One Man’s Health Care Fears

Can anything possibly be written about health care that hasn’t already been hashed out ad nauseum? Since this time a year ago, we’ve been discussing why socialized medicine is disastrous, why America’s government can’t afford to finance all of the health care coverage a bill like this would require, why it couldn’t pass, why it nonetheless did, why it seemed to die and now has resurrected and why it may make it through the Senate, but run aground in the House…

The head swims.

I don’t claim to have anything new to contribute; I’m sure somewhere, either in cyberspace or on the printed page, similar concerns have probably been voiced. But as a husband and a father of three daughters, one with severe special needs, here is what I fear at this moment, if the bill passes:

The  bottom line:

Fewer people will choose to make a career of medicine, which will cause untold ripple effects.

 I have rarely been as troubled as I was when I read a Facebook conversation, probably 8 months ago now, about socialized medicine. One of the participants opined that it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to downplay the profit motive in the health care industry.  You might assert that such an ivory towered notion could only emerge from the hallowed halls of academia and regrettably, you would be right in this instance.

Our family doctor’s HMO already is refusing to take many patients with Anthem/Blue Cross/Blue Shields insurance because Anthem will only pay the Medicare baseline. (He consented to continue accepting us as patients in spite of our Anthem coverage, because of our relationship with him, which now spans a good number of years.) What will transpire when insurance companies go out of business because they can’t compete with government undercutting their prices under all of the enhanced powers government accrues as the price negotiator of first resort? Or alternatively, when more insurance companies begin to adopt Anthem’s tactics?

The profit incentive is central to the human condition. People excel when there is accomplishment for which to strive. Such achievement is codified in the possession of private property, of which money in the bank account is a key component. This is not to say that motivated workers cannot also be charitable. America’s record of voluntary local giving and worldwide monetary assistance is second to none, as all statistics show. But can anyone truly give from the heart if the donation is not voluntarily rendered? Indeed, is it not, in the end, forceful taxation if the dollars that are forfeited are done so on other than a wholeheartedly willing basis?

Why should doctors be any different, simply because they practice healing the sick? Most medical professionals, after all, spend around 10 years of their lives in arduous and expensive academic programs before they earn their first penny. What fool will continue to do this if not assured a comfortable income and standard of living upon graduation that will remunerate all of the costs absorbed in transit? (I’m fairly sure that the academic I observed making the comment about the “profit motive in healthcare” makes a high 5-figure salary, with a lush package of perks and didn’t have to go to an Ivy League-level school to obtain his/her current job.)

If fewer doctors practice medicine, costs will not only rise (and don’t kid yourself; they will), but treatment will have to be rationed. Does anyone really believe that if the government is financing health care for an increasing percentage of the population, with a finite money supply, it will not decide what will be paid for and who will reap the benefits?  It is simple economics: Tinker with the supply curve of anything and demand is always impacted.

(This reminds me of a discussion I had with an economist a couple of years ago when I expressed bewilderment at the inability of many politicians to grasp basic economic concepts. His reply? “Look at the industry most of them come from. The vast majority are attorneys.”)

If the President, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi really wanted to reform health care, they would implement measures that would increase competition on every conceivable front. Malpractice lawsuit reform and freedom to purchase insurance across state lines are great places to start.

But if this were really about reform, the President would have listened to the ever-growing majority by now and either forged a legitimate consensus of some kind or started over. With statists like Barack Obama, it is always about further government control, a far more apt description than the chameleonic term “reform” which can be imbued with any meaning with which the user determines to endow it.

One final question: If (pray God, it is so!) this monstrosity of a bill does not pass, how soon will we forget, in our bleary fatigue, that we have waged this fight and that we must continue to explain, with clarity and detail, to the next generation why we did it? One hopes that the residual memory lingers. Unfortunately, the lesson of history teaches that the reality should rather lead us to expect otherwise.

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