Now in Cost-Cutting Crosshairs: Colonoscopies

It used to be that the dying were blamed for the high cost of health-care in the U.S. as an excuse to ration life-extending treatment. But that has never been where the real cost savings are to be found. And now, the New York Times has opened a new front in the coming plans to ration care centrally with a front-page story blaming health care screenings in general — with the colonoscopy pointed out in particular — as prime cost-causing culprits.  

The story claims that we pay more for the procedure than in other nations, particularly because they are often performed here in out-patient surgical centers rather than doctors’ offices. But there is also an undertone in the piece that my technocracy radar tells me might be the beginning of a campaign to disfavor such screenings — as we have seen with mammograms and PSA prostate screenings. 

Also of note, the story complains that there isn’t a “true market” in health care. True. But there is no mention of reforms that would allow greater price competition in health care – for example, by favoring high-deductible policies and health savings accounts to make price a factor in patient decision-making. Nor is the problem of defensive medicine mentioned, by which our doctors prescribe testing to the nth degree to protect against malpractice lawsuits. 

Rather, true to the Times’ ideology, the article seems to be pointing toward ever greater involvement by the government as the controller of private health-care costs. From the story:

In coming months, The New York Times will look at common procedures, drugs and medical encounters to examine how the economic incentives underlying the fragmented health care market in the United States have driven up costs, putting deep economic strains on consumers and the country.

To what end? I suspect wage and price controls in health-care, all determined by the minions of the federal bureaucracy. Here’s the key paragraph:

A major factor behind the high costs is that the United States, unique among industrialized nations, does not generally regulate or intervene in medical pricing, aside from setting payment rates for Medicare and Medicaid, the government programs for older people and the poor. Many other countries deliver health care on a private fee-for-service basis, as does much of the American health care system, but they set rates as if health care were a public utility or negotiate fees with providers and insurers nationwide, for example.

Despite the story’s lip service to markets, the NYT is an enthusiastic supporter of Obamacare, and Obamacare aims to have the feds control all important mega-decisions in health-care throughout the country from Washington — cost, availability, and care guidelines. It won’t work. Indeed, as we are already seeing, it will make matters much worse.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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