FutureOfCapitalism.com spoke recently with the president and ceo of the Pacific Research Institute, Sally Pipes, as part of a series of interviews we have planned in the coming days and weeks with experts on health-care policy experts. Ms. Pipes is author of The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care.
FutureOfCapitalism.com began by mentioning that the picture of the American health care system drawn by President Obama can be pretty bleak, with costs soaring and cancer patients being dropped by their insurance companies. Is our health care system in good shape or bad shape?
"There are some problems," Ms. Pipes acknowledged, mentioning that people can wind up locked into their jobs for health-insurance reasons. "We could have a lot more competition than the 1,300 insurance companies that we have today," she said. Medical malpractice suits also drive up the cost of health care, she said, citing a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers study pegging the annual cost of "defensive medicine" at $210 billion. She said some insurance policies are structured in a way that encourages consumption. "When people think something is free they use a lot more of it," she said.
FutureOfCapitalism.com noted that many free-market types propose to reduce health care spending by putting consumers in charge of their own health care expenditures, so that they are spending their own money rather than their insurance company's or their employer's or the government's. Isn't that politically a hard sell, to move from something that looks free, paying with what appears to be other people's money, to a system in which the costs are transparent?
"It is going to be difficult," Ms. Pipes conceded, but she says that there are already 8 million Americans who have health savings accounts with high-deductible plans. She cited a McKinsey study showing those with health savings accounts are 35% more likely to have checkups.
FutureOfCapitalism.com asked if Ms. Pipes has picked up any sense of intimidation or fear among those who might be expected to stand up against greater government involvement in health care. "Absolutely," she responded, wondering why the interest groups that fought openly against "HillaryCare" with television commercials and the like back in the Clinton administration are either quiet or backing an overhaul this time around. "I think a lot of these people think that if we can sit at the table, then we won't be hurt by it," she said. "Why are they so afraid of standing up? Are they being intimidated?"
On the other hand, she said she had been encouraged by the reactions she had seen at tea parties and town halls. She said she had spoken at a tea party July 2 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and been greeted with 12 standing ovations from a crowd that consisted of a lot of people who had voted for President Obama. "I think the American people are smart and this is not what they want," she said.