Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recent commentary: P-C Pro & Con -- Universal Health Care in WI: I'm against it

Universal health care isn't for U.S.

Government system more expensive, less effective

(published 13-Sep-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

"The government is good at one knows how to break your legs, and then hands you a crutch and says 'See? If it weren't for the government you wouldn't be able to walk.'" -- Harry Browne

That quote is so astoundingly appropriate to the universal health care debate one hardly has to say anything else. But for those that think the government makes great crutches, read on.

I must first make a sobering observation: we are going to have more government meddling in health care. The government juggernaut cannot help but roll over every aspect of health care delivery, covering the landscape with new regulations. This is not a guess. No matter how vehemently I or anyone else opposes greater regulation of health care, it is simply going to happen. If that makes you happy, then give three cheers because you're gonna get what you've always dreamed of.

All I can do is play Cassandra and, in my humble yet deadly accurate way, predict just what will take place.

First health care will get scarcer. That is, it will take longer to get any AND there will be less of it. When health care is "cheaper" because it's "universal" and the government is subsidizing it for the millions of people without insurance, the first thing that will happen is that you won't be able to see your doctor nearly as quickly as you do now because loads more people will start going to see her. It's the Iron Law of Economics and it works for health care just as it does for milk, iPhones, and mortgages: people will buy more of something at a lower price than they will at a higher price.

You say that you're OK with longer waits as long as everybody gets to have a chance to see a doctor without breaking the bank? Then please consider how long our neighbors in the Great White North have to wait for certain procedures. Canada's Fraser Institute does a survey every year to determine average waiting times for surgery and other treatments by specialists. The AVERAGE wait time in Canada is near its all-time high of 18 weeks -- over four months.

From the latest (Oct, 2006) report: “Canadians should not expect to see any dramatic improvement in waiting times as a result of the latest federal-provincial agreements regarding waiting lists. The long waiting times for medically necessary services are a symptom of a much greater problem: a poorly designed health care system.”

The totally government-controlled health care system in Canada is "poorly designed"...and they're talking about "medically necessary services", not Botox treatments. In other words operations that will keep patients alive can't be had because the waiting lines are so long.

If it weren't for the government you wouldn't be able to walk!

Second, doctors will leave practice early or will avoid certain specialties. There is already a crisis in 22 states with ob-gyn doctors: there aren't enough to go around because of astronomical malpractice insurance rates. Some hospitals have closed their obstetrics departments. Universal coverage will do nothing to bring ob-gyn doctors back. Not only that, but geriatrics as a branch of medicine is imperiled by low Medicare (government) reimbursements.

Third, more of the doctors that are left will refuse to take patients covered under the new regulations. If you think that the new "universal" plan will force a doctor to see patients, you must not have heard of Medicare and Medicaid. The American Medical Association's own survey done last year revealed that 45% of physicians treating elderly patients would refuse to take new patients after the January, 2007, Medicare cuts went into effect. Medicare already pays less than most insurance plans...and it's a LOT harder to shake down the government.

U. S. Representative Steve "Doctor Millionaire" Kagen -- the darling of the universal coverage set -- wrote in the Post-Crescent on August 8th: "We cannot fix health care without doctors, and the [Children's Health Care and Medicare Protection] CHAMP Act ensures doctors will be paid adequately so they may continue to care for their patients." He recognizes that government meddling has made for reduced availability of doctors because they weren't paid enough from the public trough. So he's going to put a pin in one of the legs that the government broke to see if it'll hold up without crutches.

He also says it's "fiscally responsible". It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, but what kind of metaphor applies to enormous government programs? What does it say about Medicare's multi-decade custodians that the program will only NOW be "fiscally responsible"?

Universal health care will definitely be more expensive, less available, more unwiedldy, and less effective than the mess we're already in. If you think that it's expensive now just wait until it's "free".


Brian Dunbar said...

I have come to a conclusion.

Health Care is going to be socialized in the country. A rational person will want to take steps so he can afford private care after that happens.

I'm thinking I need to start by making a great deal more money than I do now.

Steve Erbach said...


I sense that your message is a tad tongue-in-cheek, though I wish you luck with making more dough.

To treat your comment seriously, the definition of socialized medicine precludes private care. Canada is a sterling example: the guvmint forbids messing with the system. Not that it doesn't happen; they just get very put out when it does.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that we'll wind up with socialized medicine; we'll get a step or two down from that glorious level because this is America, not France. Our government will let us choose our own phrenologists and acupuncturists.

Steve Erbach
The Town Crank