Monday, November 26, 2007

Rick Wagner on Government Medicine

The November 15, 2007 Grand Junction Free Press printed the following OpEd by attorney Rick Wagner:
Buying health care votes

This next week Grand Junction will have the governor and his staff in town to discuss problems with the health care system. Much like the “listening tour” conducted by Mrs. Clinton in her state, these officials will undoubtedly keep listening until they hear the plan they want to institute. This plan will unquestionably seek to impose government-guided medical insurance or care in the State of Colorado.

It’s an unfortunate aspect of the Left in our country that the more a disaster a political or economic program is around the world, the more appealing it seems to become to their constituency.

Single-payer, government-provided or manipulated health care is turning into one of the great failures in the semi and outright socialist states in Europe. This outcome only seems to further excite those of a similar stripe in the United States to emulate the experiment. Experience shows that there are a few guaranteed outcomes from government manipulation of the health care system. Some of these results are long waiting periods followed by the use of outdated procedures and technology and the chilling grip of government directly on one’s health.

For example, in Great Britain, which has a National Health Service, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that a 57-year-old man who needed an operation to fix the ankle he broke in three places, was refused the operation to rebuild the ankle due to the fact that he was a heavy smoker. Under the guidelines of the National Health Service, one can be denied treatment due to such behavior.

But what of the provision of free screening and testing, held up as a panacea to prevent disease in the United States? Well, according to the Telegraph yet again this year, the survival rate in Britain for cancer is among the lowest in Europe. England in fact is on par with Poland despite the fact that they spend over three times more on their health care system. Waiting and rationing can lead to all sorts of interesting results. For instance, as pointed out by the Cato Institute, surgeons in Canada report you are more likely to die while waiting for heart surgery than you are to die during the surgery.

What about the provision of drugs? Surely that would be better once, “Big Pharma‚” is out of the picture and the government can provide medications.

Well, according to Reuters in 2006, British arthritis patients were still being denied a new generation of medication that had been approved since 2002. This reportedly was due to caps on funding for medications based on the amount of money spent per patient per year or the number of patients who could receive medication.

And lastly, we can refer to an Associated Press article many have seen from October of this year that said due to a shortage of National Health Service dentists in England, Britons have taken to pulling out their own teeth or to using SuperGlue to stick crowns back on. It was reported that many dentists have abandoned Britain’s public-funded health case system, which has and left a growing number of Britons without access to care.

So what lies at the bottom of this continued desire to institute a failed system on the American public? The answer is two sides of the same coin, buying votes and increasing control. Trading cash for votes has always been a temptation for some seeking office. At least when politicians did it with currency, there was a degree of clarity to the transaction and often they would even use their own money. Here we have efforts to buy votes and they are not even using their own cash.

Picture if you will the degree of contentment you might feel if the same system that brings you to the department of motor vehicles and the postal service, decides whether you need that kidney transplant or the newest techniques in back surgery.

And since none of us are smart enough to know what’s good for us, it will be best, as in our British example, to deny health care for certain habits that are politically out of favor, like driving a Hummer.

Whether or not there would be any private health care available under some systems proposed is questionable. In Canada, if the Canadian health service delivers a medical service, it is illegal for a private company to deliver that service or a patient to try and buy it. For this reason we have Canadians with serious heart ailments going across the border into the United States to pay for health care.

Fixing the kinks that run up health care costs will not be accomplished by attaching a government funnel of money to the system in hopes that it will somehow lose weight. Putting the control for choosing health care and the amount that is paid for it back into the hand of the consumers is a more proven method to control costs. Many patients receive health care and are not even aware of what their insurance company pays for their visit.

A better choice might be to allow medical savings accounts that are tax-exempt to pay for medical procedures on the part of citizens and/or deduct medical expenses from their taxes.

But, wait. If liberals don’t have those taxes, how can they buy votes?

Rick Wagner practices law in Grand Junction.