Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Military Medicine and Universal Health Care

Medical care for military personnel is one area in which the US government does provide guaranteed health care, and I regard this as a legitimate function of government. However, even in this case, it is worth recognizing that rationing is part of the system.

The rationing is quite explicit and it occurs by rank, as recounted by this former military physician:
...[A]s the thought of a single government run healthcare is considered by many, should we not learn from our prior experiences? Medicare is about to go broke, the military healthcare system, while constantly shifting as Congress approves or disapproves its budgets, has seen a dwindling of its ability to care for those most deserving due to costs. Rationing has helped the military cope with their limits, but for the military, rationing is simple since rank and duty status are so obvious.

What would happen if a similar healthcare system was thrust upon the greater civilian population? Where will people be shunted in our new system when we realize it is too expensive or we have too few doctors to provide the care? In short, how will our "rank" be determined? Can we really expect that universal healthcare will not exact a toll on each and every one of us?
Americans will not stand for the rationing inherent in government-run medical care that Canadians and the British put up with routinely. And few politicians will acknowledge this reality either -- instead they promise voters that government-run care will bring free, fast, high-quality service to everyone.

Americans must recognize that health care is a commodity -- i.e., a good or service that must be produced by others using their rational minds. Hence, it is subject to all the inexorable laws of economics. Those who produce this service have the moral right to dispose of it in a free market under terms negotiated voluntarily between producer and consumer.

Whenever the government attempts to force production of a commodity on its terms rather than the producers, it violates the producers' rights and destroys the freedom necessary to create the commodity in the first place. The inevitable result is shortages and rationing as we've seen repeatedly throughout history -- just think of the wheat shortages in the former USSR, automobile rationing in the former East Germany, and the current economic disasters in Zimbabwe and North Korea.

In this respect, health care is no different from any other commodity. And this is why we need free market health care reforms, not more government intervention.