Food, clothing, shelter and health care are not guaranteed citizen rights under the
Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, but only “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Nevertheless, as of last month ObamaCare appears to have become, along with Medicare and Medicaid, an entitlement for almost everyone.
The concept of “insurance” is that everyone in a group shares risk so that the burden of the unfortunate is reduced and the lucky ones gain peace of mind. For insurance to work as it should, its cost should be competitive so that the consumer can make a free choice between risk and coverage. But the current system is not really insurance. It covers “pre-existing
conditions” and places no limit on demand. Under government-subsidized insurance, patients pay little or nothing extra for additional consultations, tests and services. Therefore it is not insurance, it is socialism. The health-care industry, which just like any other business seeks growth above all else, is eager to respond to unlimited demand by providing facilities, personnel, motorized carts, and an endless stream of medications and sophisticated test and monitoring equipment for every perceived need.
Congress should have approved a plan that requires the patient to pay something significant for the treatment sought, that is, enough to give incentives to shop for care and to stop self-abusive behaviors (e.g., smoking, obesity, sloth). It did not. The future of American healthcare is therefore predictable, because limited resources can not support unlimited demand. Great Britain has such a system. One of their physicians writes that, “. . . Britain does have the dirtiest, most broken-down hospitals in Europe.” (WSJ, 7/29/2009, p. A13)
There is irony in this situation because the solution to most of the healthcare problems in this country is relatively cheap. Let me give you a real-life example. Someone near to me recently, over a period of about 9 months, intentionally lost 24% of her weight. She did it, not through extreme dieting, but through portion-control and exercise. She
walks at least 2 miles a day, every day. She still eats pizza, french fries and steak along with her fruits and vegetables, although she has cut out sugar and most starches. Her type II diabetes is gone. So is her sleep apnea. Her blood pressure is nearly normal (previously through the roof) and her cholesterol has also normalized. Her foot problems cleared up also. This was a cheap fix.
Changes like this, plus avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, are in my opinion much more effective than any pill. It is not surprising that pharmaceutical ads dominate television because we love to believe that pills can substitute for will power, but the press is full of health problems and lawsuits over side effects.
It is interesting to note a recent report about President Obama’s annual physical. He
chose to have a virtual CT scan in place of a standard colonoscopy, ostensibly so he would not have to go under anesthetic. (Flash, Mr. President: the Cold War is over!) This was not only more expensive, but it subjected him to a large dose of unnecessary radiation. Incidentally, had any problem been seen in the scan, he would have had to undergo the colonoscopy also. This is not a good example for the populace. How many of us will now avoid the trouble and unpleasantness of the regular test, at no additional cost? CT and MRI machines are among the most expensive types of medical equipment and, once installed, must be used extensively to justify their purchase.
It would have been possible to design a healthcare system that gave people an incentive to correct their lifestyles, and a disincentive to seek unnecessary tests, medicines and procedures. This is called “paying for some of it yourself”. Too bad. We have chosen more government, not less, because we can not stand to see anyone in need, even if it’s their own fault.
Watch out, here comes the bill, and it’s going to be a whopper!