The Pied Pipers of The Bahamas

First Published: 2008-02-28

At the PLP’s recent convention the speakers spent considerable time lamenting the fact that the FNM have not implemented their much ballyhooed National Health Insurance scheme.

Their intention, if re-elected in May 2007, was what amounted to a hostile take over of the health care industry. Promising that no Bahamian would have to endure the hardship of cookouts to raise money to help defray medical expenses ever again.

But as Greg Mankiw, professor of economics at Harvard points out, people in Britain, where they have had a form of NHI for 60 years, still have to raise money for health care services.

He writes in a recent blog:

"Some people like to think of health care and education of basic human rights. Maybe they are. But they are also normal goods. That is, the income elasticity of demand is positive. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the right cost-benefit calculation for providing the good depends on the income of the consumer."

"Achieving both efficiency and equality in the provision of these goods is impossible. Dealing with this conflict will provide a major challenge to the political system in the years to come."

Not to be out done, the FNM appears to be playing politics with the NHI now by saying they are in favour of such a scheme. Some say they have to make people believe they want nationalised health care as that is the ‘political thing’ to do.

Of course many politicians don’t realise that the Pied Piper of Hamelin was a fairy tale. The difference with the NHI story is adults are being sold a bill of goods that will further enslave their children to an even larger debt load for the country and the attendant tax burden.

The Bahamas has endured the ‘political’ thing being done for too long. Just look where it has led. Failed public education, failed public health care, among many other failed public institutions and services.

It’s high time some economic principles were applied to government services and that most certainly does not include nationalising health care.

And how might that be accomplished?

As Nadeem Esmail, of The Fraser Institute, suggested in his analysis of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s plan, the cleanest solution to the health care problem is for government to mandate that all working employees buy their own health care insurance. This would leave the unemployed and indigent for the government to take care of through a catastrophic health plan.

While as a general principle government mandates are not the best thing for a free society, it sure beats nationalising health care. Some compare it to the law that forces drivers to buy vehicle insurance.

There is no other course for a viable future.

Unless the PLP or FNM have a wizard in their back pocket, wiping every tear from every eye, and creating a national health insurance scheme whereby no Bahamian will ever have to raise money to pay for health care services, or do without services again, is a pipe dream. A mere bill of political goods.

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