June 26, 2009

Government "Health Care"

By Dr. William Luckey *

Almost all the talk in the news today is about health care reform in the United States. I think that we should examine the true status of this “health care” situation.


Firstly, the proper term for what is being discussed is “medical care,” not health care. Health care is the responsibility of each and every person according to his ability to influence events that affect his or her health. This would include eating good foods, getting enough sleep, trying to stay away from dangerous situations if possible, and so forth. But when even doing these things do not work to preserve one’s health, one seeks out medical professionals to aid in returning to health, if possible. So we are really speaking about medical care, not health care.


Next, the medical care system in the United States is the best in the world. We have the best-trained physicians, nurses and technicians in the world, and we have the most up-to-date medical equipment.


Thirdly, we have the best medical financing system in the world. We have many medical insurance companies, including one that will insure you for $10 per day, which advertises on television. Our emergency rooms are required by law to take anyone who comes in, and our ambulances are required to take anyone who wants to go. This includes people who have colds, flu, a “boo-boo,” regardless of their ability to pay, and the cost for this is foisted on the paying patients of the hospital, unknown to them. The hospital is not required to cure the nonpaying patient who is seriously ill or injured, but must get them at least to where they are stabilized.


Fourthly, physicians and hospitals are willing to take payments. 


Fifthly, there is Medicare and Medicaid for the poor.


What then is the problem? The question is raised by the current administration as to what to do with those who do not have health insurance. According to CNN, there are 86.7 million people who did not have health insurance in 2008. But reading further on, we find that this was not a constant number. Many people lost their health insurance because they were between jobs. Many young people, whose likelihood of illness is very remote, put off getting health insurance because they see it as a waste of money. Rich people tend to be self-insured. The poor, as stated above, have Medicaid and the elderly Medicare. So there is really no accurate data on the gaps in the current system, and therefore the much-touted need for “reform” may be based on a false premise, panicking good natured Americans into visualizing people dying right and left from minor and treatable illnesses.


Another problem is that many people do not take care of their own health. It is a commonplace that Americans are too fat and get too little exercise. Whose fault is that? Many lower class people are diagnosed with high blood pressure. A bottle of blood pressure pills costs about $6.00 per month. Just about everyone can afford this; the problem is, some people are notoriously bad at taking this medication, which must be taken every day regardless of how one feels. So young, virile people come into emergency rooms with irreversible kidney failure, because they did not follow the doctor’s instructions, and now they require dialysis for the rest of their life. Chronic alcoholics and smokers, etc., eventually come down with incurable diseases. All of this ratchets up the cost of medical care, and it is the fault of the patients themselves. Are those who take care of their health and pay for their own medical insurance supposed to pay for these people?


This week, both the president and his press secretary stated that there were countries where the people were completely satisfied with a “single payer” (i.e., socialist, government-run) medical system. When the press secretary was asked to name one, he could not. But a study by the Cato Institute has some very interesting data. Patients having to wait for more than four months for non-emergency surgery: Britain, 36%; Canada, 27 %; New Zealand, 26%; Australia, 23%; the United States, 5%. The elderly evaluate their health care way better in the UK than in either Canada or the United States. During a 12-month period, in Ontario, 71 patients died waiting for coronary bypass surgery. The United States also has the lowest hospital stay period compared to the other western socialist countries. Prostate cancer mortality rates among those diagnosed with the disease: UK, 57%; France, 49%; Germany, 44%; Australia, 35%; New Zealand 30%; Canada, 25%; and the United States, only 19%. Remember, this is under the current systems, which, in the US, is a free-market system, but in all the aforementioned other countries is a socialist system. (See http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa532.pdf.) Do these other systems sound like ones where people are completely satisfied?


Lastly, there is the question as to whether the new government system will shut out private medical coverage. The Heritage Foundation stated that currently 170 million Americans have insurance coverage. Under the new system, 119 million could lose their coverage. Why? The competing government service will be cheaper than the private coverage, because the costs will mostly be paid with taxes. Companies, due to cost savings, will be strongly influenced to enter the government system. Since most of us have medical insurance through our jobs, we will have the public-run system foisted on us through our companies. Hence we will lose our private coverage, and hence our choices in medical care, and the efficiency with which the private system operates, as seen in the Cato Institute study discussed above. This, also, will force out of business many private companies, which, I argue, is the ultimate goal of the current administration.


During the recent presidential campaign, candidate Obama said that he would propose a system that would allow regular citizens to have the same health care system that members of Congress had. Congress members have a private system. Why not just open that plan to membership from anyone or any company who wants to join? Because his original statement was baloney, intended to get people to vote for him, since that plan sounded reasonable. The ultimate goal was socialism, which is why the deception. 


By the way, we have not said anything about costs. Perhaps next time.

Dr. William Luckey is the former chairman of the department of Political Science and Economics at Christendom College, where he is currently a professor.  He holds advanced degrees in Business, Economics, Political Philosophy and Systematic Theology. He was married in 1971, has four children and 12 (soon to be 13) grandchildren, and is a Lay Dominican.

You can visit his blog entitled Catholic Truths on Economics at: http://www.drwilliamluckey.com/

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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