Monday, June 23, 2008

Government Medical Care Always Becomes Political Medical Care

Richard Ralston, executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, has written the following OpEd on government-run medical care:
Government Medical Care Always Becomes Political Medical Care

Americans did not invent democracy. What America rightly did, for the first time in history, was institutionalize the concept of limited government—based not on majority rule, but on individual rights. Sadly, this foundation is not properly recognized and is rapidly giving way to an ever-expanding government.

Government policy has already led to a devastating effect on the medical care it already controls. State regulators drive up the cost of insurance by requiring coverage in response to the political pull of individual sectors of the health care industry. Huge bureaucracies like Medicare and Medicaid serve their 130,000 pages of regulations and ignore the choices of patients and the costs of fraud.

The Food and Drug Administration serves its own institutional prerogatives and authority to ensure as its highest priority that no one in America gets well without government permission. Veterans are trapped in a system with nowhere else to go except facilities located not near veterans but near Congressmen (many now dead) who had the political influence to get them built in their districts. Tax policy has created a system in which third-party payers have destroyed transparency of pricing and the means to determine, let alone control, costs.

If "that government is best which governs the least," what does "least" mean? It means that government should be rigidly limited to those functions that only the government can perform. Otherwise government will inevitably expand until it runs everything. That is why Thomas Jefferson described "a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouths of labor the bread it has earned."

Only the government can maintain armed forces to protect us from the threat of foreign force, and only the government can maintain the police and the courts to protect individuals from the use of force by criminals. But it does not follow that government should use force to rule every aspect of our lives. Those who say that government should seize control of all of our medical care are ultimately advocating the elimination of all restraint on government.

What should we expect if the government grabs the remains of medical care that it does not already control? More of the compassion we saw at the Annex at Walter Reed Army Hospital or at the King-Harbor Hospital lovingly managed by Los Angeles County? The promise of big government savings based on our current experience of the government's efficiency in wildly increasing spending on Medicare and Medicaid?

If the government controls everything, do we think it will be more responsive to the needs of individual patients, or to the demands and money of powerful public employee unions?

Will a government that pays for everything not inevitably control everything? Will a government that pays for your health care act like it owns your body?

We should look at the near-monopoly of public education as an example.

Government education has become a tool of indoctrination for those who would use it to promote their special agendas. In California, teachers have not hesitated to take children out of class and load them onto buses to be carried away to demonstrate their views on public policy. Curiously our children always have the same view on such issues as the teachers' unions. A government-controlled curriculum has become a politically correct curriculum.

Would a complete government monopoly in medicine create a system in which politicians care primarily about you? Or about their spoils system? Would your disease be politically correct and place you first in the line for rationed medical care? Or last? Or would newly powerful national medical unions always be first in line? As in Great Britain, would you be denied treatment for some conditions because you smoke, are too old or too fat? We had better think that through, because once the government has taken from "the mouths of labor the bread it has earned" to pay for such a system, it won't care.

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.