Tags: Healthcare Reform | healthcare

'Free' Healthcare Would Have a Devastating Cost

prescription bottles coming off an assembly line
(AFP via Getty Images)

By Thursday, 19 November 2020 01:07 PM Current | Bio | Archive

There's a scene in the old "Independence Day" movie where, after the aliens have rampaged across the entire globe, a message goes out that the American military has prepared a counteroffensive and are about to attack, leading the rest of the world's armed forces along with them.

Upon learning this, an annoyed British airman announces, "It's about bloody time! What do they plan to do?"

It's a somewhat ethnocentric message – how dare the Americans have made the rest of the world wait so long to solve their problems! – but it's not wrong.

While the shield of American military might has been obvious for decades, what's less obvious is our leadership in the rest of society. They're not as big as our aircraft carriers, but the contributions that our intellectual property – notably American-developed medicines – are no less significant.

But if our healthcare system is sabotaged with a lunatic, Bernie Sanders-style government overreach, our medical IP will be irredeemably damaged.

In an article about a cystic fibrosis miracle drug, The U.K. Daily Mail hung a lantern on this reality. Elliott Usher died of cystic fibrosis at age 30 because the British National Health Service went with a "bargain bucket deal" for weak drugs that couldn't deal with the disease. Now his twin brother Anthony is waiting for the NHS to approve the American-developed Trikafta, which has been giving "near-miraculous results in U.S. patients who were sharing their inspiring stories on social media."

The free market succeeded where socialized medicine failed.

Bringing a new drug to market is time-consuming and expensive business: the average R&D for new medicine demands an investment of $2 billion over 10 years. It's also risky: just 12% of experimental treatments that go into clinical trials end up with FDA approval. Given these massive costs, only the free market can offer the incentive to create the drugs of the future.

America's patent system – the envy of the world – has created an environment that gives birth to about half of the world's new drugs every year. No country with socialized medicine can perform this feat.

Socialized medicine isn't just bad for the long term, it's bad for the short term. Drug shortages are massive problems for patients in the socialized-medicine paradises of the U.K., Canada, Japan, Australia, and France.

Even if America never goes full-on socialized medicine, something as tempting as price controls could destroy this pipeline of new medicine. Price controls would slash revenues at research firms by $1 trillion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, profits which would come directly from their R&D budgets.

The alternative to medicine being expensive is not having any at all. Initially high prices spur innovation, but become affordable over time. It's not perfect, but neither is life on planet Earth.

No government autocrat can just say "free health care for all!" and wave a magic wand to make a limitless supply of perfect medicine, with flowering meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children dance and laugh and play with gumdrop smiles. Anyone who promises otherwise is lying – selling snake oil, if you will.

Given that the world will always need someone to invent new medicines – like a really, really important vaccine right now – maybe we shouldn't sabotage the world's laboratory. The cure for the coronavirus will come from America, not from a country with socialized medicine – but all those countries will benefit once the American system creates it.

One just hopes when that happens the rest of the world doesn't say, "It's about bloody time!"

Jared Whitley is a long-time politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. Read Jared Whitley's reports — More Here.

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While the shield of American military might has been obvious for decades, what's less obvious is our leadership in the rest of society.
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2020-07-19
Thursday, 19 November 2020 01:07 PM
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