Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Schwartz Vs. Krugman on Universal Health Care

Dr. Brian Schwartz, health care blogger for the Independence Institute, takes on the latest New York Times opinion piece by Paul Krugman singing the praises of government-run "single-payer" health care. Here are a few excerpts from Dr. Schwartz's piece:

If citizens of these other wealthy countries have guaranteed care, can Dr. Krugman explain to me to following instances of people in these countries not getting needed medical care:

  • The British National Post reports on “How the NHS is letting my father die - by a top hospital consultant.”
  • The Globe and Mail reports that “More than 100 Canadian women with high-risk pregnancies have been sent to United States hospitals over the past year – in what a doctors’ group attributes to the lack of a national birthing plan.”
  • The Canadian Medical Association Journal reports that in one year, 71 Ontario patients died while waiting for coronary bypass surgery and over one hundred more became “medically unfit for surgery.”
  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that “109 people had a heart attack or suffered heart failure while on the waiting list. Fifty of those patients died.”
  • The Globe and Mail also reported that “More than 400 Canadians in the full throes of a heart attack or other cardiac emergency have been sent to the United States because no hospital can provide the lifesaving care they require here.”
  • A Daily Telegraph headline reads: “Sufferers pull out teeth due to lack of dentists.” “Doctors are calling for NHS treatment to be withheld from patients who are too old or who lead unhealthy lives,” reports another article.

(Read the whole piece here.)

My own thoughts: This is the consequence of "universal health care".

Whenever the government attempts to guarantee a good or service such as health care, it must also control it. The inevitable end result of attempting to make health care a "right" is this sort of rationing and waiting lists. Far from being a "right", government health care then becomes a privilege dispensed at the discretion of bureaucrats who control those lists. Ask any Canadian who has waited 8 months for his knee MRI scan, while the son of a well-connected politician jumps to the front of the line.

The flawed premise behind "universal health care" is regarding health care as a "right". Health care is a need, but not a "right", and that's a critical difference. A right is a freedom of action, such as the right to free speech or right to contract. It is not an unearned automatic claim on the goods or services produced by another person -- that's just state-sanctioned theft or slavery. Just because my neighbor is hungry, it doesn't give him the right to take a can of soup from my pantry.

Rights only impose negative obligations on others -- for instance, my right to free speech only means that someone else (my neighbor or the government) can't stop me. If someone chooses to leave me alone, then he hasn't violated my rights.

In contrast, the various entitlements (such as an alleged "right" to health care) imposes a positive obligation to provide something to someone (e.g., an appendectomy). One of the biggest problems with modern-day America is the proliferation of positive "entitlements" which are mistakenly called "rights".

Any alleged "right" to health care can only be implemented by violating the actual rights of doctors and other health care providers. This is why "universal health care" is such a grossly immoral policy, and should be opposed as such.

(Via MedPolitics.)