Right to the Point (6/11/09)

Ills of socialized health care

June 11, 2009

By Mike Benevento

Coming soon to your doctor’s office — socialized health care. President Barack Obama is pushing for a national health care system by summer’s end. Citing the overused “crisis” pretext, Obama wants coverage for the 50 million Americans without health insurance. Not deterred by a $1.5 trillion bill, Obama and fellow Democrats are aiming for the federal government to take charge of one-seventh of the U.S. economy.

There are two main arguments for government-run medicine: Providing medical insurance coverage to the uninsured and stemming costs. Concerning the uninsured, the unspoken assumption is that these poor souls are shut out of the health care system. That’s not true.

Writer, author and attorney David Limbaugh notes a significant difference between being uninsured and not having access to medical care. Over 17 million Americans can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it. They pay for services out of pocket. Almost half the uninsured live without insurance for an average of only four months. In addition, the law mandates emergency room care for those unable to afford it.

Cost reduction is the second major reason given for nationalizing health care. The medical profession is already pinched by limited numbers of doctors and nurses. Obviously, to reduce costs, the government will attempt to cut doctor’s fees. Doing so will negatively impact salaries — discouraging people from entering the medical profession. This will further strain the medical system. Former Clinton advisor Dick Morris wrote, “To stretch these limited resources so that they can treat 50 million more people is possible only through the most severe kind of rationing.”

The only way the government can save money on a large scale is to ration health care, especially for seniors. It is a well-known fact that the majority of health-related expenses are incurred during the final years of a person’s life. By limiting services for the elderly, the federal government expects major savings. According to Limbaugh, Obama’s key health care advisor, former Sen. Tom Daschle, wrote, “Seniors will have to learn to deal with — rather than receive treatment for — conditions that arise from their age.” Ouch!

Economist Thomas Sowell tells us government-provided care will inescapably lead to shortages. Scarcity ultimately leads to waiting lists, increased illnesses and death from inadequate and untimely care. Bureaucrats — not your doctor — will have the final say in deciding appropriate (i.e., cost-effective) medical decisions.

Morris writes that government health care planners will approve treatments, limit drug use and cut costs. Inevitably, the government will deem the oldest and the sickest least “deserving” of the diminishing health care resources.

Experience from countries having already made the switch to socialized medicine is not promising. Countries like Sweden, Canada and Britain serve as examples for the United States.

Morris wrote that one of the first services to be rationed in Canada was preventative care. Canada also determined the best way to cut medical costs was to refrain from using the best (and thus, most expensive) drugs to treat cancer and other illnesses, thereby economizing at the expense of lives. Walter Williams, a professor of Economics at George Mason University, observed that Britain’s waiting lists for medical treatment have become so long that there are now “waiting lists” for the waiting list.

An eventual result of a government-run health care system will be authorities controlling more of your life. Under the guise of reducing medical costs, leaders will try to modify your behavior. The government will tax “bad” habits in an attempt to stop them. Habits such as smoking, eating junk food, being a couch potato and not getting eight hours of sleep will be taboo. Activities such as tanning, skydiving, tackle football and motorcycle riding will be discouraged as they result in more emergency room visits. The end-result will be more Big Brother control of your life.

Don’t think it won’t happen. Today, there is no nationalized health care system. Yet, there are helmet, seatbelt and smoking laws, plus extra taxes on cigarettes, wine, beer and liquor. A “sin” tax is even being considered for soda. The way things are going, it will not be surprising when the government starts regulating running with scissors!

Once the United States takes the leap toward socialized medicine, there will be no turning back. Per Morris, “Once the health care system is extended to cover everyone, with no commensurate increase in the resources available, the change will be forever. The vicious cycle of cuts in medical resources and in the number of doctors and nurses will doom health care in this country. A crucial part of our quality of life — the best health care in the world — will be gone forever.”

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.