RodhamCare, it starts out "for the children"

Today, The Lansing State Journal published my OpEd regarding government intervention in the nation’s health care. They titled it Government already runs health system. I reproduce it with links, and slightly modified, below.

For background, the letter mentioned in the OpEd was this:

Extend coverage
Mel Hull (Letters, Oct. 6) has labeled Hillary Clinton’s plan to provide health care to every citizen as “socialized medicine.”

Do you think Hull has a problem with our socialized police force or our socialized fire protection?

I wonder if Hull drives — he’s never written a letter warning us of the evils of the socialized interstate highway system forced on us by the federal government.

Do you suppose he opposes public libraries as socialized information sharing?

President Bush speaks disparagingly of government health care. In truth, the Veterans’ Administration provides excellent care to our vets — as long as it is fully funded.

Our members of Congress enjoy coverage for life. If it’s good enough for our vets and our politicians, why wouldn’t we want it?

Bush and his supporters have no credibility on this issue. Health insurance companies exist to profit, not to help us.

David S. Campbell

I found Mr. Campbell’s naivete intriguing, even though he can’t define socialism. He can recognize a good deal when he sees it, however, “Our members of Congress enjoy coverage for life.” Mr. Campbell proposes that abuse of privilege is exemplary, “…as long as it is fully funded.”

“Health insurance companies exist to profit, not to help us.” Without health insurance company profits, where would health insurance come from? Oh yeah, the free market doctors, who currently tend to our Congresscritters, would volunteer for a new “Medicorps,” program. Take a number.

We’ve acquiesced to the idea that some services are best delivered by the government. Most of us don’t even question it. So why not go the whole nine yards? My take on health care is that we’ve already gone four and six-tenths yards, and it isn’t working as well as most of us would prefer. I wrote:

A recent writer to the LSJ summarized the agenda for expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). I paraphrase, “If we can accept socialized police and socialized fire departments and socialized interstate highways, why not socialized medicine?”

This idea for incrementally socializing health care was outlined in a 1993 Hillary Clinton memo during the Hillarycare debacle. She wrote, “Under this approach, health care reform is phased in by population, beginning with children. Kids First is really a precursor to the new system.”

Whether the idea of SCHIP expansion is incremental socialized medicine seems to be settled.

Though Clinton anticipated the LSJ’s correspondent by 14 years, it is still refreshing to see a plain acknowledgment that state control of medicine is the object of expanded SCHIP entitlements. The writer’s point seems to be that since police and firemen are paid by the government, you shouldn’t mind if your doctor becomes a government employee.

Aside from the question of whether doctors want to be civil servants, or whether the pharmaceutical industry should be nationalized – and despite the fact a goodly part of health care expense derives from the 51 percent stake the government has already taken – the belief some public institutions are socialist is not an argument that any other institutions should be socialized, nor even that the ones we already have represent best practice.

Regarding the analogy with interstate highways, for example, the Indiana Toll Road has been privatized.

And if you find it unbelievable that government commands so much of the health care “market,” Maggie Mahar, in an article in the left-wing magazine The American Prospect, titled What Would Lenin Do? – has written: “(T)axpayers bankroll 51 percent of the nation’s $2 trillion health care bill …”

Mahar sourced [sorry, I had a 500 word limit] the following percentages from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Private insurance for public employees, 6 percent; Medicare, 17 percent; Medicaid and SCHIP, 16 percent; other public health services, 12 percent.

Private insurers “pick up just 30 percent of the tab.” That money comes from tax deductible premiums [more government intervention] paid by employees as well as employers.

“In other words, private sector employers pay less than 30 percent of the total.” The remainder is people paying directly (14 percent) and charity (5 percent).

So much for free-market health care as the problem.

As the biggest payer, government has a huge effect on prices. According to the Cato Institute, government programs bid up health care prices, shift costs to doctors and hospitals, and thereby push up health insurance rates. Add to that these arguably socialist regulatory costs: “(T)he total cost of health services regulation exceeds $339.2 billion,” while providing only $170.1 billion in benefits, “the net burden … (is) $169.1 billion annually. In other words, the costs of health services regulation outweigh benefits by two-to-one and the cost to average household is over $1,500 per year.”

The LSJ letter writer closed with this comment: “Health insurance companies exist to profit, not to help us.” Rephrased to the socialist trope espoused, this would better read:

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

The Other Club has written extensively on this topic, many of those posts are linked here, or click on labels below this post.

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