Monday, August 24, 2009

This "Death Panels" Business

My readers must forgive me for being a one-topic blog for the past few weeks, but the medical reform issue is of far too much importance not to focus on. Lately there has been much talk about "death panels" being inherent within HR 3200, panels of bureaucrats that decide who lives or dies, which has been given much heat. "Preposterous" they all say.

Those that have been keeping up with my last few posts will know that no lengthy argument is necessary. The real question is: how can supporters, and opponents alike, of HR 3200 not see that it will lead to death panels?

The logic is simple. As I have said before, the impracticality of socialized medicine is that, by removing prices, it encourages people to over-consume medical resources and for doctors and nurses to either go into a concierge practices or to leave their profession. A shortage results. A shortage is when there is not enough of a product or service to satisfy the demand for it. Rationing of medical resources will ensue under such a system.

What happens in rationing? Panels of bureaucrats will decide whom is allowed how much of what medical resources, and whom is not to have any.

And so there you have it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Nice Try

According to Yahoo! News, the White House is preparing to drop public option from HR 3200. Instead, what is to be pursued in its place is a thing called "cooperatives". The article is extremely vague as to what they are.
Michael D. Tanner, however, warns us that co-ops are simply public option by another name. (HT: Paul Hsieh.)

Should we be surprised? No, this is simply an old trick of politicians. If something is found to be unfavorable with the voting public, simply change the terminology, pretend like it is a whole new thing and you may perhaps fool them. We must remember our Shakespeare: "A rose by any other name smells just as sweet." (Though I would not be using roses in the metaphor...)

This plan must be defeated wholesale, not instead accepted in some lesser degree. In one of my earliest essays I pointed out as to why government officials are doomed to failure whenever they try to intervene in the economy to "improve" things. Given this knowledge and the fact that more regulations are habitually proposed to fix these failures, we must recognize that this leads to a vicious circle: when the government regulates the economy it causes failure, leading to more regulation, more failure, more regulation, more failure, ad infinitum. If this legislation piece is passed in any degree we will be merely taking another step in this endless circle.

The absurdity of all this is that some of the complaints the politicians are putting force about insurance companies are about problems the government has created to begin with. From the Yahoo! article:

"Nothing has changed,” said Linda Douglass, communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform. “The president has always said that what is essential is that health insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and it must increase choice and competition in the health insurance market. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals."”

If that is what is desired to be accomplished, to make insurance companies more affordable, competitive, and to offer more choices, then why do they not suggest the repealing of the laws that have prevented insurance companies from achieving these goals? Laws have driven up the operating costs of business, so insurance companies raise their prices out of necessity, not greed. Laws have forced insurance companies to cover certain conditions and treatments regardless of whether or not the particular consumers wish to be covered for them, so insurance companies are lacking in competition and choices because they are prohibited from competing and prevented from offering more choices.

Instead of suggesting the repealing of the problem laws, even more laws and more regulations are being proposed.

If this circle is not broken then the government will inevitably take over the entirety of the medical care industry, not just insurance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hurrying to Wait?

I should not be surprised, but I am. Stella Zawistowski from ReasonPharm reports:

Here's something I didn't know about HR 3200 until today: that the massive expansion in health insurance coverage sought by Democrats would not actually take effect until 2013 -- after the next presidential election.

Given all the calls that we need medical care reform quickly, the democrats seem to be overly patient in actually implementing their plan. Why, exactly, do we need to pass HR 3200 in such a hurry if it is not going into effect for almost four years? Because the bill is without rational justification. It is neither moral nor practical. If this legislation saw the light of day for too long people would see that in the future it can only lead to long waits for medical treatment/appointments, doctors and nurses leaving their profession, bureaucrats deciding who gets treatment, if any at all; innovative medicines and technologies abandoned at the blueprint stage, and more. In short, suffering for all without even an anthill's worth of the moral high ground. If anything could be chosen as the symbol of the logical consequence of socialized medical care, I would choose this case.

This legislation needs to be opposed absolutely. If passed, we face the possibility of it never being repealed within our lifetime. If people ever come to view medical care rationing, chronic suffering, and little to no innovation in the market as "things as they just have to be" then we may very well have lost. Someone once wrote: Raise a kid in a swamp and he will not know that the air does not have to stink.

But there is still time. The vote is not coming until next month or so, and the opposition is great already. We can better our understanding and ability to oppose even more by actually reading the bill. However, I realize that 1017 pages of complicated, nearly incomprehensible legal language is far too daunting a task for most people; even I would not spend my time like that. That is why I would like to point you to an analysis written by John David Lewis, which may be the best analysis of the concrete bill itself. The purpose of his article is to answer nine questions:

  1. Will the plan ration medical care?,

  2. will the plan punish Americans who try to opt out?,

  3. what constitutes “acceptable” coverage?,

  4. will the plan destroy private health insurance?,

  5. does the plan tax successful Americans more than others?,

  6. does the plan allow the government to set fees for services?,

  7. will the plan increase the power of government officials to scrutinize our private affairs?,

  8. does the plan automatically enroll Americans in the government plan?, and

  9. does the plan exempt federal officials from court review?

It is structured into nine sections with two subsections in each. The subsections are ordered that the question is posed at the heading, the relevant passage from the bill quoted second, and an evaluation of the passage third. I would go so far as to say this is "required reading".

Spread it where you can.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Snake Rattles?


There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to [Emphasis added]

Check out Gus Van Horn and C. August for excellent commentary regarding this. I have nothing to add to their points.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Snake Bares its Fangs

John David Lewis has written an excellent article that succinctly explains why universal medical care/socialized medical care/single-payer medical care/public option medical care systems are not only impractical economically, but are also immoral. We must pay special attention to the medical care scene for the present as the America's Affordable Health Choices Act is coming up to vote in the next month or so.

As I have explained in my article Poisonous Snake Bite? Run to the Hospital!, the impracticality of socialized medical care (this is the label that is most accurate and the one I will use consistently) is a simple supply and demand problem. If politicians say that people can have as much medical care as they want at no price then people start to "demand", i.e. use up more medical resources than they otherwise would have and a shortage of medical resources occurs (doctors, instruments, medicines, etc.). Yes, that means long lines for appointments and treatments, if they are available and if the politicians determine that you are allowed to have any.

But not only would the present supply be overwhelmed by a massive increase in demand, it would also decrease. Of all the rambling that goes on about how overpaid doctors are, it is seldom acknowledged the nature of the doctor's profession. To become a doctor requires years of intensive study, experience, and the willingness to take on the risk of contracting a disease or illness from one's patients. To demand that a doctor take on more patients for less money is to demand that he work harder and take on an even higher risk of getting a sickness without getting just rewards. Such is enough to make a doctor decide to exclude patients with a certain governmental insurance plan, to open up a concierge practice and accept cash payments only, or to leave the medical profession altogether. It is already happening, so imagine how much worse things will be if the AAHCA is passed. Medical insurance does not mean one is guaranteed to actually receive medical care.

But, of course, John Lewis above has warned us about using purely economical arguments. An author on the blog Noodlefood once said that humans are willing to create Hell on earth if they think it is moral.

Socialized medical care is immoral. To say that one has a right to medical care is to also state that someone has a duty to satisfy that right, which means that the right to medical care requires the enslavement of some to satisfy that right. There is no right to medical care, for it runs into the contradiction that some have the right to violate the rights of others. Unless these moral implications are made clear to the public, we will only be fighting a Sisyphean battle with this type of legislation; right up until it inevitably gets passed.

It would not get passed, or even considered, if it was to be rejected on moral, rather than solely practical, grounds. As always, I recommend reading the analysis Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care”, which deeply examines both the moral and practical sides to the debate about universal medical care. Sending an e-mail to one's representatives would not hurt either.