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.

12 Comments so far
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[…] February 29, 2008 Why Socialized Medicine Goes Bust…Every Time! « American Elephants Posted by baty under Uncategorized   Why Socialized Medicine Goes Bust…Every Time! « American Elephants […]


Pingback by Why Socialized Medicine Goes Bust…Every Time! « American Elephants « Tarragona and beyond

I live in France and I know all about “socialized medicine”. For one thing it’s NOT FREE. When you work, 12.5 % comes out of your pay check for health insurance. That is just the basic. Then you have to pay for a secondary insurance yourself. If you have income from property, you will be subject to a “generalized social contribution” of 10 % on what ever that income is. Now, none of these payments are INCOME TAX. You pay for incomoe tax in addition to these and that is just YOUR part. Then you have Value added tax which is something like sales tax. That is 19.6 % of the cost of most articles except you don’t see it because it is added to the price of the article before you buy it. (It would be a shock to any French person to go to the cash register and have the cashier ring up another 19.6% in sales tax, so they add it on beforehand). So you see, this system is VERY EXPENSIVE and I havent mentioned the tax on interest and dividends etc. Saying if is free is a DOWNRIGHT LIE. And we have the same probems as the British in the state of hospitals, long waiting lists, superbugs, underpaid doctors (so they ask for under the table payments) etc. etc. The US health insurance system definitely neads a reform but believe me, socialized medicine IS NOT THE SOLUTION.


Comment by USfrog

Thanks very much USFrog. I wish you could share that information with all Americans!


Comment by American Elephant

[…] not understand why it is to be feared.  I tried to point out why it is doomed to failure for you here, I have often referred to Canadian universal health care and the British National Health Service, but […]


Pingback by Obama’s health care plan? Be afraid, very afraid. « American Elephants

I forgot to mention something in the above post : the EMPLOYER’S share of the health-retirement-unemployment insurance is 57 % ! Thus, for every worker, it costs him 157 % of the person’s salary. Definitely not good for small businesses. Also one of the reasons for our high unemployment rate (actually we don’t even know how high it really is).
But back to the health care, I thought I’d mention a “funny” story : I worked cleaning rooms in a private hospital several years ago. I had 26 rooms to clean in 2 hours (120 minutes) thus, 4.6 minutes per room. Now obviously, that didn’t include the time going from one room to the next, nor putting on the disposable gown and slippers if the room was infected. BUT the disinfectant we used was supposed to be left on for 5 minutes (before wiping) in order to be efficient…


Comment by USfrog

[…] might refer again to this post, which explains why it cannot work in the long run. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]


Pingback by Think Universal Healthcare is Desirable? Think again. « American Elephants

I suggest you all actually read the plan Obama has, instead of buying into this fear mongering.

The plan is outlined in detail on his website here:

There is an FAQ for those people who lack the patience to read it all:


Comment by xaos

Yes, I have read it, and I stand by what I said here. Socialized medicine does not work anywhere. The reason is simple. As soon as government gets everyone enrolled, government’s goal necessarily becomes keeping costs down. That conflicts directly with pressure to include ever more benefits from various pressure groups. Because of a lawsuit in my state, insurance plans are now required to pay for birth control pills. The effort to keep costs down forces down the quality of medicine. In England, in France, in Canada this has translated into declining quality, wait times that are so long that some people die. Hospitals infested with ‘superbugs’ are common in both England and France. This is not fear mongering. It is simply common sense. Liberals are not interested in consequences, but consequences come along anyway. Try doing your homework beyond just reading Obama’s fantasy. Socialized medicine is not about offering good medicine. It is about making people dependent on the Democrat Party.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

how exactly is his plan “socialized medicine”? he is not socializing medicine, merely allowing a greater number of choices for *insurance*. This has nothing to do with socializing medicine, or socializing *anything*, for that matter. he is not going to be putting anyone in the health care system under governmental control, he won’t be demanding a certain production output (other than requiring a certain level of care for all.)

All of you who are cat-calling about socialism, read your political and economic theory books about what socialism is and you’ll see there’s nothing in this plan forcing anyone into a government run health care system.

Oh, and, aside from that, shall we do away with social security as well? I can hardly think of anything in America more socialist than social security.


Comment by x

Obama’s plan is simply an entry-level plan for Universal Health Care. Democrats firmly believe in Universal Health Care. Obama can propose, but Congress determines what bill comes out of Congress. The Bush plan to privatize a small part of social security was a fine idea. He didn’t do a good job of selling it, but it would have been very beneficial for the public.

Read a little less political theory and a lot more plain economics. Read Hayek and Friedman. Read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers. In the meantime go here:


Comment by The Elephant's Child

[…] have written about socialized medicine here, here, here, and here.  This is an enormous attack on your personal freedom, your health, and will […]


Pingback by We were speaking of Freedom. There are little freedoms and some very big ones. « American Elephants

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