Libertarian State Leadership Alliance

Medical Issues


Medical Issues - a Libertarian Stand

In 1996, the Massachusetts Medical Association contacted the U.S. Senate candidates from Massachusetts, asking their stands on specific medical issues. Here is how George Phillies, Massachusetts Libertarian candidate for U. S. Senate, responded.

The questions were:

  1. What do you believe should be the three priority health care issues for the next Congress and what proposals would you support to address them?}
  2. Do you believe Medicare recipients should have the freedom to choose their physicians? Should they pay more for this option?

Phillies replied:

In answer to the first question, Libertarians support individual freedom and responsibility, low taxes, and small government. How do we apply these principles to health care?

1) Tax equity for health insurance. Many Americans get health insurance because their employer pays. Other Americans pay for health insurance from after-tax income.

Tax discrimination is unfair. It shouldn't matter whether you or your employer pay for health insurance. Libertarians say: all working Americans should pay the same tax for the same medical care. All Americans should have health spending taxed the same way --'not at all'.

2) Make FDA regulation of medicine an advisory procedure. End compulsory rules; they keep treatments that work from reaching the sick immediately. Of course, FDA rules can keep dangerous treatments from consumers. But remember: when the FDA took years to approve good treatments, people died because they didn't get treated in time. FDA delays in approving European heart treatments -- treatments your physician now prescribes -- caused tens of thousands of Americans to die avoidably.

Worse, government regulations are manipulated by politicians. Consider RU-486, a French family planning agent safely available for a decade in Europe, but still unavailable here in America. Government regulations against RU-486 mean sterility or death for American women. Libertarians say: make FDA certification advisory.

3) Transfer medical programs for welfare clients back from the Federal government to the states. Cut Federal taxes dollar for dollar to match. (Medical and nursing home care for Social Security recipients are separate questions, which Congress must solve this year.) In the short run, the transfer only means you'll send taxes to Bill Weld, not to Bill Clinton. However:

In the long run, ending Federal involvement means your tax dollars stay in Massachusetts, and don't take a one-way trip to pay Washington bureaucrats. Ending Federal involvement means Massachusetts can launch innovative programs without begging Washington bureaucrats for permission. Finally, ending Federal involvement will return Washington bureaucrats -- many of whom are enterprising, entrepreneurial people -- to the private sector where they can create new industries and jobs for Americans.

Finally, individual responsibility. The most important things most people do for health are things Uncle Sam can't provide. For most people most of the time, good health comes not from medical technology but from: Eat a low-fat diet, with milk and vegetables. Don't smoke; don't drink to excess. Keep your weight down. Exercise! Stay active mentally! Get a physician; {\em speak up} when your health changes. Don't forget dental and vision check-ups. {\em Your personal physical will adjust this list for your needs.}

In answer to the second question, Medicare recipients need to be able to choose their own physicians. Why? The most important single aspect of getting good medical care is your ability to talk confidentially with your physician about personal, potentially enbarrassing health questions. That's a matter of personal chemistry, not professional competence. When you choose your own physician, you can choose someone you can speak to. If Uncle Sam assigns you a physician, your health is entrusted to the roll of the dice.

Thanks to medical research, modern medicine has wonderful techniques to diagnose and cure disease. However, if you're reluctant to tell your doctor something is wrong, these techniques aren't nearly so helpful. In the long run, a personal physician can mean earlier detection and treatment of disease at less cost; we should not charge for this option.

The most expensive and wasteful part of government medical care comes from people who get all their medical care through hospital emergency rooms. The Libertarian solution: reverse Congressional mandates that encourage this behavior.

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