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In praise of centralized planning

Concerned about your medical bills? Are your health-insurance costs worrying you? Or are you preoccupied with rising taxes due to Medicare and other federally run aspects of the American health-care system?

Well, worry no more. Your problems are over. Once again, Washington has figured out how to fix things — this time in the health-care arena. It was easy, really. In fact, it was such a piece of cake, no one was even going to bother telling you about what they did. They just stuck a little initiative inside that massive, much-ballyhooed budget agreement and — presto — health care is fixed.

In case you still haven’t heard about this ingenius little plan, let me explain.

The federal government has agreed to pay hospitals around the country hundreds of millions of dollars not to train doctors.

Isn’t that great? You see, the problem was there were just too many doctors. That’s why so much money was being spent on medical care. If we reduce the number of doctors, it stands to reason that the American people will pay less, right?

Also, because there will be fewer doctors, those physicians will undoubtedly appreciate the special and privileged role they play in our society and will naturally charge less. If they don’t, of course, the government will simply cap their salaries.

How did Congress come up with such a smart idea? Well, you might remember earlier this year New York state wangled a special, experimental deal with the federal government to subsidize hospitals not to teach doctors. Rather than wait for the results of that experiment to be measured, our insightful political leaders decided this was an idea that could wait no longer.

To ensure the program works — and there’s no cheating — the subsidies will be paid to every single one of the nation’s 1,025 teaching hospitals.

Would you believe, though, that there are still some cynics out there?

“I know of no other profession where there has been as much federal effort to regulate,” scoffed a skeptical Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University. “You don’t do it for economists, for architects, for engineers.”

Well, why not? Maybe it’s time we should take this approach to those professions. Certainly, lawyers ought to be the very first group we target. If we have a glut of doctors on the market today, we are inundated with attorneys. Not only would this principle bring down legal costs, but it would also reduce the congestion in our clogged and overburdened judicial system. Once again, the taxpaying consumer would be the beneficiary.

Another doubter was Robert E. Moffit, deputy director for domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation — one of those closed-minded, right-wing think-tanks.

“I don’t know where the hell a Republican Congress gets off doing labor force planning for the medical profession,” he said. “As an economic principle, it is absurd.”

Some people are just so ideologically blinded that they don’t recognize a good idea when they see one. Forget “principles,” for Pete’s sake, I say Congress ought to be commended for finding such a common-sense solution to a real problem affecting so many Americans.

I just love it when Congress and the administration can put partisan differences aside and agree to do what’s best for the American people. And isn’t it nice that the Republican leadership is giving all the credit to the White House?

“The administration did put its finger on a growing national problem,” explained Ari Fleischer, spokesman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas. “So Congress thought it was better to extend a good policy to the nation.”

Don’t the critics realize we have more than 700,000 doctors in this country? Who needs that many? China, a much bigger country, gets along just fine with a much smaller ratio of doctors per capita. In fact, China is so advanced, the state makes most decisions about jobs people will do. Do you hear anyone there complaining? Of course not.

Enough talk about free markets, already. I’m sick and tired of people crediting the private sector with so much progress. Let’s face it. Things work out better when they’re centrally planned. People don’t know what’s best for them. They need to be told what to do with their lives, what career choices are open to them and if they really need medical care. Who better than to make those determinations than the benevolent federal government in Washington?

Sometimes I think politicians just don’t get enough credit for all the clever ideas they come up with. Maybe it’s because they’re just too modest. That’s the only thing that would explain why none of them boasted about this little gem. Come on, guys. Take a bow.