Is private health insurance the best way to cover the costs of health care in a libertarian society? Or are there better choices that could be made? We must remember here that health care in a libertarian society will be far less costly for most people than what we have now. The elimination of prescription laws brings to an end the power of doctors to exploit their government protected monopoly over access to medical drugs. This in turn means that people will only be seeing doctors when they decide to do so. Not when their doctor feels the need to boost his or her income through unnecessary office visits and lab tests. I should add here that some major drug store chains and warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club offer these tests for “free” at certain times. Of course people can test their own blood pressure at relatively low cost as often as they want. And the test for high cholesterol is relatively cheap. The test for high blood sugar is even cheaper. Blood pressure medicine is “cheap” (90 day supply at Walmart for $10). Generic cholesterol meds not much more. Blood sugar generic medicine ditto. You can get your “shots” at many of the drug store chains, so you don’t need a doctor there. In a libertarian society your choices will be much larger yet. And you will be able to ask the druggist what medicine you need for your health care condition as Americans used to be able to do prior to the passage of prescription laws. Additionally without government restrictions on such things, it is likely that we’ll have “doctor on a DVD” programs and a much more powerful program accessed via the Internet. Physicians that do nothing but prescribe medicine will be effectively obsolete. We will have a “surplus” of primary care type physicians instead of the “shortage” that has been created by government regulation.
As for the idea that a doctor knows far more you do, I suggest that you consider these facts. Much of what you learned in school is forgotten once it is not used for a period of time. What the doctor learned in medical school may have been later forgotten just as I forgot how to do square root with paper and pencil that I’d learned a decade before in high school. Most likely everyone reading this has had 12 years of education. How much of that education do you still recall? Most likely you retained your knowledge of grade school math, as this is something most people continue on using later in life. On the other hand most likely much of what you once knew say about English literature, history, geography, etc., has disappeared “down the memory hole”. Unless you have reason to continue to know these things, you are not likely to now retain this sort of knowledge for long. Everyone has the same problem, including members of all of the professions. Knowledge and skills that you don’t use eventually disappears. I will grant that if you do make a serious attempt to retain this sort of knowledge, it will likely stay with you over the years. On the other hand people (regardless of education) tend to “jump to conclusions”. We all do this. It is part of human nature. There even is a saying, “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” The only trouble is sometimes the hoofbeats you hear are those of zebras, not horses… This is how medical mistakes happen. I’ve had this happen twice now in my life. Fortunately in both cases the only consequence was added cost… But you should consider this fact before coming to a conclusion that might well be wrong. Now back to the issue at hand.
Without the sort of government regulation we have today, the cost of “basic” hospital care will be far less since you will only be paying for whatever services you actually use. For many people this level of care will be “affordable” and likely would be financed through health savings accounts or by investment accounts that can be drawn upon when needed. We could also see low interest health care loans, especially through credit unions. Health insurance will be reserved for “major medical costs”, which given the lower cost of health care, will likely be considerably less expensive than those of today. Nor will people be limited to obtaining health care only from their own country’s doctors. Elimination of those regulations that now prohibit this will be one of the actions taken by a libertarian government. Additionally, once you eliminate all the professional monopolies along with occupational licensing, living costs will drop considerably. And will drop even more once zoning and building regulations become things of the past. Roughly, in a libertarian society, the cost of living will be about two thirds of what it is today or even less once you consider the elimination of things like the income tax, and its replacement with a 1% financial transaction tax on the federal level. Most likely the state and local governments will use the same system which will make US taxes the lowest in the developed world. Additionally, a libertarian America will not need our massive “defense costs” once we learn to start “minding our own business”. The libertarian “non-aggression” principle certainly would have been a better solution to our problems in the Middle East than the policies we’ve been following now for decades.
“What about the poor and the elderly?” you might ask. Poverty to a great extent is created by government regulations that prevent people from using their own talents to support themselves. If they were allowed to do so, then the issue of health care for the poor would not be the problem it is today. As for the elderly, Social Security is not really all that great an “investment”. What Social Security does is “transfer money” with the Social Security Administration raking a bit “off the top” for its own operating costs. I invite those reading this to consider the “return” on Social Security as opposed to the “return” that would apply given an investment in index funds on a basis of 1/2 in preferred stocks and 1/2 in bonds, both corporate and government. I think you will find that the total return will be greater from the investment for most people.