Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A Symptom of Chronic Stupidity

Free Stuff!

That caught your attention, didn't it? The power of the word "free" is astounding. It always gets us excited even though our most basic intuitions tell us there must be catch. As South Africans we keep falling for this trap, free housing, free electricity, free education and now free health care. When will we realise that nothing is ever free?

Away from the State Capture vs White Monopoly Capital battle which is both capturing and monopolising the headlines, news regarding the progress of the NHI (National Health Insurance) has managed to attract some attention, though certainly not enough. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, the ANC has big plans to create a national, single payer healthcare system similar to Obamacare, or the UK's NHS. The goal is for it to be implemented by 2025, but it has just popped up in the headlines because a couple of milestones in the planning stage have been hit.

This system spells disaster for our country. I know there are many who admire other countries' national healthcare systems and I know that there are many South Africans who are proponents of the NHI because they want to see universal access to quality health care. The foremost criticism of those who oppose the NHI is that they supposedly don't want such. I will say now that I am completely in favour of universal access to quality health care, and it is for that very reason that I oppose the NHI. I admire the intentions of those who expect it to be a great help to the poor, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I am not interested in living in a socialist hell. The NHI is just another brick in that road.

My biggest concerns are the moral issues regarding a government-administered single-payer health system, but first let's look at the practicalities. In terms of affordability, well, it just isn't affordable. We already have a shrinking economy, too much debt and high taxes. There is simply nowhere to pull the R100 billion from without causing extensive damage to our fragile economy. The immediate response from the short-sighted is "Tax the rich!" but the more we tax tax the rich, the faster they are going to leave sunny, socialist South Africa for greener pastures overseas, further hampering our ability to provide access to quality healthcare. Then we have a problem with lack of resources. We have neither the infrastructure nor the human resources, i.e. doctors, to bring the healthcare standards for everyone up to the standards of the current private sector, so in spite of the huge price tag, the standard of health care will improve only marginally for poor, but take a massive nose-dive for the rich. And no, there is no opt-out option for the NHI. Everyone is part of it. So the net result of this legislation will be a mass exodus of educated, skilled middle-class systems, to countries where they can obtain their own affordable quality healthcare.

One of the reasons healthcare is so expensive is because the healthcare profession is like an exclusive club. There are many, many capable, aspiring doctors who cannot get into medical school because of arbitrary and meaningless selection processes and lack of space, all while Blade Nzimande brags about blocking the building of a private medical school, which could provide us with many more doctors. Then there are also all sorts of unnecessary government restrictions that make access to affordable medicine impossible. Government needs to cut a whole lot of red tape, and the cost of healthcare will come down significantly.

And now to the moral issue. The government simply does not have the right to interfere with private citizens choices regarding healthcare, health insurance or anything related. It does not have the right to steal from the rich to subsidize the poor in this regard. Health care is not a right. Health care is a service and one cannot have the right to the services of another person. A baker can expect to bake for whom he wants to bake and a painter can expect to paint for whom he wants to paint, but doctors and nurses, who invest thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of rands into their education must provide their services to whom the government dictates? We cannot make slaves of our healthcare professionals any more than we can make slaves of anyone else.

This post is already getting long and I have only just touched on some issues. Please comment if you want more information regarding any of points discussed. In conclusion, it is not more forceful redistribution that we need, but a growing economy, a free economy, that will allow people to access quality healthcare for themselves. Yes, I believe everyone should have access to quality healthcare, but it is not the governments responsibility to provide it.

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