Opinion | Morgan Liddick: The truth about government health care
On Your Right
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and other Democrats think the government should give everyone health care. Here’s some of what that means.
Slow and archaic service: As a former federal employee, I receive part of my health care from a system used by government workers. Every year, I check prices for the private firms offering policies within the system — prices that rise each year. Government health care ain’t free, no matter what one hears. This year, I had to change policies. It was an adventure.
When I recently sold a house and bought another, everything was handled online. Listing contract, sale documents, application for a mortgage, purchase contract — it was all done through secure online document transfers using services like Docusign, widespread in the private sector. So what far more impressive and speedy service would be available from the federal government, with its practically unlimited budget?
First stop was a comparative website, allowing the shopper to compare among available plans. It was convenient, fast and informative. When the decision was made, there was a large, friendly “enroll now” button. I pushed it and the fun began.
The button did not spawn an online application for the plan in question, but pages of information about who exactly could chose what, who was excluded and how one could tell. Should have been the first step instead of the last, you say? Ah, but that’s not how things work when the government’s involved. Never make anything a one-step process when 15 will suffice.
The phone call followed. No online form, you say? Of course not. That stuff can’t be just spread around; anyone could have access to it. Instead, one has to call, justify one’s self and request a form. At least it was an 1-800 number, for those among us still using long-distance services that charge by the minute. Except that the number given was for the Political Review Office, whose employees had no idea why I was calling them. It was an uncomfortable call for all parties.
Eventually, I found a working number, maneuvered through robot operators, spoke to a person and procured a PDF form sent as an email attachment. I filled out what I could online, printed the form, filled out the rest, signed it, scanned it and sent it back. Could I attach a receipt form to record who received it and when? No. Were there alternatives? Of course. I could have mailed the form. Or faxed it. And eventually, I’ll have to call again to verify the PDF was received. Your tax dollars at work, sort of.
Then there’s the current example of government provided health care. No, not Medicare. Medicare is just the cheap alternative to my present private insurance. It doesn’t cover everything private insurance does, pays on average 40% to 50% less per procedure and has fewer five-star facilities in its portfolio. No, the real example is Veterans Affairs, where the doctors are government employees, the hospitals are government-owned and managed, and the patients are, for the most part, captives of the system. So, how does the VA rate?
That depends on what is measured. VA hospitals outperform their peers on preventing post-operative blood clots but do far worse than average on bedsores. Their staffs are seen by those who use them as uncommunicative and uncaring; their wait times for emergency care average twice as long as their private counterparts, and they have a nasty habit of postponing critical admissions until the problems resolve themselves. A former co-worker of mine had a serious case of mesothelioma, a 100-mile commute to the nearest VA hospital and a revolving door of oncological specialists that continued to rotate until he died — without receiving treatment. His was not the only case of its type.
So remember when you hear candidates promising free health care or carrying on about “Medicare for All,” not only do their promises mean “I promise to take trillions from those who made it to fund a system in which the government decides who gets what health care and how,” their plans imply other realities. Since price controls will be inevitable to control costs, highly remunerated specialists will flee to private “concierge care” plans or, if that is outlawed, to safe havens for medical tourism because people with money will continue to buy the best, no matter the effect on the rest.
And forms will continue to be faxed or mailed. Because bureaucrats, who vote and donate to politicians, need jobs.
Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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