Walking down the main street of this charming town of ours I peer at the various signs along the way and in the windows of the various businesses. Many of them proclaim that certain items are "on sale" or cost a certain amount of money. This is especially true of the gasoline station which lets consumers know exactly how much they will pay for their product. The local tavern has a happy hour featuring $1.75 drafts from 4-6 p.m. each day. The bank advertises specials on its "no fees" checking accounts. The muffler store sells mufflers installed for $69.99. Six dollars will get you a ticket to the movies on Tuesdays at the local theater. The Chinese restaurant offers a 40% off "recession special" at lunch. I called the local pool and asked how much a weekend pass to the pool is. They told me accurately and without hesitation.
This is the way things work in our consumer-oriented society. The openness of information about products, services and their respective pricings creates an environment of competition among businesses. This spurs new and better products priced competitively. Everybody wins in this business scenario especially businesses who create and promote new and better products and aggressively promote them.
Now let's try to imagine if this situation were different. My walk down main street would no longer have the inticements which I referred to earlier. I stop in to the theater and ask how much a ticket costs. The clerk tells me that she doesn't know and that I will have to buy a ticket to find out. I ask for the manager who, I am told is unavailable. In utter frustration, I leave. Since it's past lunch time, I walk past the local restaurant. There is no menu in the window for me to peruse and decide whether the food looks good and the price is within my budget. I leave and go to the restaurant next door - same thing. I walk inside and ask for the menu. I am handed a menu but there are no prices listed. I ask for a price list. I am told that I will get the prices after I have finished my meal when they hand me the check. Again, I leave.
It is very hard to imagine living in a society such as the one previously described. But, should you ever have the desire to experience this, call your local medical facility and arrange to have a surgery. Get the date, time and preparatory instructions. Then ask how much the procedure will cost you. If your experience is anything like mine you will get the scripted response: "it depends". If that happens and you have the chutzpah to continue, by all means press on. You will likely be switched to the billing department to an equally indifferent representative who will give you an equally vague response.
I will not belabor this point any further as I am sure that, for most people, this is old news.
In our great country we have been presented with the Affordable Care Act. This is a misnomer and should be renamed the "Available" Care Act in that it makes health care available to all. Despite its name, however, health care in the U.S. is anything but affordable.
How can it be made more affordable? By simply making the system transparent to consumers by making pricing readily available (posting on the Internet, maybe?). Competition in the health care arena will create greater efficiency and lower pricing. Not surprisingly, health care professionals have lobbied vigorously against anything which upsets the status quo. So, while opposing "Socialized Medicine" (based upon a national tax, free health care for all), our health care industry also balks at the notion of a true capitalist, free enterprise system of competition. Their rationale for this opposition ("health care quality will suffer") is not a convincing argument. The same was said about the deregulation of the airline industry: "safety will suffer". In fact, since deregulation, flying has never been safer.
What does the future look like?
For better or worse, due to the extreme and spiraling costs of healthcare and the lack of willingness of the medical community to deal with these costs, socialized medicine, such as those in Canada and the U.K., is inevitable in our country.
From my recent experiences, socialized medicine is looking pretty good. It's a lot like going to the animal shelter to adopt a dog. All the dogs there except one are absolutely beautiful - well-groomed, purebred and dogs that you feel good walking down the street with. At the same time, they are all growling and you and appear to be ready to take your arm off if you venture closer. Then there's the other dog: ugly as hell, matted hair, one ear up, one ear down and scrawny. But he's smiling and wagging his tail.
You take him home, give him the name Socialized Medicine, and love him for the rest of your life despite his faults.
Readers, enjoy your day.