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The Obama bill expands access to 30 million Americans. That's good economics and also the right thing to do. But it does little in the way of controlling costs. Medicare's costs have stopped rising as fast as in the past. But for broader costs to decline, there is no alternative to having some kind of board that decides what is covered by insurance and what is not--as exists in every other advanced country. This has been demagogued as creating "death panels" when it is really the only sensible way to make the system work.
When listening to the debate about American health care, I find that many of the most fervent critics of government involvement argue almost entirely from abstract theoretical propositions about free markets. One can and should reason from principles. But one must also reason from reality, from facts on the ground. And the fact is that about 20 foreign countries provide health care for their citizens in some way or other. All of them--including free-market havens like Switzerland and Taiwan--have found that they need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal health care at much, much lower costs than we do and with better results.
Maybe there's a theoretical pure free-market model out there that would work. But in the world we know and live in, the task is not to abolish our system for a utopia that has never actually existed anywhere but rather to accept the messy, mixed-up reality that we have and try to improve it to allow people to have access to decent health care at an affordable price--something every other rich country in the world already does.
CATCH FAREED ZAKARIA'S NEW CNN SPECIAL, GLOBAL LESSONS: THE GPS ROAD MAP FOR SAVING HEALTH CARE, SUNDAY, MARCH 18, AT 8 P.M. AND 11 P.M. E.T. AND P.T.