Conservative Political Commentary

...anti-socialist, anti-globalist, and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Shot at Health Care “Reform” – Part 2 of 2




Continuing a presentation of facts and opinions about Obama's health care “reform” and my reasons for opposing it (Also see Part 1).

7. The main issue is loss of freedom. Government is supposed to protect our liberty, not take it away. This consideration alone is enough reason to reject Obamacare. By writing about other aspects of the issue, I do not want to give the impression that I am willing to accept the premise that socialized healthcare ought to be considered for our country. But still, we may learn from the experiences of other countries.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." — Benjamin Franklin [1]

The proposed “reforms” are very intrusive and would affect virtually everyone.
A. Control of our own body is a very fundamental right; are we willing to allow the government to take title to our body? They would end up with physical and decision-making control over our physical body. This is slavery.
B. Health care is one of the most intimate personal things a person deals with. The entire process and information about it should be treated with respect, privacy, and great care. All this is in danger under government insurance. Also, there is no reason to suppose that information uncovered through health care would not be used for other things the government is interested in. Especially this government.
C. CNN Money, hardly a bastion of conservatism, recognizes five rights that will be lost:
1. Freedom to choose what’s in your plan
2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs
3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage
4. Freedom to keep your existing plan
5. Freedom to choose your doctors [2]

8. Government Health Care and Insurance We Have Now
a. Military b. Veterans’ c. Medicare d. Medicaid
These are well established, and to a great extent, fall under government’s legitimate functions, and were set up under presidents who, while possibly liberal, were not out to destroy and rebuild the political and social structures of America, as Obama is, and were not seeking dictatorial control, as Obama is.

9. Comparing Foreign Countries’ Health Care with Our Own
Proponents of government health care in the U.S. can point to data that shows or appears to show that European or other foreign countries’ health care leads that of the U.S. in various categories. But there are some cautions to bear in mind. Various factors can make such comparisons misleading.

The U.S. is a comparatively wealthy country and spends more for health care because we have more to spend. And if we have funds available, we are willing to spend for better insurance and better care. Also, the actual costs for government-insured health care in other countries are higher than reported as government outlays as a percentage of GDP, since significant costs are hidden and passed to non-government entities as administrative costs and taxes. Also, there’s the fairly true maxim that you get what you pay for.

Socialized systems have been subject to physicians’ strikes because they usually pay doctors a great deal less than doctors can earn in America. The ways these systems try to hold down costs include lower pay for medical personnel, refusal to purchase certain expensive medicines, waiting lists for treatment, refusal or delays of certain treatments. And so on.

Some show longer life spans than the U.S. has, but in America, when accidents and homicides are taken into account, we have some of the best life span numbers. Many people (tens of thousands) do come to the U.S. for medical treatment. A couple of notables include former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (heart surgery) and Canadian MP (and champion of the Canadian health care system) Belinda Stronach (breast cancer surgery). Many of those who come to America are rich enough to pay directly. [3] It is also true that a good many Americans go abroad for treatment. Medical tourism is a growing industry. India, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and others are able to offer common surgeries and other treatments at a fraction of the U.S. costs.

As for infant mortality, in the U.S., more low birth-weight babies are brought to term than in other countries. “Some of those low birth-weight babies die soon after birth, which boosts our infant mortality rate, but in many other Western countries, those high-risk, low birth-weight babies are not included when infant mortality is calculated.” [4]

While the World Health Organization ranked the U.S. 37th overall in healthcare, the ranking was strongly influenced by political considerations not directly related to health care. The Cato Institute reports that WHO rated the U.S. first in “responsiveness to patients’ needs in choice of provider, dignity, autonomy, timely care, and confidentiality.” [5]

There has been a history of mostly successful outcomes in these systems. However, the fact that socialized systems have shown some success in foreign countries does not mean that we need them here. They certainly have their drawbacks.

The Heritage foundation reports: “As Philippe Maniere explains, France’s health care system faces an impending crisis. His overview here offers America’s health care reformers some valuable lessons.
“Lesson #1: Universal coverage does not mean universal access to quality care. In France, health care is non-negotiable. It is simply unacceptable that a person should suffer from the lack of care. Although people should have access to some form of health care coverage, the results of France’s guarantee is a cash-strapped system riddled with abuse.
“Lesson #2: Making across-the-board price cuts on pharmaceuticals to save money can have adverse effects. In France, such cuts tend to restrict research and development and to reduce the availability of cutting-edge drugs, while other areas of medicine requiring significant reform are overlooked.” [6]

Trends suggests that the countries with the most direct government controls have the most problems, and the least problematic are those where private insurers participate significantly and market forces are allowed to operate.[7] Switzerland, notably, “has the least paternalistic health care system in Europe. It is the only country in Europe with a health care system that is based totally on private insurance.” [8]

There are interesting and informative comparisons of European and Canadian health care plans, and while we may learn something from them, it would be illegal and not beneficial for the federal government to take control.

10. Who Doesn’t Have Health Care Coverage?

a. People who are able and willing to buy the best cars, TV’s, phones, etc, but won’t purchase health insurance because they consider it less important. About 17.8 million people whose household income is over $50,000 do not have health insurance. [9]

b. Low-income families who qualify for Medicaid or S-CHIP but have failed to apply.

b. People who are in the United States illegally (approximately 8 million). They are not entitled to free health insurance. Emergency treatment is already provided, and some get coverage through their employers. [10]

c. People who currently have some type of high-deductible coverage but are somehow counted as uninsured. They don’t need any help with this, and typically could afford whatever coverage they want.

d. People who are truly needy and unable to purchase insurance. Government could focus on help for them through Medicaid changes, insurance premium help, or other means, through the states, for much less cost than the proposed overhaul.

Conclusion
Government can help the needy to get insurance coverage and good health care without wrecking and rebuilding the current system.

Hopefully, this misguided attempt at “reform” will be defeated and won’t show up again for another decade or two. On the positive side, people are thinking about, and sometimes thinking through, the issues related to health care and health care insurance. It can be improved and upgraded by common-sense measures that would be acceptable to most Americans.

Notes:
[1] Quoted at goodreads.com
[2] http://money.cnn.com/2009/07/24/news/economy/health_care_reform_obama.fortune/index.htm (cited at rushlimbaugh.com)
[3] Michael D. Tanner, “The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World,” Policy Analysis No. 613, 03/18/08, at http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9272, page 5
[4] Ibid., page 4
[5] Ibid.
[6] Robert E. Moffitt, Ph. D., Philippe Maniere, et al, “Perspectives on the European Health Care Systems: Some Lessons for America.” The Heritage Foundation, Lecture #711, 07/09/2001, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/HL711.cfm
[7] Tanner, Executive Summary.
[8] Moffitt, Maniere, et al.
[9] “Deconstructing the Uninsured,” RSC Policy Brief at http://www.house.gov/hensarling/rsc/doc/pb_042808_uninsured.doc
[10] Ibid.

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