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Medical costs in America are now estimated at about $10,400 per person per year, up 25 percent in four years. The idea someone else is paying for all this is a prime example of Santa Claus economics. Little elves at the North Pole create health care and Santa Claus pays for it. Comforting idea if you are a child.

We spend more per person for health care than any other country, but we are not even in the top 20 nations for life expectancy, which is now declining. Even being hindered by socialistic inefficiency, Europe has 29 percent more physicians and 31 percent more hospital beds per person than the U.S.

The number of people who postpone health care because of the cost has doubled since 2013. Doctors, who now spend two-thirds of their time filling out paperwork, are leaving medicine in droves. Many clinics have employees who do nothing but shred documents.

It is getting harder and harder to see a doctor, and patients, even with very serious problems, are routinely told it may take three to five weeks before a physician can find time to see them. Even people with good insurance coverage are increasingly finding themselves in hospital emergency rooms.

Medical bureaucracies are out of control, and prices, instead of being driven by supply and demand, are a mystery to almost everyone. Much of the medical system is managed by huge, bureaucratic organizations that employ thousands of people who do nothing but process paper related to laws, regulations and obscure rules and dictates.

The progressives would solve these problems by making them worse. They would simply turn the bureaucracies over to the government and double down on every aspect that is currently causing the problems.

There is a solution, and it is ironically controversial. The federal and state governments should treat health care the same as any other service. In other words, stay out of it.

We already have laws that control fraud, false advertising and other nasty indignities like monopolies. Along with enforcing the law, treat health care exactly the same as any other free market in the country.

At this, the progressives hyperventilate. Why? Because they have been taught to react this way. It is a knee-jerk reaction.

We don’t have mandatory insurance for food. We don’t create free food services for all citizens. Yet, a person will die a lot faster from not eating than from not receiving health care.

We don’t give everyone free housing. We don’t give vacations to the poor because “rich” people can go on a vacation.

But what about compassion? True compassion actually helps people. Government programs created by the need for “compassion” seldom do this. What “compassionate” government bureaucracy has successfully eliminated itself? “Free” food creates the need for more “free” food. “Free” housing creates the need for more “free” housing. The number of people who need to be fed and housed predictably continues to grow. True compassion is achieved by actually helping.

Freedom is scary, but if we want an efficient and truly compassionate health care system, turn it into a free market.

Dennis Clayson is a marketing professor at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.


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