Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lewis: "What 'Right' To Health Care?"

Duke University professor John Lewis has written an OpEd in the August 2, 2009 in the Raleigh-Durham News & Observer entitled, "What 'Right' To Health Care?"

Here's an excerpt from his piece:
As the issue of health care reform builds to a legislative climax, it is important that we not merely parrot the same kinds of proposals we have seen for the past 50 years. A Point of View writer on this page recently lamented that "after a half-century of attempted reform" we have not reached the promised land of equality in health care. Let me rephrase this: After 50 years of increasing government interventions, through a maze of agencies that now control half of all medical dollars in America, the financial mess is getting worse.

... But such economic arguments have not stopped the train to further government intervention, and we should ask why.

The answer is that the advocates of government medicine are upholding health care as a moral right. Desiring to mandate this "right" by legislative fiat, they have been unwilling to face the cause and effect relationship between increasing government actions and rising prices. That is because the moral goal of equality, measured against the claims to a right to health care, has trumped the mere economic arguments.

As a result, calls for more and wider programs -- to enforce the "right" -- have continued, even as prices rise. This has led to even greater price distortions, which have fueled calls for more interventions, leading to higher prices and demands for more programs.

This vicious cycle is blinding people to the fact that the fundamental cause of the problem is the government interventions, which have caused the distortions.

Again, even a cursory look at the evidence shows the cost problem beginning in the late 1960s, when the government began its massive increase in programs designed to make us all equal by legislative decree. And if one thinks that England today is a model for what a country should do, one may not know the reality of six-bed wards in National Health Service hospitals, of patients waiting over a year for heart operations or of refrigerated trucks in hospital parking lots to store bodies from the flu season (all of which I saw when living there).

Just ask yourself what your car insurance would cost if everyone demanded it as a government-guaranteed "right." Imagine car repair shops having to go through a 10-year approval process -- as pharmaceutical companies must -- before offering a service that the government will then provide to millions of people as a "right." Then ask what the response would be if some people broke with the consensus and said that car repairs were a service to be paid for. They would be shouted down as immoral -- while people demanded that their insurance pay for oil changes and ripped seats.

Congress would pass more programs. Prices would quadruple, and car insurance would become a crushing expense.

Those who want to see an end to spiraling medical costs should challenge the premises behind the government interventions...
(Full text of "What 'Right' To Health Care?")

Thank you, Dr. Lewis, for addressing the core of the issue!