Bush vs. Bush on Health Care

From last night’s debate:

BUSH: Health-care costs are on the rise because the consumers are not involved in the decision-making process. Most health-care costs are covered by third parties. And therefore, the actual user of health care is not the purchaser of health care. And there’s no market forces involved with health care.

It’s one of the reasons I’m a strong believer in what they call health savings accounts. These are accounts that allow somebody to buy a low-premium, high-deductible catastrophic plan and couple it with tax-free savings.

BUSH: Our health-care system is the envy of the world because we believe in making sure that the decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by officials in the nation’s capital.

Ummm, so… are decisions actually being made by the consumers of health care, or are they not?

More seriously, Bush’s first statement on health care struck me as extraordinary. He seems to agree with the premise that market forces don’t work in the health care industry. I must confess that I was somewhat dumbstruck when he said so, because that is actually a perceptive insight, based on sound economics.

But then why is he so committed to “market solutions” to the nation’s health care problem? How do health savings accounts, which apparently are supposed to go toward buying more private insurance plans, address this fundamental problem? Bush was quite right to say that consumers of health care are not involved in the decision-making process, and that market forces don’t work in health care. But then follow that economic logic to its conclusion – economics 101 teaches us that market failures are a prime reason for government intervention. Bush spelled out quite clearly the case for more government intervention in the health care industry.