Alice in Wonderland is Really About Health Care Reform

Reprinted with permission from CAIVN:

Okay, so the recent Tim Burton blockbuster featuring Johnny Depp may not have had much at all to do with health care reform, and certainly Lewis Carroll didn’t have health care reform on his mind when he wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the original novel upon which the Burton film was based. But the strikingly odd story bears some remarkable parallels to our present system of health care.

Wonderland, you see, is a perfectly nonsensical world. Nothing is logical there, and while it may be very entertaining to enjoy on a big screen or from the comfort of your couch, I doubt very many people would elect to live in such a strange and terrifying world. Nothing in Wonderland is what it seems, so it’s impossible even for a rational person to behave rationally, because they cannot know what to expect. The strange and terrifying world of health care is no different.

Nothing in the health care industry is logical or sensible. Price and market distortions of every kind make the whole process such a tangled mess of confusion, ambiguity, and perverse incentives that there can be no wonder that prices are rising so dramatically while the quality of service deteriorates. When you walk into an auto-mechanic store and ask for an oil change, the salesman quotes you a price straightaway. But try asking the people in an emergency room how much they charge for stitches and see if you’ll get a straight answer from anyone!

In reality, toothbrushes cost a few dollars at most, but in the “wonderland” of health care, things have gotten so bizarre that CNN recently did a special report on thousand dollar toothbrushes among other gross distortions of the price and quantity system in health care. Things like this are happening all over the country because the system is too big and too complicated. Prices don’t reflect reality because people are insulated from the price of health care by layer after layer of bureaucracy, of both the government and corporate variety.

A constant theme of the Alice in Wonderland movie is the question of whether or not Alice is sane. The viewer can see though, that she is not crazy at all.  In fact, she seems to be the only sane person walking around in Wonderland. Likewise, America’s tangled wonderland of health care is enough to make any of us question our own sanity as we struggle to understand and survive in a system that simply makes no sense. With its one-size-fits-all “solutions”, many Americans are left feeling like Alice, who is alternatively stretched, and grown, and shrunk, and forced to fit in a tea pot- all to accommodate the grotesque distortions of size and quantity in Wonderland.

So how can we fix health care? Certainly not by making it bigger, more confusing, and more irrational! Adding hundreds of pages of legislation that no one has read to the already unmanageable mess will only make things worse. But some simple changes to the tax code to create incentives for the disentanglement of health insurance from employers would go a long way.

Even better would be a short (could be less than ten pages), but revolutionary bill which prohibits the states from forcing residents to only buy health insurance policies in-state. That would open up some true competition by removing all fifty states’ myriad regulations, barriers, and coverage mandates which drive up the price of health insurance for the benefit of the health insurance cartel (and at the expense of hardworking American families).

Without these protective barriers and regulations, insurance companies would be exposed to competition from each other and various start-ups, and would be forced to charge rational prices and garner a reputation for good service (instead of bullying customers around at their moment of most urgent need), or face losing market share to their competitors.

With these two simple, but game-changing reforms, the American people just might be able to climb out of the rabbit hole and into a health care system that operates here in reality.

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