October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The perfect month to consider the benefits to consumer choice in health care.

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute has done a lot of research on comparing the health care system of the United States to that of other countries. In 2007, he noted that the overall five-year survival rate for all types of cancer for men in the U.S. is 66.3 percent and 62.9 percent for women. These are the best outcomes in the world.

Why? Because free market health care doesn’t have limits as to how many people can receive care—there is no rationing.

For breast cancer, “less than 25 percent of U.S. women die from breast cancer. In Britain, it's 46 percent; France, 35 percent; Germany, 31 percent; Canada, 28 percent; Australia, 28 percent, and New Zealand, 46 percent.” These numbers are striking.

Government mandated health care can actually decrease the availability of health care, as counterintuitive as that sounds. People under government provided health coverage are most likely to face:

  • waiting lists,
  • rationing,
  • restrictions on physician choice,
  • other obstacles to care.

And waiting lists are more than a mere annoyance.

“In Canada, the Society of Surgical Oncology recommends that cancer surgery take place within two weeks of preoperative tests. Yet one study indicates that median waiting time for cancer surgery in Canada ranged from 29 days […] to more than two months.”

Other problems with government mandated health care is that it can increase costs. In Massachusetts, the 2006 health care overhaul included a mandate that individuals must purchase health coverage. Supporters claimed that the plan would decrease health care costs, but following the plan insurance premiums rose 7.4% in 2007 and 8-12% in 2008, as compared to the national average of 5.7% for those years.

Citizens are thus coerced into health coverage. They are not, however, guaranteed health care. State mandated health care is expensive and unsuccessful in providing care, if Massachusetts proves anything. That is because mandating that an individual buy a health insurance policy does not magically create more health commodities. Not to mention a deprivation of our freedom to do with our property as we wish.

In a Cato study by Tanner titled “The Grass is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World,” he asserts that countries boasting more effective national health care systems are successful when they deviate from the model of government control, incorporating market mechanisms including cost sharing and market prices. Women should take this to heart. Less government means greater access to medical care.