Minor Thoughts from me to you

John Stossel on health care markets

I should know by now that whenever I try to explain something John Stossel has already explained it better. First, he delivers a great quote about why competition keeps prices low.

In a free market, a business that is complacent about costs learns that its prices are too high when it sees lower-cost competitors winning over its customers.

I posted yesterday about why "exchanges" are worse than free markets. Stossel takes that on too and does a far better job than I did.

... Competition is not a bunch of companies offering the same products and services in the same way. That sterile notion of competition assumes we already know all that there is to know.

But consumers often don't know what they want until it's offered, and their preferences and requirements change. Businesses don't know exactly what consumers want or the most efficient way to produce it until they are in the thick of the competitive hustle and bustle.

Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek taught that competition is a "discovery procedure." In other words, the "data" of supply and demand emerge only through the market process. We need open-ended competition not merely to see which rival is better, but to learn things we didn't know before and aren't likely to learn any other way.

"Competition is valuable only because, and so far as, its results are unpredictable and on the whole different from those which anyone has, or could have, deliberately aimed at," Hayek wrote.

The health care bills are perfect examples. If competition is a discovery process, the congressional bills would impose the opposite of competition. They would forbid real choice.

In place of the variety of products that competition would generate, we would be forced "choose" among virtually identical insurance plans. Government would define these plans down to the last detail. Every one would have at least the same "basic" coverage, including physical exams, maternity benefits, well-baby care, alcoholism treatment, and mental-health services. Consumers could not buy a cheap, high-deductible catastrophic policy. Every insurance company would have to use an identical government-designed pricing structure. Prices would be the same for sick and healthy.