Fox News small government evangelist John Stossel has lung cancer. He revealed it in a post on the Fox News website earlier today, but not without taking a few paragraphs to slam the very fine health care workers in the very fine facility where he is recovering.
My doctors tell me my growth was caught early and I'll be fine. Soon I will barely notice that a fifth of my lung is gone. I believe them. After all, I'm at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. U.S. News & World Report ranked it No. 1 in New York. I get excellent medical care here.
Fox News has some stellar benefits, from what I hear. So glad to know you're getting the very best care possible, Mr. Stossel.
But as a consumer reporter, I have to say, the hospital's customer service stinks. Doctors keep me waiting for hours, and no one bothers to call or email to say, "I'm running late." Few doctors give out their email address. Patients can't communicate using modern technology.
I get X-rays, EKG tests, echocardiograms, blood tests. Are all needed? I doubt it. But no one discusses that with me or mentions the cost. Why would they? The patient rarely pays directly. Government or insurance companies pay.
Uh oh. Here it comes.
Customer service is sclerotic because hospitals are largely socialist bureaucracies. Instead of answering to consumers, which forces businesses to be nimble, hospitals report to government, lawyers and insurance companies.
Anyone who has ever waded through the bureaucracy of trying to get an actual bank employee on the phone or dealt with an airline knows this just isn't true. But on the topic of health care specifically, let's be clear that the bureaucracies exist not because of government or insurance, but because health care just isn't a consumer product to be commoditized like a stick of butter.
The fact that Stossel is in the #1 hospital enjoying the services of top surgeons, nurses, oncologists and more, is evidence of the "market" which has been made of a service which shouldn't have ever been one.
But cars, computers and airplane flights are complex, too, and the market still incentivizes sellers to discount and compete on service. It happens in medicine, too, when you get plastic surgery or Lasik surgery. Those doctors give patients their personal email addresses and cell phone numbers. They compete to please patients.
What's different about those specialties? The patient pays the bill.
Leftists say the solution to such problems is government health care. But did they not notice what happened at Veterans Affairs? Bureaucrats let veterans die, waiting for care. When the scandal was exposed, they didn't stop. USA Today reports that the abuse continues. Sometimes the VA's suicide hotline goes to voicemail.
Patients will have a better experience only when more of us spend our own money for care. That's what makes markets work.
I'd recommend that John Stossel spend some of his recuperative time reading about what really happened at the VA. I'll even put it in terms he'll understand. You cannot flood any market with new consumers and expect the product to remain the same with less capital investment.
Maybe, just maybe, veterans' needs should be considered before politicians decide to go to war, rather than afterward. And maybe, just maybe, they might have prepared for the inevitable onslaught of injured, traumatized veterans who are entitled to the very best health care the richest country in the world can buy.
And maybe, just maybe, we should all be able to access health care like Stossel is. That means the government must regulate it and must be involved in paying for it.
I wish John Stossel a speedy, full and rapid recovery. But before he complains too much, he might acknowledge that he has great privilege in accessing it at all. There are still far too many people who will die of lung cancer not diagnosed soon enough to have the rosy prospects he does today after a surgery which was apparently successful enough that he's able to complain about it from his hospital bed.