Skip to comments.The Case Against Socialized Medicine
Posted on 09/28/2004 1:19:47 PM PDT by johnnyb325
One of the greatest dreams of American liberals is a nationalized health care system similar to the one in Canada. They argue in favor of such a system because they believe health care is a basic "right," and because they believe the current system is flawed beyond repair. As with most problems, they advocate government solutions, not private enterprise solutions. Unfortunately, the government has an abysmal record of correcting problems, and American health care would be no exception.
First, let's examine the "right to health care" claim. Obviously, there is no right to health care established in the U.S. Constitution. However, we do have a moral right to health care, some will argue. Unfortunately, those who make this argument do not understand what a "right" is.
A "right" is the ability and autonomy to perform a sovereign action. In a free society founded on the ideal of liberty, an individual has an absolute ability to perform such an action - so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of another individual. Health care is not speech: In order for you to exercise a theoretical "right" to health care, you must infringe on someone else's rights. If you have a "right" to health care, then it means you must also have the right to coerce doctors into treating you, to coerce drug companies into producing medicine and to coerce other citizens into footing your medical bill. This is Orwellian. "Freedom" for you cannot result in slavery for others. Thus the concept of a "right" to health care is an oxymoron: It involves taking away the rights of other individuals.
Surely, though, we can agree that doctors, the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies earn excessive profits, you say. Well, that depends on what your definition of "excessive" is. Doctors literally hold the lives of their patients in their hands. How much is someone who saves lives everyday worth? The same is true of pharmaceutical companies. While it has become fashionable to condemn their profits, the fact is that these profits fund medical research, which leads to more medicines being produced, and, consequently, more lives saved. Insurance companies spread the cost of health care among many people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, and thus make health care readily available for many.
While on the topic of profits, we should examine them. The word "profit" is considered to be a dirty word by many on the political left, but why? What makes a profit bad? Nothing. On the contrary, profits are very positive. When you come to class in the morning, there is a good chance you either drive a car or ride a bus. Do you think the bus driver and the workers who built your car or the bus did so that you could get to school on time? Of course not, they did because they wanted to make money. Yet their pursuit of a profit benefited them as well as you.
Adam Smith once said, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest." As we have seen, profits and self-interest are not bad things.
Let's pretend, for a moment, that the left gets its way, and the United States adopts a universal health care system. This profit motive will effectively be removed. Doctors will then be government employees, and, as such, have far less accountability, as well as lower pay. Could we still expect the best and brightest to strive to be doctors? Probably not. More than likely, they will pursue other careers where they can make more money.
Some love to bemoan the fact that the United States is one of the few industrialized nations without a government health care system. Yet they rarely note that the United States produces disproportional amounts of the new, life-saving drugs, largely because of the profits drug companies make. Will we continue to produce these drugs if we abolish the profit motive? Not likely. Chances are, they will not be produced at all, and more people will needlessly suffer and die as a result.
When we examine countries that have embraced socialized medicine, we find long waiting lists, expansive red tape and little concern for the individual. Do you really want to be told which doctor to go to? Do you want to wait years to have necessary medical procedures performed? If so, then socialized medicine is for you.
But if you believe in individual rights, competent healthcare and sound economic policies, we must get the government out of the doctor's office.
- John Brown is a senior in political science. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only good thing I can think of about socialized medicine is that no one has to worry about being bankrupted by medical bills. I read somewhere that 1/3 or all bankruptcies in this country are due to this reason. That's pretty persuasive for a lot of folks.
That so cute.... He thinks the government should be limited by the Constitution....
When one is unemployed, getting health care is one of the motivations to look for a job. Free health care would result in more unemployment and people staying on welfare longer, no?
Seatbelt/helmet laws originate from taxpayer liability with medical expenses associated with car/motorcycle crashes.
When taxpayers become liable for all of your medical expenses, all of your behavior, from the smallest to the largest detail will come under their control.
Maybe some people don't mind making a trade like that. But I do, and my freedom isn't theirs to spend. Not for "free" health insurance, not for anything. Case closed.
No, everybody will instead be bankrupted instead by excessive taxes.
No, everybody will instead be bankrupted instead by excessive taxes.
Bankrupt or dead which would you choose? I would choose to live! It might not easy rebuilding your life, but another house ,another car can be bought again. How many spare lives can you buy for yourself?
We can sit for hours and discuss what a right is, and whether people have a right to health care, or whether it's an entitlement. What really matters, though, is the fact that health care is a necessity, like food and water, things that give life. We do have a right to life, right?
Exactly. With socialized medicine we will see the rise of a whole host of atrocities. Not the least of which will be legalized euthanasia.
What good is being financially "solvent," if you have to wait six weeks to see your government-provided healtcare specialist, if medical licenses aren't worth the paper they're printed on, and if no pharmaceuticals exist to help cure your condition?
yes, of course but does that mean I should be able to go down to the local grocery store and get my food for free? how about free water?
Remember:"A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away."
-Medicare for old people
-Medicaid for poor people
-all emergency room care is basically socialized, right? No one's ever "refused", whether or not they can pay or have insurance, right?
-Hospitals and doctors are so heavily regulated with government oversight to an extent that, it could be argued that they basically are a branch of government (you up on your HIPAA rules? if doctors "take Medicare patients" this obligates them to this, that and the other, doesn't it? what prices they may charge, etc?)
-HMOs... they were essentially created by the government were they not?
-And finally the insurance situation is largely government-caused. Why do we all have this funny idea that health insurance must be attached to our employer, in the first place? (You don't expect a "food-purchasing insurance plan" from your employer...) Why does health insurance cover even regular doctor visits as opposed to just catastrophic events (as, you would think, "insurance" exists for)? Because of a post-World War 2 policy of considering these "fringe benefits" as non-taxable income. In effect the government provides a subsidy to all employers to induce them to provide insurance, and then of course that immediately allows for all sorts of laws and regulations about what that insurance must be like. (Must cover birth control pills! etc)
This all may not add up to "Socialism" with a capital S of course but it does function as a kind of farmed-out, piecemeal socialism.
I'm hard pressed to identify very many actual free-market features of health care. I mean you get a job, sign up for HMO, pick your doctor (free market..I guess) from inside the "network" (not so free market), and from that point on all your visits, and what you pay for each cotton swab, are tightly controlled and rationed by actuaries. There's no "shopping around" or "bargain-hunting" here.
Given all this, to just say "we shouldn't move to Socialized medicine" isn't very helpful. A lot of lefties will argue that our system is already halfway there, but is very inefficient as a result - and they will have a point. Instead of hitching all their wagons to a "no" - "no socialism in health care" - I wish conservatives would adopt a more pro-active position, such as "we need to reform the health care system", similar to how they have positioned themselves on Social Security. "Reform" in this case would consist of some much needed free market fresh air, including:
-end to employer-based health insurance tax incentives
-aim in all things to alter the nature and understanding of "insurance" so that it is used only for catastrophic life events, not every single damn checkup, tube of toothpaste, etc.
-less regulation/control and more free market whereever feasible
I don't know. This may not be a political winner. The "Baby Boomers" are going to be an obstacle to any attempt at true free market reform of course, as they grow old and rely more and more on the government to subsidize their health care. But just saying "no socialism!" doesn't seem like much more of a political winner, and its effect is to freeze us at the amount of socialism we have, which, let's face it, is pretty damn much. With the result that as frustration grows with our current system's idiocies, a constituency builds more and more for a true nationalized health care system.
Avoiding this is a good argument for having insurance, insurance which is *true* catastrophic coverage ONLY. The whole point of insurance is to shield you from such an event. But we've got our insurance companies so occupied with paying for each and every doctor visit that I'm not surprised a person could have insurance but have to file for bankruptcy as well.
Well, ERs are "socialized" because they're free, or at least free to privileged classes.
But they have NO government budget or other reliable source of constant income, hence, hospitals can and do go out of business.
under socialism, they can't.
I have family in Europe, I'm well aware of its shortcomings. And they are well aware of the shortcomings of ours.
And here's the lefty's response: "That's so inefficient, and look at the tragedies that result (communities losing hospitals). Why not cushion things with a true, reliable, nationalized system?" Look how you've now portrayed the difference: under our system, hospitals "can go out of business", under socialism, they can't. Which do you think sounds better to the average joe? Who's going to say "yay, I want a system in which my local hospital can go under"?
Lefties are also big on reminding us that ERs are typically the most costly way to treat someone, and there would be an efficiency savings if the people most inclined to use ERs for small things (poor people) were instead included in some kind of umbrella nationalized system that encouraged/allowed them to make less-costly, regular checkup type visits.
And, call me crazy, but I think lefties are *right* about that. At least, I know of no decent counterargument.
Misleading as to food and water, not true as to gives life.
Food and water are true necessities. If you don't obtain them, you die.
Yet they are not free. Not anywhere, not here. You have to bust your ass to get them, and nobody is interested in your bitching if you can't get enough or the kind that you want.
"Health" care sometimes extends the life your parents and God gave you. It does not, by itself, give you life, and there are many, many circumstances when as much "health" care as you can buy or can pursuade others to buy for you won't extend your life by a nanosecond.
Your right to life means no one can kill you without just cause. It does not mean that if you have metastatic ovarian cancer or a brain tumor that someone else's children or elderly parents should (or even can) go without so you can buy more life.
You can't buy more. It's not available.
This is really the answer. It should be like home owners and car insurance. No payout for the small stuff, just the bug stuff.
I forgot about tort reform. That's a biggie, I am sure. When every single person who works in an industry lives with the daily threat that some judge or jury could on a whim decide they owe someone millions of dollars, and continually has to pay huge insurance bills to guard against this, that's another factor that leaves precious little room for a truly free market to function.
Oops. that's the "big stuff"
I don't care that your "average joe" likes stealing.
It's still wrong.
No rights are established in the U.S. Constitution. Some (but not all) are enumerated.
Another point: Doesn't this just mean that hospitals are the ones administering the socialism?
-Government mandates that hospital ERs treat everyone, regardless of ability to pay.
-This gives all hospitals a budget item they can't avoid.
-Other hospital bills (for regular patients) are, inevitably, raised accordingly. (Or the hospital eventually must shut its doors.)
In other words the government gives hospitals an unfunded mandate (you MUST treat these people) and then sits back and lets the hospitals go ahead and collect the "ER socialism tax" by themselves. And of course there are a web of regulations all hospitals must navigate in doing so.
So while the government is not in charge of the tax collection and distribution directly, it really is just a way of "farming out" the socialism, like I said.
I agree, but that doesn't work as an argument in favor of the status quo.
The status quo already involves a large amount of what you and I both agree is morally equivalent to stealing. A lefty's going to say "we're *already* doing socialism, just not *well*". Which is true on both counts.
Social Health has all the accuracy, skill, professionalism, and privacy of your basic military pre-induction physical.
Put your toes on the line, bend over and smile.
Show me a model, anywhere in the world, where socialized medicine is working well. You can't; which is why we need reform rather than jumping in with both feet.
Right. And what the lefties will say (I've heard this approximately a zillion times :) is that under our current system, poor people mostly have a big incentive to wait until problems become bad, then use the ER for their medical care, because that's free. Lefties will say that this is the most costly way to deal with that poor person's medical problem, and given that we're already covering that poor person one way or another (which I would rephrase: given that we already have socialism to some extent), why not revamp the system so that it covers that poor person in a more efficient way, at a lower cost?
I don't think this argument is incorrect. If it is, I don't know the counter argument.
A response like "we shouldn't move to socialism" seems to miss the point that we're already halfway there. That horse has left the barn.
My preferred response would involve more free market in whatever way feasible. At the very least, this position would allow conservatives to at least look more like they acknowledge there are problems.
I agree with you.
And no I can't show you anywhere that socialism is working "well". I think what reasonable lefties would say, with some justification, is that ours is working (in some aspects - not all) especially poorly. In particular lefties can point to specific inefficiencies in our current (half-assed socialist) system, which arguably could be locally improved (even if the end result still wouldn't be all that great).
The "poor people relying on emergency rooms" phenomenon is an example.
Maybe this article should be forwarded to Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, prime movers of the multi-billion dollar Medipill bill backed by Pres. Bush. Both major parties are to blame for the insidious slide toward socialized medicine. Don't enable either of them.
No man should be forced to work for less than their due fee. In that vein perhaps there is room for government licensure of another level of care that would provide relief for those with less resources. The medical profession is against this idea, also for noted reasons.
When they socialize it,and you try to get it.
Then your education begins.
Medicaid people in most states have primary care coverage, they are for the most part too irresponsible to take care of themselves or their "dependents" until it reaches an "emergency" status at least in their eyes. As a group they are the most demanding and ungrateful bunch of patients.
Hello everyone. First things first.
I admit it, I lean to the left, but I'm not here to flame. I just want to have a reasonable, civilized debate with some conservatives. I want some insight into what makes you tick politically. I am open to the idea that, while the progressives will be right about certain things, the right can also be correct about others.
I see an unhealthy amount of polarization in US politics these days, and think we'd all be better off doing a bit more listening and a lot less screaming and name-calling.
Having said that, I'd like to present my take on johnnyb325's comments.
1) "A "right" is the ability and autonomy to perform a sovereign action."
This definition didn't seem right to me. To me you've defined something like "ability" or "capacity". My dictionary defines a "right" as "something (as a power or privilege) to which one has a just or lawful claim".
It would seem to me that everyone has an equally just and lawful claim to health and well-being, and I'm sure it's included in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
I'm not sure I follow you when you say that in order to claim health care, you have to infringe upon the rights of others. The health care system is set up to deal with large numbers of patients, precisely so that one person's treatment doesn't preclude another's. I also fail to see how private health care is superior to nationalized health care in this respect.
2) "The word "profit" is considered to be a dirty word by many on the political left, but why?"
I agree with you. It's silly to consider profits to be evil. Capitalism uses profits as its primary motivation. Take them away and you undermine Capitalism.
However, the idea behind Capitalism and profits is that these profits will ultimately serve to benefit society as a whole. I, and the left in general, believe that this simply doesn't happen if you leave Capitalism to its own devices.
What Capitalism does is *generate* wealth, and it generates it fantastically well. It is very very good at producing most of the goods and services we see around us. But ultimately its underlying motivation is *profit,* not the greater benefit of humanity, and for this reason it seems inadequate as the sole provider of vital social programs like education and health care. Social programs should have as their sole founding principles the betterment of human life and society at large; money should not serve as a middleman.
3) "Some love to bemoan the fact that the United States is one of the few industrialized nations without a government health care system. Yet they rarely note that the United States produces disproportional amounts of the new, life-saving drugs, largely because of the profits drug companies make."
True. Correct me if I'm wrong, but countries such as Finland, Sweden and Denmark also produce a disproportionate amount of drugs. It's harder to tell because all together they only have a population of about 18 million versus the US's 290 million or so, but per capita I think they're right up there.
I suspect conservatives might see these places as silly little socialist countries, but the fact is that, though their governments play unbelievably (to American ears) huge roles in their public's lives, they combine it with a quite vibrant version of Capitalism. The result has its strengths and weaknesses, but so does the American system. Health care-wise it's a trade off between:
1. National health care
Plusses: Lifelong availability to everyone. Treatment never costs anything. Many medicines are discounted in price. Many countries also have a parallel, private system for those who prefer its advantages.
Minusses: Waiting lists, though only for those operations that can wait. Less personal (though not necessarily lower quality) treatment.
2. Private health care
Plusses: Very high quality treatment exists. Extremely innovative. More personalized service.
Minusses: Prohibitively high costs for a very significant part of the population, resulting in a large percentage of the population without access to health care or medicine.
The US has chosen one way; most of the rest of the world has chosen the other. I'm not saying that one system is better, but clearly the world in general prefers the nationalized route.
Is nationalized health care right for the US? I don't know. What I can say is that I'm American, but I live in Spain, and after having experienced both of the systems in question, I prefer the way they do it here. I like knowing that I and everyone else around me can have anything from a routine check up to brain surgery if necessary and not pay a penny for it. I like the fact that my asthma medication costs me 10% of what it would cost me in the US. And I also like the fact that there is that parallel private system in place (paid for via insurance, just like in the US) which I can turn to if -- and only if -- I so decide.
That's my take. I could elaborate, but I'd like to hear what you guys think first.
It would seem to me that everyone has an equally just and lawful claim to health and well-being
This premise is false, and your argument falls because of it.
Consider the situation of a healthy young person. That person is in a state of health and well-being that requires nothing from anyone. It is the state of nature. Their "right" to their situation derives from the natural order.
Now consider a 75 year old man with acute myelogenous leukemia. In your formulation, his "just and lawful claim to health and well-being" is equal to the hypothetical young person.
But unlike the young person, this person's "just and lawful claim" is impossible of achievement, not by any expenditure, however great, nor by any human extertion, however forceful.
The "right to health care" (which does not exist, IMO) does follow from the Declaration on Human Rights, since the "right to health and well-being" does implicate the associated human exertions directed at health.
But the "right to health and well-being" in the DHR is directly imported from preexisting socialist systems, principally from the 1934 USSR Constitution, and this fictitious "right", granted to the well by nature and unavailable to the sick under any system, was invented precisely to extend State control over the medical sector.
Reflect on what can or should be done to secure the "right" for those with incurable illness, and you will, I think, advance your thinking on the subject.
Biggo anti-socialized medicine BUMP!
Many Democrats and some Republicans would disagree.
As I read through the posts here, I see a lot of faith in the free market to single-handedly solve our problems.
I know this faith is typically conservative, but it just sounds so naive to me. Though it does lots of things very well, Capitalism is not perfect. Surely even conservatives recognize its inherent tendency to produce inequality, for example. How do they propose dealing with this?
(If this is off topic, can someone please direct me to the appropriate forum?)
Unfortunately, too many "conservatives" operate under that slippery "the ends justify the means" philosophy when it comes to the subject of social welfare programs.
Inequality is inherent.
It is not produced by capitalism, and it is not ameliorated by socialism.
Well said. I wish more people would understand this basic principle.