Free products and services equal unlimited demand

I’ve been meaning to write a post concerning “free” goods and services. What happens when the government – or any other group – comes in and offers something for a very low cost or free?

I’ve found three events that will show us what happens when you offer stuff for free or at super-low cost, well below the actual market value.

First we have Connecticut’s free dental clinic that was held in Tolland in April.

It’s estimated that 1 million to 1.5 million Connecticut residents lack access to dental care, Dr. Robert Schreibman said Monday. He said he expects people will start lining up outside the former Tolland High School at midnight Saturday for the first ever Connecticut Mission of Mercy free dental clinic.

They expected between 750 and 1,000 people to show up and from what I can gather, 1,100 were eventually provided with free care, many of them standing in line for more than seven or eight hours prior to opening at 5 a.m. each day.

What’s wrong with this picture? Is this what socialized dental care could look like? Now, I’m fine with dental professionals giving up their time to provide these services, I’m certain it was a great event and a lot of people were helped out that day, but what would happen if these free clinics were held every six months and they expanded capacity?

Would some people who can afford insurance or to pay for care drop their coverage and wait in line for free service? How would that affect the people who really could not afford care and may be turned away?

After three minutes of online research, I found a dental insurance plan a family of four could buy for about $100 per month. Services must have value, and dental care is more valuable than cable TV.

The next example I found today on, Hawaii Ending Universal Child Health Care After 7 Mos. My emphasis added.

HONOLULU — Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.

Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.

“People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free,” said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. “I don’t believe that was the intent of the program.”

Of course not Dr. Fink, all you needed to do is ask a conservative and they would have told you exactly what would happen you big dope. (Yes, listened to a little more Levin the last day or so…)

The third example is the great Massachusetts health care insurance plan, requiring that everyone in the state have (low cost) insurance with preventative care. With the influx of new patients – almost 500,000 – into the system, serious problems are occurring.

First could be the quality of care. Physicians who used to see one or two new patients each day are frequently seeing double that number on a daily basis. Why is this? People new to the system are going to doctor, and the doctors are overwhelmed.

You can not tell me that the quality of care is improving when docs have more patients in the appointment book and…

There is a shortage of primary care physicians in Massachusetts. It was an issue before, and this program is not helping. Why stay in, or move to, Massachusetts to provide care when you are loosing money every time you see a new patient? On top of that, many new docs are choosing specialties that pay more than the vanilla primary care positions that are in demand and pay less.

The state is having trouble funding the program, so they are considering cutting the services that are offered in the basic plan.

The Massachusetts Connector Board is scheduled to vote tomorrow on potential changes to Minimum Creditable Coverage, which is the most basic coverage that an individual must have to satisfy the state’s individual mandate. In regulations proposed earlier this summer, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are not considered “core services” and can be subject to limits by health insurers.

That’s not all. In less than one year, the state ran into budget problems; they can not afford the program and had to go to the federal government to get a bailout two weeks ago.

At a time when many states are facing substantial cuts in federal financing, Massachusetts will be able to expand its first-in-the-nation healthcare law because of a federal promise of $10.6 billion over the next three years, Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday.

The deal, struck after months of delicate negotiations, gives Massachusetts about $2.1 billion more than it received from the government in its last round of negotiations three years ago for its Medicaid waiver package. The waiver allows Massachusetts to provide subsidized health insurance to some residents with incomes higher than would typically be allowed under traditional Medicaid rules.

This is a never-ending battle. Hot Air just picked up on the Hawaii article.