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'Universal health care': Part II ^ | Wednesday, May 7, 2003 | by Thomas Sowell

Posted on 05/06/2003 9:47:42 PM PDT by JohnHuang2

Whenever I hear about how many Americans do not have health insurance, my usual response is to wish that I were one of them.

That does not mean that I want to continue paying taxes and insurance premiums without getting the benefits. It means that I would rather pay doctors and pharmacies directly, without sending the money through bureaucratic channels in the government and the insurance companies, with all the restrictions and red tape that bureaucrats produce.

Neither bureaucracies nor red tape is free. So we are talking about my having to pay more money for things I don't want, rather than paying just for what I do want, namely medical care and prescription medicine.

What about catastrophic illnesses that can be as devastating to your life's savings as it is to your health? That is one of the legitimate uses of insurance, to guard against the unforeseeable. We have automobile insurance for the same reason -- but our automobile insurance does not cover gasoline or oil changes.

"Universal health care" means insuring against the trivial and the catastrophic alike. Most of us have no problem with buying insurance to cover catastrophes. But it is a waste to have us drawn into a bureaucratic maze, in order to cover routine things like annual checkups or occasional antibiotics.

Like so many welfare state programs, government health insurance is based ultimately on an implicit assumption of getting something for nothing. I must confess to a certain grudging admiration for the fellow who said, "The government has its own money." At least he made explicit what is only implicit in others.

If the government indeed has its own money, and is gracious enough to spend some of it on me, what is there for me to do but express my thanks and get on the gravy train? On the other hand, if the government has only the money that it takes from the rest of us, how are we better off to have to pay not only for what we want but also for all the hoops we have to jump through to get it?

Just as there is no free lunch, there are no free hoops.

Some believe -- contrary to all evidence -- that the government can provide things cheaper, that it can "bring down the cost of health care," for example.

Virtually everything that the government does costs more than when the same thing is done in private industry -- whether it is building housing, running prisons, collecting garbage, or innumerable other things. Why in the world would we imagine that health care would be the exception?

When people talk about the government's bringing down costs, what they really mean is that the government can impose price controls. But bringing down costs is wholly different from not allowing those costs to be paid in full.

Price controls have a history that goes back for centuries in countries around the world. Their consequences have long been known by economists, though not by enough voters to prevent politicians from bamboozling them.

Keeping prices lower than they would be under supply and demand produces shortages, quality deterioration, and black markets -- whether the price that is being controlled is that of food, housing, medical care or innumerable other things. (Anyone who is interested in how this happens under rent control can read pages 22 to 32 of my book Basic Economics.)

The only difference with medical care is that the consequences are more disastrous. Shortages mean more time sitting in waiting rooms and less time in doctors' offices. It means more time on waiting lists before there is someone available to perform surgery.

Under the British government's health service, for example, more than 10,000 people waited more than 15 months for surgery. These included a woman whose cancer surgery was postponed so many times that it finally had to be cancelled because the cancer had become inoperable. Meanwhile surgery was performed to provide breast implants for a 12-year-old girl. Third-party payment reduces the need to set priorities.

Similar horror stories can be found under government health care systems in countries around the world. But such facts will never come out, so long as the public and the media continue to accept pretty words and unsubstantiated assumptions.

TOPICS: Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: afghancaves; socializedmedicine; thomassowell; thomassowelllist
Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Quote of the Day by solzhenitsyn

1 posted on 05/06/2003 9:47:42 PM PDT by JohnHuang2
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To: *Thomas_Sowell_list; *Socialized Medicine
2 posted on 05/06/2003 10:06:27 PM PDT by Libertarianize the GOP (Ideas have consequences)
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To: JohnHuang2
Please keep in mind that new regulations (actually passed under Clinton's watch, but only going into effect this year) have substantially increased the amount of paperwork health care providers must do. This means either greater expense or fewer patients or both.

Simply enough, if the present health care system can be made so horribly inefficient that people start to complain, via Federal regulation, then the health care question will be moot.

The people will demand that the Government 'do something'--likely take over health care.

Anyone who thinks this is a good idea should become familliar with the horror stories of Canadian Health Services, or the various Indian (AKA 'Native American')Health Care systems in the US.

3 posted on 05/06/2003 10:11:13 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe
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To: Smokin' Joe
You are so right. My brother is a GP and after the Social Security rules passed (that if any of the charges were wrong the doctor was responsible), he would spend all day Saturday doing paperwork.

Then the latest round of changes came and he retired. He is only fifty. He told me he did not want to spend 3/4 of the day doing paperwork, but to help people. He worked in a rural community and made the salary of a machinist at Boeing.

People do not understand the repercussions of these rules on those who provide our care. His leaving is a great loss to that community. He provided excellet care at rural prices.
4 posted on 05/06/2003 10:29:17 PM PDT by microgood (They will all die......most of them.)
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To: microgood
Unfortunately, his departure (not that I blame him) will leave a void which will only be filled by less experienced physicians. A good GP is really hard to find, a lot comes from keeping up with the latest developments, but experience is a key factor.

My Chiropractor is looking haggard lately, too, and is a friend. I asked him if he was all right, said that he looked like things had been going rough. He is putting in a twelve hour day to not reduce service levels, and has had to hire another person on his office staff to keep up with the paperwork. He hasn't raised his rates, but I imagine he will be forced to, eventually, as well as cut his services, if merely raising rates won't cover the additional clerical expenses.

The part that frosts me is that this was passed on Clinton's watch, but set up so it would not go into effect until well enough into the next president's term that it could be rescinded if Gore won, and left in place if the Republicans prevailed. Who will get the blame for "failing on domestic issues?" Like the economy, this is a set-up.

Just one more Clinton Legacy...

5 posted on 05/06/2003 10:46:48 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe
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To: Smokin' Joe
and left in place if the Republicans prevailed

These time bombs scare me. Great insight on that, I never have thought that far ahead. Now I will.
6 posted on 05/06/2003 11:58:28 PM PDT by microgood (They will all die......most of them.)
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To: microgood
Tennessee is CURSED with TennCare as it's medicaid program, it is ShillaryCare at the state level. It covers 25% of the Population of TN. It is about to BANKRUPT the state. The feds keep giving it another shot in the arm. This year it's $178 million. The TaxSerfs via the TN General Assembly give it a shot in the arm yearly of about $145 million. EVERY year it's been in existance it has NEEDED MORE AND MORE MONEY. It's only been in effect 9 years, has had a new director nearly evey year.

The AUDIT report found, MASSIVE waste, fraud and abuse. Illegals, out of staters, out of country, DEAD, prison inmates and state employees (who have their own ins pool) are on TennCare. Couples where 1 has private ins who have premature babies have their babies automatically put on TennCare.

One brain surgeon did an 11 hour operation on a patient and got paid a whopping $150.00 for his services. Hospitals are going bankrupt, Docs are getting out of practice, or opting out of TennCare.

See TENNCARE AUDIT REPORT this is what we will see if we get National Health Care.

7 posted on 05/07/2003 6:23:39 AM PDT by GailA (Millington Rally for America after action
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