American Elephants


Why Socialized Medicine Goes Bust…Every Time! by The Elephant's Child

Socialized Healthcare

Both Democrat candidates are extolling their plans for “universal health care”, otherwise known as socialized medicine. Apparently many young voters have no idea what the term ‘socialized medicine’ means. Certainly the idea of freedom from worry over how to pay for health insurance is enticing.

The basic idea of all insurance is that a large group of insured will pay a modest amount to be protected from risk. If the pool of insured people is large enough, when disaster falls upon one person, the amount to be paid out takes only a small amount from each of the others. Disasters seldom fall upon many at the same time (you immediately thought of Katrina and 9/11, didn’t you?) if there is wide geographic dispersion among the insured.

The case of health insurance is somewhat different. Catastrophic insurance is much the same — auto accidents, strokes and cancer are all examples of the need for catastrophic coverage. Examples that involve long hospital stays and very large bills.

The problems arise with coverage for ordinary doctor’s visits. Medicine has become much more complicated than it used to be. I don’t suppose that my parents saw a doctor more than a couple of dozen times in their lives, and my mother was a doctor’s daughter. Now with patent medicines touted for everything from sore feet to weight loss on radio commercials daily, and ads for prescription and over-the-counter medicines in every magazine, we are far more conscious of every discomfort. The media covers every advance in medicine, and every lawsuit. Dramatic stories of dire medical situations are a popular genre for movies and paperback thrillers. It is hardly surprising that we are a nation of, at least modestly, hypochondriacs.

When treatment, or at least comforting attention, from a physician is available, free, the natural tendency is to seek that attention more often. Young mothers rush their children off to the doctor at the slightest sign of fever or cold, when if they had to pay for it they might wait to see if the kid was really sick, and even then might recognize that colds usually last about seven days or if it’s bad — a week.

Legislators who pass laws about what will be included in medical coverage, are easily seduced by lobbyists and friends who want their particular need covered. So basic health care gradually expands to cover acupuncturists, birth-control pills, homeopathic medicine, massage therapy, for example, and worst of all, mental health care. I say worst of all, because it is extremely difficult to separate the merely unhappy from the mentally ill. So you have a constantly expanding definition of medical care, and a constantly expanding population of people needing (or at least demanding) that care.

This is a recipe for disaster, and disaster is what has been the inevitable result. Of course it is all right for a while, but all too soon costs exceed the original plan. Please remember that “free” is a misnomer. It is not free — you will pay for every bit of care with your taxes. The government does not have any money of its own — it can only give you things by taking your money to pay for it. So the squee-eezing begins. Taxes go up, doctors’ reimbursement goes down, hospitals and nurses are paid less. Doctors are urged to squeeze more patients in, prescribe only generic medicines, cut down on expensive tests, and so on and so on. It is inevitable.

To understand what happens, visit any of the British newspapers : The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Scotsman. They all have a search function. Enter National Health Service or NHS and read about the terrible problems the British face — dirty hospitals, superbugs that have killed hundreds, patients traveling to hospitals in other countries to avoid the NHS, and patients who die waiting to be treated.

Investors Business Daily reports that Quebec’s former health minister is admitting that “the system he helped create is not sustainable. It has, as Claude Castonguay has succinctly noted, reached a crisis point.” Castonguay is known as the father of the public health system that was copied by the rest of Canada. He recognizes that the element of freedom of choice which Canadians exercise in the rest of their lives is missing in the most important area of all — their health.

There are plenty of examples in the real world. Perhaps you remember the 15,000 elderly who died in French hospitals a few years ago. Or did you read about the problems Sweden is facing? I know, I know, this time it will be different.

The demagogues promise free health care, freedom from fear and freedom from financial worries. They lie.




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