As a general rule, if you find yourself in disagreement with the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, you are on the right path.
Yesterday they published an article by Scott Gottlieb attacking the proposed "public option" as part of the reform of the health care system. He warns that the public option will force other, private plans out of business and result in doctors making less money and consequently in patients having to wait longer for medical care. Now, "force" is an interesting choice of verb. The "public option" is just that, an option. If it is less expensive than the private plans, people probably will choose it precisely because they are tired of paying so much money to the private plans. But, no one is forcing anyone here.
Secondly, it is difficult to see how the reduced overall health care costs the country needs will be achieved by private plans. They haven’t done so yet. The problem here is that as long as profit is built into the system, there is a perverse incentive for a doctor to increase costs: The more therapies and tests and drugs a doctor prescribes, the more money he or she will make. And insurance companies do not reward doctors for good medicine. They reward them for cutting costs which creates a different, and potentially difficult, incentive for a doctor.
Perverse incentives abound in the current system, but that would change if we could take the profit motive out of the system. Critics worry that this is the ultimate objective of President Obama’s plans, to create a universal system that is not tied to the market and its rules. Others of us find that scenario exciting. It is too soon to tell whether the final legislative bill include the public option, or not. But, as Catholics, we do not share in the idolatry of the market that characterizes the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. That idolatry has poisoned our health care system for long enough. It is time for the patient, America, to find a different medicine.