Friday, January 15, 2010

The Permanent Politicization of Health Care

In the January 13, 2010 Forbes, Shikha Dalmia shows how government-guaranteed health care will also to the permanent politicization of health benefits and funding decisions.

Here's an excerpt from her piece, "Beware Of The ObamaCare Revolution":
...[W]ith individual patients losing even nominal control of their medical dollars, the health care system will be powered less by patient needs, and more by collective social goals dictated by politicians driven by powerful lobbies adept at political marketing.

Nationalized health care systems always and everywhere face a contest between competing interests trying to capture scarce medical dollars. If, say, women with breast cancer shame political authorities into approving expensive cancer-fighting drugs, men launch their own campaign to shift medical dollars to prostate cancer treatment.

Patients who lack the political savvy or represent disfavored causes -- obesity, smokers, homosexuality -- inevitably get relegated to second class medical status. If money poses an unfair obstacle for patients in a market-based system as progressives allege, can they with a straight face claim that the political establishment doesn't pose a far bigger obstacle in a government-run system?

But it is not just patients who are pitted against each other; providers are too. Unlike in a market where competition and innovation is always expanding the medical pie, in a nationalized system providers are engaged in a zero-sum game. Every dollar that goes for reduction of infant mortality to a pediatrician is one that doesn't go to a neurologist for Parkinson's treatment.

Since there is no equitable formula to deal with all these competing claims, politicians under nationalized health care are constantly tinkering and experimenting to fashion the system after their own pet causes. Even basic questions as to whether a health care system should be more cost-effective or more accessible become subject to political whim...
(Read the full text of "Beware Of The ObamaCare Revolution".)

This sort of constant begging for funds is the inevitable result when "need" is the currency of political decision making.

If "need" is regarded as the proper basis for deciding who receives money, then interest groups will engage in a permanent public relations war of "needier-than-thou".

If ObamaCare becomes law, it won't be an end to the political battle over health care. It will be just the beginning...