Thursday, September 21, 2006

Two Cato books on health care

Title: Medicare Meets Mehpistopheles
Author: David A. Hyman
Publisher: Cato Institute, Washington DC, 2006
ISBN 1-930865-92-9
138 pages, paper.

The author presented this book at a forum on Sept. 21, 2006 in the "Ice Palace" Building owned by Cato in Washington. The book is a bit of a spoof on the Medicare program, recalling the last movement perhaps of Liszt's "A Faust Symphony." The author organizes the book around The Seven Deadly Sins (like the 1995 movie Se7en). He points out that Medicare might confound attempts to have universal health insurance because doing so could reduce benefits of those now favored. There is the point that Medicare was intended to be a pay-as-you-go program, but is effectively a Ponzi scheme where a younger generation pays for the elderly. He also points out that the anti-fraud regulations are so draconian and pose such risk of strict liability that potential providers are driven away. He does discuss potential reforms.

Title: Healthy Competition: What's Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It.
Authors: Michael F. Cannon, Michael D. Tanner, Foreword by George P. Schultz.
Publisher: Cato Institute, 2005
ISBN 1-930865-81-3
182 pages, paper

The authors describe the technical superiority of American health care, which is able to deliver cutting edge treatments to the very ill with little rationing. Most other western countries have essentially single payer system and have waiting lists, although that situation may be improving. His books is in three parts: "The State of the American Health Care System", "Misdiagnosis" "Underlying Diseases, Strong Medicine." He favors health savings accounts and analyzes many current fads and proposals such as employer mandates and managed competition. He accepts the idea of moral hazard and personal responsibility (although many other economists claim that moral hazard does not really exist with a service whose need people cannot predict). Philosophically, he believes that it is wrong for one person's or one group's needs to restrict another's freedom.

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