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March 4th, 2010 1:15 am
The MSM Wakes up to Healthcare Markets
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Sign #535 that health care reform efforts have dragged on for too long: the mainstream media, having exhausted its other options, is starting to make sense … and in the journalistic wasteland of weekly newsmagazines, no less.

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman turns this week to the hallmark of a liberal journalist afraid that he’s going to miss his deadline — making grand conclusions about policy based on a personal anecdote. After falling ill on a trip in Argentina, Fineman became convinced that the American healthcare reform debate hasn’t focused nearly enough on the cost to the consumer. To wit:

President Obama proclaims his plan (whatever it finally is) to be “reform.” But from what I can see, it would merely feed, at taxpayer expense, 30 million currently “uncovered” people into a wasteful system that doesn’t have either the price-signaling power of a marketplace or the sweeping overview and control of a state-run bureacracy.

Apart from his ambivalence between free-market health care and an authoritarian system, this is the sound of Howard Fineman making sense (this probably has something to do with the earth reversing its polarity).

But if Newsweek deserves accolades for groping towards insight, Time deserves a standing ovation for one of the most insightful pieces they’re published in years (of course, it was relegated to their “The Curious Capitalist” blog), courtesy of one Barbara Kiviat. In a piece titled “Could Price Tags Save American Health Care?”, Kiviat has a vivid dream of a more-market friendly healthcare sector:

I wish everyone in America could instantaneously have insurance set up this way [based on transparent price and quality]. I wish that every time any person went to the doctor, he asked: How much does this cost? How much does that cost? Is there a less-expensive way to do this? Naturally, people with high deductibles are already incentivized to do this. So are people without insurance.
But I want to go even further. I want everyone to have easy access to price information, even those people who don’t think—or want—to ask. When I go to a hotel, there is sign on the back of the door that tells me the most the room can cost. When I go to a car dealership, there are sticker prices on every windshield. When I go to Wal-Mart, there are price tags on the shelves.

Conservatives looking to shed the “Party of No” mantle should take note of these and other insights into the virtues of consumer-driven health care. The case is an easy one to make: if it works in every other sector of the economy, why not in the doctor’s office?

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