Liddick: The myth of a successful single-payer system (column)
July 10, 2017
As Capitol Hill Democrats and their useful fools in the Republican majority continue to slither toward the catastrophe of single-payer health care, those squirming and panting for joy should pause a moment to consider the story of Charlie Gard. Charlie is an 11-month-old profoundly ill British infant whose parents want to bring him to the U.S. for treatment. A doctor here has had some success with treating his malady to prolong the life of the patient, and Charlie's parents have more than sufficient funds. But Charlie's hospital, a part of Britain's National Health system, won't permit his parents to take him. In the opinion of staff doctors, Charlie's condition is incurable so he must be allowed to die, because he may be suffering.
Note: not because he is suffering, but because in their opinion, he may be. So, as opposed to at least having a chance at life, he must die. Also note: Charlie's parents, though they have the means, have no say in this matter. The courts have agreed and the Great Ormond Hospital, Charlie's present abode, is preparing to remove his breathing and feeding tubes, which will kill him.
Die quick, kid. We don't think you can get better, and the green eyeshade guys say we need the room. Call it the ultimate in "outcome-based health care."
Remember "Death Panels?" In the United Kingdom, they're an actual thing and, depending on whose statistics one trusts, they kill between 300 and 3,000 Britons a year through "passive euthanasia" such as that Charlie faces. That's one way of solving the resource allocation problem — a method most Conservatives would prefer to leave out of U.S. health care plans.
If the objective is to provide better access to health care, concentrating on health insurance may not be the best way to go.
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A thought: Instead of marching mindlessly down the road to the dystopia where our health and lives are in the hands of those who run Amtrak, Social Security, the TSA and the IRS, we might be looking in the wrong direction. If the objective is to provide better access to health care, concentrating on health insurance may not be the best way to go.
A piece of paper saying one has health insurance does not provide health care. That's done in a hospital, clinic, office or other venue, by the resident staff. So if health care is the goal, why not provide more of all of these? The estimated costs for Obamacare's subsidies and Medicare payments in 2016 are around $110 billion. If the federal government followed commercial practice, with that amount of money it could build and staff approximately 70 hospitals the size of the behemoth Southwestern Medical Research hospital at the University of Texas. In one year. Or it could build and staff roughly three times that many 150-bed facilities around the country, and they could all offer free medical care to anyone below, say, twice the poverty level. Next year, it could do the same, for a similar amount of money. It wouldn't take long before everyone needing it had access to medical care paid for by someone else. Then we could begin paying down the national debt.
One could also make the case that ultrarich lefties caterwauling for "free health care" should come to the party. Assuming that 10 billion dollars is sufficient to keep a family happy provided they live frugally, that paragon of compassion Warren Buffet could provide 60 or so working hospitals. Bill Gates could fund 65. So could Jeff Bezos. Mark Zuckerberg, poor thing, could only fund 40. But it would certainly go some way to providing the care they say they want. How about it, boys?
One could even add a two-birds-with-one-stone offer: For promising medical students, commitment to five years of service in such a facility following residency would mean complete forgiveness of any student loans.
It'll never happen. For the nouveau riche of Silicon Valley, as for the power junkies of Capitol Hill, what "free" means is "paid for by someone else in a way we can control." The new philanthropy involves using government to wrest money from the unconnected to fund the object of one's desire. Somewhere, Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller are retching their ectoplasmic guts out in disgust.
Implausible or not, the above is an example of the sorts of innovations and alternatives we need to insist Republican political leaders explore before they follow the feckless Mitch McConnell down the path to the Democrats' knackery. And save for the ruling class, we all become American incarnations of Charlie Gard, killed by "free" health care.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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