Ron Paul, GOP representative from Texas, physician and dogged presidential candidate, outlined his vision Wednesday to the Congressional Health Care Caucus, the same group that hosted rival Herman Cain two weeks ago. The CHCC, open only to Republican House members and staff, is likely to be the friendliest audience Paul will find for ideas grounded in the his strong libertarian convictions.
Paul has seen his prospects in the battleground state of Iowa pick up recently. A Bloomberg News poll out Tuesday had Paul in second place behind Cain, with 19 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters. The poll was conducted Nov. 10-12, and accounting for the margin of error, Paul, Cain, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were in a virtual tie.
An experienced ob-gyn, Paul began by noting the many changes since he first began practicing medicine in the early 1960s: "I experienced medicine when we didn’t have government involved." Soon after, he said, the launch of programs like Medicare and Medicaid have driven increases in costs and decreases in quality.
"[Government] medical care has always been done in the name of humanitarianism," Paul said. But "the market is the only compassionate system," because it delivers the most goods and services to the most people possible.
Paul said government mandates would lead to rationing, while not solving the nation’s health care cost problem. He also placed blame for spiraling health care costs on the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory approach, which he said "does a lot more harm than good." He also cited medical technology as a cost driver. In other industries – especially electronics -- newer technology tends to bring down costs, but in health care, Paul said, "that isn’t always the case, because government is always churning money in there."
Responding to questions, Paul was pushed on his use of the term "socialized medicine." He said that government health care programs are indeed characteristic of socialized medicine. But he said a greater danger is "corporate medicine, leaning toward fascism," in which government intervention favors health care business over patients.
Paul also was asked about a solution to the shortage of residency slots for medical students. Though he was unsure of specifics, he ventured a guess that the problem could be blamed – at least in part -- on federal over-regulation. Paul said that incentives to pursue medicine have decreased over time, and so "the quality of people going into medicine is not like it used to be."