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Over the past few months, I have been bombarded with hundreds of e-mails in opposition to the kind of health-care reform favored by Obama and the liberal Democrats. However, I noticed that no one is more fervently opposed to the radical transformation that is being thrust upon us than my own trusted, usually mild-mannered insurance agent, Charles Jarai.

Charles has never given me a bum steer. In fact, he has helped my family find good, affordable – not cheap – policies over the years even though my husband was born with a bad heart valve and had been diagnosed with another extremely rare health problem. We knew that his life would depend on his ability to go to an expert from time to time, so we always kept that option open. In fact, my trusted agent wouldn’t have it any other way.

The public option is supposedly off the table. However, health care will be more tightly controlled and regulated than ever before. Nevertheless, insurance agents like Charles will be able to sell the kind of policies dictated by the government. He will be able to continue making a good living – so why is Charles still so adamantly opposed to what is happening?

I discovered something about Charles I did not know. He was born in Hungary. In fact, he was 12 when his parents made their way to the United States. Charles remembers what it was like to live in a country where the government had complete control of the health-care system.

In Hungary, as in every other country where socialized medicine has evolved, there were two levels of care. There is one for government bureaucrats and one for everyone else. Charles still remembers his family receiving care packages of scarce goods from relatives in the United States. These things were never consumed by his family. They were used to bribe doctors whenever a serious medical problem would arise.

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His stories reminded me of an article I read in the October Free Market, a publication of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, by Yuri N. Maltsev, a former people’s deputy in Moscow. The Soviet Union was the first country to promise universal “cradle-to grave” health-care coverage.

Maltsev reminds us that “the proclaimed advantages of this system” are the very same ones we are hearing today: “reduced costs” and the “elimination of waste that stem from unnecessary duplication and parallelism (a euphemism for competition).”

Maltsev writes, “In order to receive minimal attention by doctors and nursing personnel, patients had to pay bribes. … [A]nesthesia was usually ‘not available’ for abortions or minor ear, nose, throat, and skin surgeries. This was used as a means of extortion by unscrupulous medical bureaucrats. … While workers and peasants were dying in the state hospitals, the medicine and equipment that could save their lives was sitting unused in the nomenklatura system.”

Lest you think these problems are limited to the “barbarous” Russia and other backward countries, Maltsev chronicled some of the realities in our motherland. In England, the waiting list for surgeries is nearly 800,000 out of a population of a mere 55 million. England pioneered the development of kidney dialysis, yet Great Britain has one of the lowest dialysis rates in the world and state of the art equipment is nonexistent in most British hospitals.

Maltsev also reminds us that age discrimination is practiced in all countries where the government runs or heavily regulates health care. In Russia, patients over 70 often are denied even the most basic forms of health care. In the United Kingdom, patients over 75 rarely receive expensive medical treatment like kidney dialysis. In Canada, the population is divided into three age groups, which determine patients’ access to care. Not surprisingly, it is the “active taxpayers” who get priority treatment.

This is what happens when you take control away from the individual and free market and give it to the government, any government.

While, little is known about the Senate bill, we do know some of the amendments that were voted down – and they are chilling. Democrats in the Senate voted down an amendment that would have prevented more than $400 billion in cuts to Medicare, and they voted down an amendment that would have excluded tax increases on individuals earning less than $200,000 a year. What emerges will drive costs up and the quality, particularly for the elderly, down.

Now I know why my insurance agent is so opposed to the bills being cobbled together by House and Senate Democrats. He is not only an insurance agent, he is a health-care consumer, and it is as a consumer that he is frightened to death.

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