Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Man of Letters

One of the things that distinguishes the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal is that in addition to the quality of the editorials and opinion pieces, the letters to the editor generally are well-written and relevant. Here's an excellent example from today's paper on health care:

Dr. Fred W. Frick ("Health-Care Rationing Is Inevitable, So Get Over It" Letters, Jan. 6) asks why it's OK for a health-insurance executive to deny coverage, but not for a Washington committee. The consumer has choices and options in dealing with the private sector, but not with government. She can switch to the competition at renewal time. She can obtain legal recourse and make the insurance company honor its contract. Fear of the latter, by itself, should be a motivating factor for the private sector to do it right. Meanwhile, the government board member is only accountable to his political and bureaucratic bosses, not to the consumer.

Those who complain about the lack of access to health care have ignored the government mandates to cover more and more. They also ignore government tax incentives for employee-paid insurance, which have deprived health care of the consumer-driven market discipline that has worked remarkably well in other areas, such as auto insurance. These are the main reasons for the horrendous price increases. Small wonder that health care is out of reach for millions.

By the way, how can one place health care as a higher need than others, such as food and shelter, and make it an entitlement? We know what happens when a society labels all these needs as entitlements. When the private sector is crowded out by the enormous power and resources of the government, people have fewer choices. They become dependent on the government program. They become vote banks. They vote for politicians who resist any meaningful change until it's too late.

Those of us who ran away from such central planning know this movie plot too well. We are all running out of places to run to. One by one, the shining cities on the hill are disappearing.

Rayasam V. Prasad, M.D.
Stockbridge, Ga.

This letter was written in response to four letters to the editor from doctors who were themselves responding to a piece by Sally Pipes called "Barack Obama Will Ration Your Health Care." It shows that there is obviously not much of a consensus within the medical community about whether the government should play a larger role in health care.

But what's really remarkable about the letter is that it's a far better, more concise, and meaningful argument against further government control of health care than anything that John McCain or any other notable Republican candidate made during the campaign. That says a great deal about the quality of letters the WSJ receives as well as the GOP's pathetic inability to formulate a coherent message on health care.

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