Washington Post opinion writer Charles Lane suggested today that “market signals” can do a better job than the Veteran’s Administration in taking care of our nation’s veterans.
Without market signals to help allocate resources, long waits and other patient frustrations are inevitable, no matter how sincerely, or how threateningly, Washington orders their elimination.
Ah yes, market signals. That must be why every hospital in America is clamoring to staff its cardiology department, since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Cancer is #2, so cancer centers are springing up everywhere, too. There’s a huge market for these services but do they do anything to actually advance medical science? The vast majority of them do not. They are, however, unbelievably profitable for the hospitals that have them.
“Market signals” would say every hospital needs heart and cancer centers, but what about the other diseases that are just as deadly if not as popular? ALS was off the public’s radar until last year’s “Ice Bucket Challenge.” The fad brought in more research money for ALS than ever but will the interest remain? Should we not pursue research and treatment because the “market signals” say it’s not as profitable as cancer? Do you tell your loved one with ALS, “sorry, dear. Our death panels, … er, I mean “Wall Street analysts” … say you should’ve gotten cancer instead.”