Glenn Reynolds on the hidden cost of national health care

…But there’s another cost that isn’t getting enough attention. That’s the degree to which a bureaucratized healthcare system will squash medical innovation just as we reach a point where dramatic progress is possible. To see how important that is, I don’t have to look any farther than my own family.

Perhaps our medical history is more involved than most, but probably not by a lot. And yet many members of my family are living better, happier lives — or, heck, just living — because of medical innovations made in recent decades, innovations that probably wouldn’t have been made under a government-run health system. And as medical technology progresses by leaps and bounds, the next few decades are likely to see much greater progress, unless it’s throttled by bureaucrats.


But under a national healthcare plan, the “market” will consist of whatever the bureaucrats are willing to buy. That means treatment for politically stylish diseases will get some money, but otherwise the main concern will be cost-control. More treatments, to bureaucrats, mean more costs.

It doesn’t always work that way, of course. The rise of proton-pump inhibitors like Nexium or Prilosec has made ulcer surgery a thing of the past. But to the bureaucratic mindset, those pills are a cost, and ulcer-surgery expenses can be dealt with by rationing. Let ’em eat Maalox while they wait.

I exaggerate, but . . . well, maybe I don’t. The truth is, despite the great promise of new medical technology out there now, in terms of new cancer treatments, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and more, the potential marvels of the next twenty years will never be developed unless some developer thinks there’s a market.

And with bureaucrats in charge of deciding what treatments to pay for, the existence of such markets will be much less certain. Oh, sure, federally-funded medical research will still go on at the NSF, NIH, etc. But turning that research into actual products is a different story.

Much more at the link.