Libertarian Party: How Liberty Makes Health Care Virtually Universal

Press release from LPHQ posted at LP.org:

For Immediate Release
Friday, December 25, 2009
How Liberty Makes Health Care Virtually Universal

by Mary J. Ruwart, Ph.D.

Everyone knows that health care costs are soaring every year, making medical bills and insurance unaffordable for many. No relief is in sight with the health care bills being considered in Congress, which are estimated to cost us at least $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Given government’s abysmal record in estimating costs, we should expect to pay much more.

Judging from what has happened in other nations with “universal health care,” many of us, seniors especially, will die waiting for treatment. Health care is so expensive that there is only so much to go around; it has to be rationed.

But why is health care so expensive? Why does it cost so much more every year?

The health care industry is one of the most highly regulated in the country. These regulations drive up costs enormously. About 80% of the costs of new drugs, for example, are due to regulations that are intended to make them safer. In practice, however, these regulations cause millions of premature deaths by adding 10 years to the drug development time of life-saving drugs and favoring new, expensive drugs over nutrients and older pharmaceuticals with good safety records.

Very few nutritional supplements are put through the FDA testing process. Consequently, manufacturers are banned from advertising their products to doctors. Lovaza, a prescription fish oil supplement, is one of the few exceptions. Even with their insurance company paying most of the cost, patients pay almost as much for Lovaza through their co-pay as they would for virtually identical over-the-counter pharmaceutical grade fish oil at the same drug store!

In addition to driving up the costs of drugs, regulations have created a shortage of health care professionals by limiting the number trained each year. When the number of practitioners go down, prices go up. Physicians are more likely to overlook potential treatment options and make major medical mistakes when they put in the long hours generally required of them because of regulation-driven doctor shortages.

Even when doctors do all that is medically possible for their patients, juries often find them liable in order to give patients with poor medical outcomes access to the “deep pockets” of their physicians’ malpractice insurance. Premiums have gone up so much that doctors are leaving some specialties, notably obstetrics and neurosurgery. Those who remain estimate that 10% of health care spending goes to order tests that are done solely as “defensive” measures.

These distortions of the market drive up health care costs. Insurance goes up too. However, some states double these already high insurance costs by “mandating” that every policy cover treatments that many people consider “optional” such as massage therapists, in-vitro fertilization, and hair transplants.

Most insured individuals never realize what their true medical costs are. They have little incentive to shop for the physician or pharmacist providing the best value. What they pay is fixed, especially if they have low-deductible insurance policies through their employer. When workers lose their job, they often lose medical coverage because they cannot afford the high COBRA payments their former employer offers. They discover that their “free” health care is actually quite costly and that if they pay for it themselves, they can’t deduct the cost to the extent that their employer can.

Workers with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) fare better than their coworkers when they leave a job. Workers or their employers make tax-deductible contributions to employee HSAs, which grow tax-free. Individuals pay their insurance deductibles from their HSAs and take the account with them when they leave their employer.

HSAs are available to those who have high deductible insurance. Since individuals can eventually use this money for other expenses, they have an incentive to shop for cost-efficient high quality service. Since high deductible policies are less expensive, employers pay less for insurance and employees benefit from the tax benefits and portability.

Clearly, lowering health care spending by doing away with wasteful practices should be at the top of our health care reform list. Such reforms include:

1. Allowing individuals, as well as businesses, full tax credits/deductions for medical insurance and/or medical expenditures. In the interim, encourage the use of HSAs by increasing the amount of tax-deductible contributions (currently $3000) that a person can make each year.

2. Ending insurance mandates that states impose. As an interim measure, allow insurance sales across state lines so that consumers can choose the insurance plan that best fits their needs, rather than be limited to what state legislatures allow.

3. Making doctors and their insurers liable only for actual negligence and malpractice. We need to return to a system of strict liability. In the interim, caps on non-economic damages, such as those in California and Texas, lower insurance costs, but may prevent victims of actual malpractice from being appropriately compensated.

4. Ending the regulation of medical professionals and employing a system of voluntary certification instead. Studies show that certification increases the amount of quality care delivered, especially to the poor. Since practitioners are usually certified on the basis of competence, rather than on politically-correct regulations, their number and quality increases, while prices decrease.

5. Ending FDA regulation of pharmaceuticals and employing a system of third-party certification instead. The FDA doesn’t test any drugs, but simply looks over the data provided by manufacturers. Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL), which certifies electrical appliances, actually tests the products that bear its “Seal of Approval.” Such third-party testing is an excellent model for drug certification.

In the interim, passing bills such as Congressman Ron Paul’s HR 3395 and HR 3394 removes the FDA’s jurisdiction over all nutrient-disease relationship claims and prevents the Federal Trade Commission from taking action against any advertiser that communicates a health benefit unless it can establish that the claim is false and harmful.

Each of these measures by itself can decrease health care costs by at least 10%. Taken together, they can slash health care costs by 50% or more. This is true health care reform. Be sure to call your representatives and tell them to vote against health care rationing and for real health care reform. The life you save may be your own!

Mary J. Ruwart, Ph.D. is an At-Large Representative on the Libertarian National Committee, Inc.

26 thoughts on “Libertarian Party: How Liberty Makes Health Care Virtually Universal

  1. Brad

    Nice to see the LP showcase Dr. Ruwart as a spokesperson.

    The front page at LP.org is showing a good balance of issues on which we are more apt to have progressives agree with us (religious freedom, liberalizing marijuana laws, ending the war, presidential rankings that show recent Republicans to be among America’s worst presidents ever) with those on which we are more apt to have conservatives agree with us (global warming, health care, a conservative-libertarian Libertarian candidate on conservative talk radio).

    The most recent press releases are a good mix as well: two about peace in the middle east, one about liberalizing marijuana laws, one about gay rights (ending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act), two about health care.

    LPHQ is communicating a good, balanced message.

  2. Eric Dondero

    Wow! I’m blown away. That was absolutely excellent.

    What’s more, Ruwart is an icon of Left Libertarians. If even Mary Ruwart and the Leftside of the Libertarian movement are turning on Obama and the Democrats, you know there’s hope for our libertarian movement, and ultimately for America.

    Thank you Dr. Ruwart. Thank you Libertarian Party.

    Eric Dondero, Publisher
    Libertarian Republican
    25+ year Libertarian Party member

  3. Thomas L. Knapp

    Eric,

    I’ve never heard of Ruwart as an “icon of left libertarians” except from you, and you tend to be definition-challenged even at your best.

    That said, left-libertarians don’t need to “turn on” Obama. We’ve always been far more consistently opposed to him than (for example) the folks at “Libertarian” Republican.

  4. Eric Dondero

    Okay Tom, if you insit. You are the “icon” of the Left Libertarian movement.

    Though, I maintain, you and Ruwart are carbon copies. So you’re both iconic-ally Left Libertarians.

  5. Michael Seebeck

    Fantastic press release, and it’s right up Dr. Ruwart’s alley due to her creds.

    One thing worth mentioning, although it was sorta implied, was removing the 7.5% AGI floor for itemized deductions on medical care and make all medical expenses deductible, itemized deductions or not, including paid insurance premiums. That would help offset taxpayer costs considerably.

    One thing that nobody is talking about at all, though, is how Obamacare affects vision and dental coverages, and I can’t find anything on it anywhere. Has anybody heard anything on those veins?

  6. Thomas L. Knapp

    Eric,

    I’m not much of an “icon” in general. If you’re looking for a left-libertarian “icon,” try the late SEK3, or Brad Spangler, or Kevin Carson, or Wally Conger.

    I doubt that Dr. Ruwart and I are anything close to being “carbon copies.” I do admit, though, that there’s quite a bit of overlap between her proposal here and mine from July.

  7. Eric Dondero

    SEK3 was not a libertarian. He was a leftwing-Anarchist who liked to hang out with libertarians. (Not too mention an illegal alien Canadian living in the US.) Spangler, only vaguely aware of him? The other two never heard of?

    It’s you Tom Knapp, like it or not, who is the figurehead of Left-Libertarians. You are a true legend in your own mind.

  8. Thomas L. Knapp

    Eric,

    A legend in your mind, perhaps. Not in mine.

    A left-wing anarchist is a libertarian, dipshit. Perhaps not the only kind of libertarian, but certainly one kind.

    There’s no such thing as an “illegal alien,” since the Constitution gives Congress no power to regulate immigration.

    Spangler and Conger were the effective re-organizers of the Movement/Alliance of the Libertarian Left after SEK3’s death. Spangler runs the Center for a Stateless Society.

    Kevin Carson is probably the libertarian movement’s foremost living economic theorist.

  9. Trent Hill

    Tom,

    I think that’s a stretch. Kevin Carson is not as well-known or -respected as, say, Walter Block or Joe Salerno.

  10. Thomas L. Knapp

    Trent,

    I meant to write “the “left-libertarian movement’s foremost living economic theorist” — but Carson’s place in mutualist economics is roughly equivalent to that of Ludwig von Mises in Austrian economics. Like Mises (Human Action), he’s the author of the standard work in his field (Studies in Mutualist Political Economy).

    Mutualism is not the only economic school which fits on the “left” side of the libertarian movement (Georgism/geoism, etc., are also there), of course, but neither is Austrianism the only “right” libertarian strain of economic thought (Monetarism, Public Choice, etc.).

    Nothing against Block or Salerno, but in Austrian economics they are disciples, not messiahs.

  11. jason

    Funny, having lived in South Korea, whose healthcare system is a mixture of government-run and private, I never noticed any old people waiting to die. In fact, every time I went to the doctor, even at busy times, I waited no more than 30 minutes. Even for more complex procedures than simple visits. Also funny, when I was in America, when I had insurance (and when I didn’t, which actually includes now), I waited several hours at times for a simple checkup, even when I had an appointment. Guess the free market is doing its job!

  12. Thomas L. Knapp

    Jason,

    What “free market” are you talking about? The US healthcare system has also been “a mixture of government-run and private” for more than four decades now, and that stacked on top of an already heavily government-regulated system.

    Medical care in the US hasn’t been anything even close to “free market” for more than a century (it was around the turn of the 20th century that the last states fell to the AMA’s demands for guild socialism through licensure).

  13. Robert Milnes

    Tom @10, “A left-wing anarchist IS a libertarian, dipshit.” Well, I could have left the “dipshit” off. Anyway…I tried to explain my experiences in Boulder & Philly circa 1970-85 to you about this. At any/all anarchist gatherings, meetings I ever attended, there was never any mention of libertarians as anarchists. If mentioned it was as rightists & considered part of the right i.e. “the enemy”. When I first found out some libertarians were anarchists, well, I’m sure my jaw must’ve dropped. There is some sort of disconnect. Evidently to you/libertarians anarchists are libertarians. To the leftist anarchists, THEY are the anarchists.

  14. Robert Milnes

    Maybe there are 2 circles of anarchists. The ones I was familiar with would be a contingent of a larger group of usually socialists. Often you could see they wore red & black. They considered themselves more advanced than the socialists & communists. Ideologically they were the end product of Soviet socialism. The withering away of the state>anarchism, although the Leninists & Trotskyists often left out anarchism in that equation. & often marginalized them.

  15. Michael Seebeck

    New @7,

    good point as well. Plus alternative therapies like homeopathy, acupuncture, etc. in the same vein.

  16. Thomas L. Knapp

    Due to haste and distraction, I left Roderick Long and Charles Johnson — and probably others — off my list of left-libertarians who are far closer to “iconic” than myself. Figured I should correct that.

  17. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    There are far more than two “circles of anarchists.”

    Socialist and communist anarchists are not “the end product of Soviet socialism.” The big break between anarchists and statist in socialism occurred long before the Russian revolution, when Marx and Bakunin squared off for control of the First International and Marx won.

  18. Eric Dondero

    Anarcho-Capitalists are a branch of libertarians.

    Left-wing Anarchists are just that, Left-wing Anarchists, out of the Lennin, Emma Goldman, Noam Chomsky and even Stalin mode, hardly “libertarian” in any manner, shape, or form.

  19. paulie Post author

    Non-capitalist anarchists are frequently libertarians. Mutualist anarchists who support the non-initiation of coercion principle are libertarians, and have nothing to do with statists like Lenin and Stalin.

    Tom beat me to it at #20 in mentioning Long and Johnson, but I would add Karl Hess in his later years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Hess#Political_activities

    As a speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, Hess explored ideology and politics and attracted some public interest. He was widely considered to be the author of the infamous Goldwater line, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue,” but revealed that he had encountered it in a letter from Lincoln historian Harry Jaffa and later learned it was a paraphrase of a passage from Cicero.[2] Regardless of the line’s origin, Goldwater spoke it in his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination and, according to Playboy magazine, the words alienated many voters and may have cost Goldwater the election. Hess was also the primary author of the Republican Party’s 1960 and 1964 platforms. He later called this his “Cold Warrior” phase.

    Following the 1964 presidential campaign in which Lyndon Johnson trounced Goldwater, Hess became disillusioned with traditional politics and became more radical. He parted with the Republicans altogether and began working as a heavy-duty welder. He publicly criticized big business, suburban American hypocrisy and the military-industrial complex. Though well beyond college age, Hess joined Students for a Democratic Society, worked with the Black Panther Party and protested the Vietnam War.

    During that time, newly elected President Johnson, a Democrat who was apparently displeased with Hess for having been a Republican, ordered the IRS to audit him. When Hess asked if a certain deduction he had claimed was right, his auditor reportedly replied, “It doesn’t matter if it’s right; what matters is the law.” Incensed that the auditor would see a difference between what was “right” and “law,” Hess sent the IRS a copy of the Declaration of Independence with a letter saying that he would never again pay taxes. The IRS charged him with tax resistance, confiscated most of his property and put a 100% lien on his future earnings. When implementing the penalty, the IRS told Hess that he no longer would be permitted to possess money; he reminded them that without money he could not buy food and would soon die. The IRS said that was his problem, not theirs. Remarkably, Hess was never incarcerated on this matter, probably due to astute, pro bono legal representation and his status as a folk hero. He was supported financially thereafter by his wife and used barter to keep himself busy. Later, however, he expressed ambivalence about becoming America’s most notorious tax resister and wrote that his act of civil disobedience could have effected dramatic reforms in tax law had 10 million or more of his fellow Americans joined him in defying the IRS.[3]

    In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president and Barry Goldwater went to Washington as Arizona’s junior senator. Hess, despite now being a member of the New Left, had recently written some speeches for Goldwater and resumed their close personal relationship; he had grown convinced that American men should not be forced into military service and urged Goldwater to submit legislation abolishing conscription. Goldwater replied, “Well, let’s wait and see what Dick Nixon wants to do about that one.” Hess despised Nixon almost as much as he admired Goldwater and could not tolerate the notion that Goldwater would defer to Nixon. Thus ended one of Hess’s closest professional associations and significantly compromised one of his deepest friendships.

    Hess began reading American anarchists largely due to the recommendations of his friend Murray Rothbard. Hess said that upon reading the works of Emma Goldman he discovered that anarchists believed everything he had hoped the Republican Party would represent, and that Goldman was the source for the best and most essential theories of Ayn Rand without any of the “crazy solipsism that Rand was so fond of.”[4]

    From 1969 to 1971 Hess edited the The Libertarian Forum with Rothbard.

    Hess eventually put his focus on the small scale, on community. He said, “Society is: people together making culture.” He deemed two of his cardinal social principles as being “opposition to central political authority” and “concern for people as individuals.” His rejection of standard American party politics was reflected in a lecture he gave during which he said “The Democrats or liberals think that everybody is stupid and therefore they need somebody… to tell them how to behave themselves. The Republicans think everybody is lazy…”[5]

    In 1969 and 1970, Hess joined with others, including Murray Rothbard, Robert LeFevre, Dana Rohrabacher, Samuel Edward Konkin III, and former Students for a Democratic Society leader Carl Oglesby to speak at two “left-right” conferences which brought together activists from both the Old Right and the New Left in what was emerging as a nascent libertarian movement.[6] Hess later joined the Libertarian Party which was founded in 1971, and served as editor of its newspaper from 1986 to 1990.
    [edit] Adams-Morgan experiment and back-to-the-land

    Hess was an early proponent of the “back to the land” movement, and his focus on self-reliance and small communities happened in part by government mandate. According to a Libertarian Party News obituary, “When the Internal Revenue Service confiscated all his property and put a 100 percent lien on all of his future earnings, Hess (who had taught himself welding) existed on bartering his work for food and goods.”[7]

    With Goldwater’s 1964 defeat, Hess and others on the losing team had found themselves outsiders within the national Republican party due to their support of that controversial politician. Anticipating that making a living as a speechwriter thereafter might prove a challenge, Hess had begun to learn welding. This activity put him in rapport with a very large segment of the American population who are manual laborers. He eventually came to the conviction that virtually no one in national politics identified with these people anymore. When Hess revolted against public giantism – a distrust toward large-corporate business as well as big government – his conviction prompted him to withhold federal income tax payment; legal troubles ensued, but he had welding skills (and the practice of barter) to fall back on. After Hess had made friends within the New Left and related circles, he began to encounter the young, new-breed “appropriate technology” enthusiasts[8] (exemplified, by the late 1960s, in the editors and readerships of the Whole Earth Catalog and Mother Earth News).

    In the early 1970s, Hess became involved in an experiment with several friends and colleagues to bring self-built and -managed technology into the direct service of the economic and social life of the poor, largely African American neighborhood of Adams-Morgan in Washington, D.C.. It was the neighborhood in which Hess had spent his childhood. Afterward, Hess wrote a book entitled Community Technology which told the story of this experiment and its results. According to Hess, the residents had a vigorous go at participatory democracy, and the neighborhood seemed for a time like a fertile ground for the growth of community identity and capability.

    Much of the technological experimentation Hess and others engaged in there was successful in technical terms (apparatus was built, food raised, solar energy captured, etc.). For instance, Hess wrote: “In one experiment undertaken by the author and associates, an inner-city basement space, roughly thirty by fifty feet, was sufficient to house plywood tanks in which rainbow trout were produced at a cost of less than a dollar per pound. In a regular production run the total number of fish that can be raised in such a basement area was projected to be five tons per year.”[9] He taught courses and lectured on Appropriate Technology and Social Change in this period at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont. Nonetheless, the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, continuing on what he felt was a path of social deterioration and real-estate gentrification, declined to devote itself to expanding on the technology. Hence, in his view, a needy community got little value from the application of viable technology.

    Subsequently, Hess and his wife, Therese, moved to rural Opequon Creek, West Virginia, where he set up a welding shop to support his household. He became deeply involved with local affairs there. Hess built an affordable house that relied largely on passive-solar heating, and took an interest in wind power and all forms of solar energy. By the late 1970s, he saw solar energy as emblematic of decentralization and nuclear energy as emblematic of central organization.[8]

    Hess wrote for and later edited a survivalist newsletter titled Personal Survival (“P.S.”) Letter, which was published from 1977 to 1982. It was first published and edited by Mel Tappan. Following Tappan’s death in 1980, Hess took over editing and publishing the newsletter, eventually renaming it Survival Tomorrow. In the same time period, Hess authored the book A Common Sense Strategy for Survivalists.

    Hess ran a symbolic campaign for Governor of West Virginia in 1992. When asked by a reporter what his first act would be if elected, he quipped, “I will demand an immediate recount.”

  20. paulie Post author

    Non-capitalist anarchists are frequently libertarians. *

    *However, not all left wing anarchists are libertarians in the sense that the term is generally now used in the US.

    Many left wing anarchists do not believe that there can or should be an individual right to own property, and instead believe that individual property is theft from the community – and that the community is justified in using what they consider to be responsive force in destroying attempts to exercise claim of individual property. Other anarchists counter that in practice this amounts to a government, and a tyrannical one at that.

    Konkin was not one of the ones who opposed individual property rights – he was firmly in the libertarian camp, although he opposed participation in electoral politics and thus considered the Libertarian Party to be anti-libertarian.

  21. paulie Post author

    I’d also say that Tom is too modest in his estimate of his own role. While he may not be in the same league (yet) as some of the others mentioned in forming the theoretical basis of individualist left-libertarian anarchist thought, he has been a tremendous force in spreading/popularizing, explaining and defending it to a larger audience.

    I tend to think that is at least as important as providing scholarly theoretical foundations.

  22. Thomas L. Knapp

    “Left-wing Anarchists, out of the Lennin, Emma Goldman, Noam Chomsky and even Stalin mode”

    That gumball machine you got your poli-sci degree from didn’t serve you very well.

    Lenin was no anarchist. He got his start with the Narodnya Volya, a Russian group which assassinated Tsar Alexander II (Lenin’s brother was hanged over that). Their politics were social democratic.

    After that, his political thought turned increasingly to centralization of authority, the antithesis of anarchism. In 1905, he specifically praised the Soviet of Workers Deputies for excluding anarchists.

    Before the Bolsheviks managed to gain total control of Russia, they tolerated the anarchists to an extent. Kropotkin was allowed to return to Russia. When Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were deported from the US, they were allowed to live in Russia, from which they eventually fled. The Red Army worked briefly with Nestor Makhno’s anarchist army in the Ukraine to beat the whites … and then turned on and liquidated the Makhnovists.

    By the time Stalin took power, most Russian anarchists had left the country. Those that were left disappeared into the gulag.

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