It’s just a matter of time before government takes over health care — unless conservatives master the subject themselves.
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“That’s why I didn’t jam Barack Obama on this subject, because this subject would tear up the election of 2008,” Conyers explained. “We’d never come out of this alive if we tried to use the presidential election as a forum to determine (single-payer health care).” He added, “You’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize. The first thing is to get one of our people in there that we can come in and talk to him.”
Back in 2003, Obama expressed similar views. “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care plan,” he said at an AFL-CIO event. “As all of you know, we may not get there immediately, because first we’ve got to take back the White House, and we’ve got to take back the Senate, and we’ve got to take back the House.”
Even though Obama has not endorsed such a proposal, he ended up with a plan that, if implemented, would expand the role of government in health care while decimating the private insurance industry. So while it would be inaccurate for conservatives to charge that Obama’s plan would represent “socialized medicine” in the immediate term, there’s no doubt that it would put America on the pathway to socialized medicine.
The popular rallying cry among American progressives is “Medicare for All,” and supporters of such a system cite data showing that patients report higher satisfaction with the government program than with private insurance. The problem is that we already have Medicare for Some, and it’s bankrupting the country by sticking us with a long-term deficit of $36 trillion.
“Why shouldn’t it rank very high in satisfaction?” Harvard’s Regina Herzlinger asks rhetorically. “For every eight dollars that people spend in Medicare, they pay for only one. I’d be very satisfied with that. And Medicare gives you access to almost any provider. It’s a great system. Except for young people and my children and grandchildren who are paying the bill. What kind of great system is that? It’s an intragenerational shell game.”
A pair of recent studies by MIT economist Amy Finkelstein found that within the first five years of its 1966 implementation, Medicare triggered a 37 percent increase in hospital spending, but had “no discernible impact” on mortality rates among the elderly. What it did accomplish was to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses, representing a massive transfer of wealth from the young to the old.
LIBERAL PROPONENTS of government-run health-care systems argue that other countries spend less on health care than the United States, and yet are able to provide quality care to all their citizens.
“They don’t do miracles,” explains Herzlinger on the cheaper cost of care in other countries. “They do it through rationing care to the sick. That’s an unacceptable way to control costs.”
In Canada, for instance, citizens are forced to wait months to see a specialist. A 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a law in Quebec banning private health care. The case was brought by a Quebec resident after he was put on a one-year waiting list for hip-replacement surgery.
The story is similar in the United Kingdom. After a scandal erupted over patients having to wait for days in emergency rooms for service, the government set a target for state-run “trusts” to treat everybody within four hours. The perverse results would be comic if people’s health were not involved. In February, the Daily Mail reported that thousands of “seriously ill patients” were being kept in ambulances for hours before being allowed in emergency rooms, because once they were let in, the clock would start ticking and the government-run trusts would miss the four-hour target. As a result, the ambulances were not available for new emergency calls.
With the proliferation of horror stories coming out of Canada and the UK, many liberals have pointed to the French system as ideal.
“Sure, because they don’t speak English,” jokes Gratzer, a physician who became a dedicated advocate for free market medicine after practicing in Canada and seeing all the adverse results. He says that because we have access to Google, Americans tend to read more horror stories about Canada and the UK than about France. “I don’t think these systems are radically different.”
In August 2003, nearly 15,000 people died in France when a heat wave struck, and one of the leading reasons given for the heavy death toll was that so many doctors were on vacation. Liberals have used the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to make the case for why we need bigger government in the U.S., but the disaster in France was the equivalent of eight Katrinas (or about 40, adjusting for population), and yet the same crowd still promotes their health-care system as a panacea.
Furthermore, the French system has run a deficit every year since 1985, and that shortfall continues to grow each year. In May, France received a stern warning from the European Union to get its fiscal house in order so they could meet the organization’s budget rules. It cited health insurance as one of the areas in dire need of reform.