Reaction To EpiPens Increased Price, Reveals Our Economic Ignorance.

SAINT LOUIS, UNITED STATES - AUGUST 25, 2016: Two EpiPen auto-injectors used for treatment of allergic reactions.

The angst over the recent price increase of the product EpiPen, reveals our economic ignorance. This economic ignorance in and of itself wouldn’t be a problem in a free market capitalist system. Unfortunately we live in a crony capitalist economic system, where more and more economic decisions are being made through the political process. Businesses are being forced to obey interventionist laws passed by Congress, on the one hand, and cave in to political shaming by ignorant consumers and politicians on the other.

When this point is reached, companies are incentivized to put their resources toward lobbying Congress to pass laws that favor these incumbent businesses. They also donate money to politicians and political parties which is like paying protection money to the mob.

All of these resources could have been used to satisfy consumer demand. But these companies have decided that these resources can best serve their interest if they are invested in lobbying government. This is not how free market capitalism works. This is how crony capitalism works.

The EpiPen kerfuffle is an example of how our economic ignorance has allowed politicians to place the blame for the price increase on Mylan, the producer of EpiPen. The blame should be placed on the very politicians who are doing the finger-pointing. Government intervention into the healthcare market over the last 75 years, culminating in The Affordable Care Act (aka. Obamacare), is what has caused prices to skyrocket. Let’s take a look.

ECONOMICS 101

EpiPen is a product that delivers a life saving dose of epinephrine to individuals who have severe allergic reactions to food, insect stings, and medicines. Lets look at the economic reality of how EpiPen magically appears to perform its life saving task.

As much as people want to think that healthcare is a right, they are literally dead wrong. Healthcare in general and EpiPen in particular, is an economic good. This means it is subject to the first rule of economics which is scarcity.  EpiPen just doesn’t appear out of thin air as if we lived in the Garden of Eden. In the real world, someone has to produce this product, and you don’t have a right to take what a person produces.

The people who produce this product have to be compensated for the cost of production plus a profit. If they can’t make a profit, they would cut their losses and stop producing the product. This is why prices are so important in a free market economy. Prices send information through the production process. Government intervention increases the cost of production, which in turn sends false information through the pricing system.

CENTRALLY PLANNED HEALTHCARE

The Healthcare system was one of the most regulated industries before the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed six years ago. There is no true price discovery in our current healthcare system. This means information about which healthcare goods and services should be produced and in what quantity they should be produced doesn’t exist.

When third-party pays, whether it’s an insurance company or Government, prices are distorted. If you add the fact that insurance companies have to abide by the rules set by Government it is worse. Take a quick glance at this article, EpiPen Price: What To Know, at webmd.com, to see how much Government intervention there is in the healthcare system. Government intervention is essentially an attempt at price-fixing. Price fixing distorts the information sent through the market.

Government has created the monopoly position that Mylan holds with EpiPen. Government regulations have made it more difficult for competitors to enter the market and produce an EpiPen like product. Scan this short article, Why The EpiPen Has A Monopoly (Hint It Is Not Runaway Capitalism), at thelibertarianrepublic.com, to see how Government planners created the monopoly position for Mylan that allows the price to soar.

Supply and demand chart drawn on a blackboard.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND RULE THE DAY. EVEN IN A HAMPERED MARKET.

At a lower price more is demanded and less is produced. At a higher price more is produced and less is demanded. This is the law of supply and demand.

Government had artificially lowered the price, that people were paying for EpiPen, through Insurance mandates and Government subsidies. Because of the artificially low price, demand increased. When Auvi-Q, one of the other two producers of automatic injection devices for epinephrine, was taken off the market by regulators in October of 2015, overall supply was reduced. What happens when demand is increasing and supply is decreasing? The price has to go up to ration the scarce resource. Is this a good thing? It is neither good nor bad. It is just the reality of prices. Prices discovered through free markets not only coordinate supply and demand. Free market prices also reveal the scarcity that exists. But free market prices don’t create the scarcity.

Let’s look at the price of oil to understand what would happen if there were free markets in the healthcare system. When the price of oil was around $120 dollars a barrel, there was talk of oil going to $200 a barrel. But what happened. People started using less, demand started to decrease. At these higher prices fracking became economically viable. The supply of oil started to increase. Frackers started to find more productive methods of extracting oil from the ground. As supply increased and demand decreased the price of oil started to decrease. Because of these more productive methods, fracking wells could keep supplying oil at lower and lower prices. Because supply remains high and demand has just marginally increased, the price has remained low.

Even though Obama’s EPA took government land off-line for fracking, that didn’t keep fracking from happening on privately owned land. The free market pricing system worked to supply more oil to the market at a lower price. Bureaucrats in Government didn’t do this, free markets did. What does this have to do with the price of EpiPen?

In a free market the rise in the price of EpiPen would do two things. People would start using less. And companies would start supplying more. The price would eventually go down.

Because of Government intervention their won’t be new suppliers even at the higher price. They are being restricted from entry into the market by Government rules. Supply won’t increase like supply increased in the oil sector.

If Government and insurance companies subsidize the purchase of EpiPen, and Mylan gets bullied into lowering prices, their will be no true price discovery. False information about production and consumption will be sent through the hampered market. Their will be over consumption and under production of EpiPen. The more the planners plan the more their plans will not work.

CONCLUSION

Central planners, and people who vote for central planning, think that whatever is decreed, will happen. Unfortunately for them economic laws are more powerful than central planners mandates. Unless more companies are allowed to supply EpiPens, the artificially created shortage will continue. If the price is artificially kept below what it would be in a free market, demand will remain high. High demand and short supply means EpiPen will have to be rationed by bureaucrats in Government instead of by prices in a free market. Look at the waiting lines in Venezuela if you want to see what rationing by Government looks like.

The answer? Get rid of Government regulations and let free market prices work. Until people gain understanding about free markets, they will continue to get fooled by slick politicians, and we will remain in this political quagmire.

 

Related ArticleThe Economics of Healthcare vs. The Right to Healthcare, at austrianaddict.com.

Related ArticleLets Look At Government Run Healthcare, at austrianaddict.com.

Related ArticleThe Reality Of Obamacare, at austrianaddict.com.

Related ArticleGruber Tells The Truth About Obamacare, at austrianaddict.com.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Econ. 101

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: