As I wrote a few weeks ago, a nationalized health-care system is clearly outside the constitutional limits of our government. But for some inexplicable reason our politicians didn’t pay attention to my column, so I guess I’m forced to address the issue once again.
We have a friend, Bruce Woodall, who is a family physician in a rural hospital. He wrote an article for the local newspaper on the ramifications of government-run health care. I received permission to quote heavily from his article.
Unlike most physicians, Bruce has worked in foreign countries under socialized medicine. He’s also worked in poverty-stricken sections in our country where there is intergenerational dependence on government entitlements. He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly on government-run health care – and therefore can assess the issue far more intelligently than those who have never seen socialized medicine in action.
What should people know about the proposed legislation? It is gargantuan. Anything on that scale is going to have huge ramifications extending far beyond the question of how a family pays medical bills. Mandating the expense to employers (one option among the proposals) could bankrupt small businesses and hamper new business startups or discourage hiring full-time employees.
If Obama’s plan goes into effect, how will it impact people on the ground? A nationalized system will mean that options and autonomy must diminish. A higher percentage of our time and energy, from our hospital board meetings on down, will be devoted to the service of the bureaucracy, rather than devoted to patient care. Matters of local concern, such as expanding our hospital, will likely become more complicated or be taken out of our hands altogether.
Do you think government-run health care will affect the quality of care patients receive? You will find a meddlesome third presence in the room with you and your doctor. Resources decisions – medical decisions that should be only between you and your doctor – will have to fit dictates imposed from Washington, D.C. There will be limitations on tests and treatments like most Americans have never imagined.
How will the plan affect doctors? Practice will become more paperwork heavy than it already is. As medicine becomes more onerous with non-clinical tasks, it will be less satisfying as a professional calling.
How would you describe the current system in America? Costly and imperfect, but dynamic and innovative. Consider this: I vividly remember how many seniors in my childhood church in the 1960s were on walkers or functionally blind. Visit the same church today and the demographics are essentially the same, but gone are most of the walkers and smoked glasses due to joint replacement and cataract surgery. True, health care certainly costs more today, but equally true is that we get – and we expect – much much much more.
Can you briefly explain your experience with socialized medicine? I was prohibited from performing caesarian sections, from ordering CT scans or echocardiograms. … I had to work from a ridiculously limited prescription formulary. The hoops that had to be jumped through to get anything done were time consuming and demeaning. The system infuriated patients and providers alike.
What do Americans need to know about government-run health care? In surrendering individual responsibility, you also surrender individual autonomy. Ask the government to assume responsibility for your life and it will do exactly that. You will belong to it. We should be careful what we ask for; this could be bitter medicine.
When the Berlin wall fell, we had an uncensored look behind the iron curtain. It wasn’t a worker’s paradise of prosperity and bliss, but rather a materially and spiritually bleak landscape marked by stagnation, inefficiency and a nightmare of environmental degradation. It was not a region brimming with medical and scientific innovation and progress like America is today.
After working in Appalachia where medical care is government-entitled and often multi-generational, the most disturbing consequence we saw was the corrupting effect it had on the community’s character. As people grow accustomed to viewing themselves as wards of the state, they lose a sense of any responsibility toward the resources they consume. If the current debate ignores the role of personal responsibility, it will be a costly mistake both financially and culturally.
I was impressed by Bruce’s realistic assessment of the risks of government health care. Regarding his experience with socialized medicine, read again the line in which he was prohibited from engaging in certain medical procedures that were arguably critical to the patient’s treatment or health. Do you really want your doctor’s hands tied like this if Obamacare is passed?
The bottom line is this: Those who claim that we “need” universal health care, that it’s the compassionate thing to do, that we need to extend health insurance to the uninsured, etc., are disregarding the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Socialized medicine doesn’t work. It never has; it never will. In countries where socialized medicine is in place, premature babies are left to die and treatable cancers languish until they become untreatable. Socialized medicine reduces standards for everyone, shoots taxes and expenses into the stratosphere, bloats the system with staggering bureaucracy and eliminates the incentives for companies to come up with new drugs or new treatment techniques. And this doesn’t even begin to address the fact that if this bill is (gasp) such an emergency, then why won’t it be implemented until 2013, after Obama’s presumed re-election?
The progressives who want universal health care refuse to recognize either economics or incentives. They want it all (meaning, the superb level of medical care available today) and they want it all for “free” (in the same way public education is “free”). What they’re refusing to recognize is, like public education, the results will be mediocre, one-size-fits-all care at an astronomical cost.
In 10 years when this system is proved to be a resounding failure and we long for the good old days of only quasi-regulated medicine, I’ll try not to say “I told you so.”