? There’s a thriving and competitive market for auto insurance. The pitchmen for two large companies — the quirky lizard and the exuberant Flo — are well known to television viewers. Auto insurance companies innovate to see who can produce products that meet the needs of consumers.
Do auto insurance companies fail to pay claims, as it is alleged health insurance companies do? If an auto insurance company developed a reputation for not paying, customers would quickly and easily leave that company for others. That is a credible threat, as there is a competitive market for auto insurance. Those who feel they have been wronged by a health insurance company often have no alternative to turn to — there is no credible threat of taking one’s business to another company.
One of the things that President Obama’s health care reform is designed to do is to create a marketplace for health insurance. But we don’t need more government regulation to accomplish that. Such government-sponsored effort is likely to fail. Less government intervention and less regulation, like in the market for auto insurance, would produce a result better for consumers.