Kerry proclaimed last night that “health care… is a right for all Americans” and that he will “will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals… so we can invest in health care”. So the implication here is that a) he wants to make sure everyone has guaranteed health care and b) he believes it is government’s job to provide for it.
From a practical standpoint, it has been proven that socialized healthcare has numerous problems. It is difficult to point to a single example of a country with a successful socialized health care system that is not massively subsidized by a favorable trade surplus. The problem is rising health care costs, and the higher premiums individuals pay for insurance as compared to corporations. These costs are caused by some combination of increasing drug costs, increased malpractice insurance, new coverage categories, and the lack of price competition caused by employer management of health care. None of these are fixed by moving to a single, monolithic health plan. Malpractice issues remain the same, and either expose consumers to greater risk due to the potential of citizens suing the system itself or prohibit any recourse for abuses caused by the system. Coverage areas would almost certainly balloon uncontrollably, with special interests pushing to use federal money to help people fix their obesity issues, drug addictions, and eventually cosmetic operations to improve self-image. Keeping drug costs in check would be almost impossible. Cave to the drug companies and consumer demands, and a neverending train of new and expensive drugs will keep rolling in – they will fix all sorts of problems, but at an impossible cost. Alternately, punitive attempts to keep the “evil corporation” drug companies from charging too much for medicine through price controls will be directly reflected in R&D investment, slowing the development of new drugs. I trust a free market to maintain this balance much more than ANY single entity.
From an ideological perspective, it is insane to claim that this subsidized form of health care is a right. It is insulting to suggest that ANYONE’s rights involve taking money from me and giving it to them. That’s not a right, it’s theft, it’s income redistribution. It is unadulterated, Marxian, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!” in practice. A right to health care implies not just a right to basic health care – doctor’s visits, teeth cleanings, ob/gyn care, and antibiotics. It suggests a right to whatever treatment options are available, regardless of cost. At some point some drugs, some treatments are just too expensive. They would be too expensive for a fully, corporately-insured family, and they would make other decisions. Copayment structures and caps occasionally have unfortunate consequences, but more often, they foster a measure of restraint in making health care decisions. How will a system predicated on the idea that some people can’t afford health insurance possibly enforce significant copayment structures that will encourage people to seek necessary but not extravagant care.
How long before my tax dollars are used to pay for an abortion for someone who got pregnant “on accident”, to pay for stomach staples for overweight Americans too lazy and gluttonous to watch their diet or go jogging, to repeatedly try and detox someone who keeps returning to their drug habit, or to treat AIDS in someone who engages in risky behaviors? Certainly all of these people are free to engage in these behaviors, and free to pursue whatever treatment they feel is necessary for them. I, however, should be free from the obligation to pay for their poor decisions, and I should be obligated to pay for my own poor decisions. If I don’t brush my teeth, it’s my job to pay for fillings and root canals, and noone else’s. If I ram my car into a brick wall and break every bone in my body, that shouldn’t be your problem. (Granted, many of these issues exist in group health care as we now know it, but they would all be magnified by socialization.)
I hope that we do explore ways to reform our health care system. The costs are too high, and consumers are too detached from the health care decision-making process. Legislation should be pursued to create viable ways for groups of individuals and small businesses to purchase health care at better rates than they currently can. Lawmakers need to get out of the pocket of medical associations, trial lawyer groups, and drug manufacturers, and start worrying more about the pockets of individuals. Loosen some regulations to allow more forms of competition. Show me a functional, prospering socialist government. Compare their quality of life to ours. Point out one U.S. social program that has not rampantly exceeded its cost targets and failed remarkably to achieve its stated goal. Point out one example of socialized medicine that compares to what is being proposed that isn’t fundamentally flawed. It can’t be done, and for the sake of the taxpayers, it shouldn’t be done here.