DMV Health Care

By | August 18, 2016 | 0 Comments


Some time ago, I had to renew my driver’s license. Despite my excellent record, this required three visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles, each taking about half a day. Some employees were helpful, but others were rude, on two occasions turning their backs instead of answering polite questions.
I could not help recalling Lord Acton’s remark that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But what power is greater − and potentially more corrupting − than the power of life and death? What field gives the most latitude for the power-hungry, the petty, the over-controlling, and the passive-agressive to exercise these faults to the fullest? Controlling and rationing health care from cradle to grave surely is that field.
If you think I got rich in private practice and am merely protecting the source of my income, note that I spent my medical career as a salaried employee, for the most part at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. I saw many dedicated physicians, nurses, technicians, and others working long hours under difficult conditions to care for the uninsured and the indigent.
Regrettably, I also saw lazy, undedicated people getting by with as little effort as possible. And I saw paper-pushers who did their best to block us from delivering quality care. If you look in the dictionary for “passive-aggressive,” you will find a picture of a bureaucrat.
If we lived in an ideal world, I might favor universal health care − that is, socialized medicine. I might prefer that everyone get adequate care than that some get superb care while others get inferior care. I spent my professional life trying to fulfill that ideal.
But the world is far from ideal. All around us, we see the results of “the best and the brightest” mismanaging banks, insurance companies, and automobile factories. We see “experts” at the Treasury and Federal Reserve handing out trillions of dollars we don’t have, then being unable to state where much of it went. How can we place the health care of 324 million Americans in the hands of Moe, Curly, and Larry?
These “experts” want to control another one-sixth of the economy, using management techniques that failed miserably in areas for which these techniques were designed. It is the height of arrogance to ask for more power after misusing the power they already have.
Suppose the “experts” succeed in taking over health care. What can we expect? We need not guess − we can listen to their own words, and we can see what happens elsewhere:

● The “duty to die” for the elderly and the physically or mentally disabled has been proposed in America and Britain. President Obama was frank about his plan to ration health care for the elderly.

● Dying is now not just a “duty” but also a necessity in Britain. Tens of thousands of cancer patients are denied drugs that could extend their lives. This may save money, but at what cost to the fabric of society?

● It isn’t only expensive care that is denied. In Britain, simple care such as repairing a broken ankle is refused unless the patient stops smoking. Quitting smoking is a laudable goal. But forcing it on someone by leaving him disabled and in pain is both cruel and uneconomical. He could be working, even with a cigarette in his mouth. These are the actions of a dim-witted bully − which is one way to describe government.

● You need a CT scan or an MRI in Canada? Go to the end of the line. Similar waiting times for needed tests and treatments occur in other nations with “universal” care. Like the real universe, the health-care “universe” moves very slowly, and it pays absolutely no attention to individuals.

Only one of the 141 American medical schools still administers the Hippocratic Oath, with its prohibition against euthanasia and assisted suicide. Instead, they take a variety of oaths, some made up by the graduates themselves. It’s not just amoral bureaucrats that we should fear − it’s also amoral doctors.

● It isn’t only at the twilight of life that the “duty to die” is enforced − it’s also at the dawn. In Britain, an official proposed killing babies with “defects.” And in America, Barack Obama when a state senator voted three times against bills that would require care for babies born alive after “failed” abortions. Perhaps Obama’s Special Olympics “joke” was a Freudian slip.

● In Britain, patients are sometimes forbidden to get extra care or medication by paying for it. The same can happen here. Even now, some Medicare “wrap-around” policies pay the balance of what Medicare doesn’t pay, but pay nothing for a test or treatment that Medicare doesn’t cover. If the government gives everyone a coat, it ends up being a straitjacket.

● For the trillions of dollars that “universal” care is projected to cost, Americans should expect the best. But judging by the way the bailout went, we will be lucky to get a slightly updated version of the British system. Instead of Medicare for all, we’re likely to get Veterans Affairs health care for all.

● And who are “all”? All the tens of millions who will stream across porous borders to get “free” health care and “free” college? No nation is rich enough for that.

● The government continues to computerize and centralize health records. In theory, easy access to health records would help in an emergency. In reality, everyone’s visit to a psychologist or use of a tranquilizer would be available to bureaucrats for whatever purpose they had in mind − for example, blocking employment or blocking purchase of a firearm. “Privacy” is becoming a meaningless word.

● The government empowers bureaucrats to tell doctors what treatments they can and cannot use − based on cost, not on effectiveness. When the government says “control,” it means control.

● The “experts” were in charge of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, General Motors, and the bank bailout. Now they want to control health care. Anyone who believes that a government takeover improves efficiency or saves money needs care himself − psychiatric care.

Yes, I could also tell you horror stories about current American health care. But these are local, not nationwide. If your local police department is corrupt, the FBI steps in to investigate. But if we had a national police force, who would investigate it? If your health insurance rejects a claim, you can appeal to the insurance commissioner or file a lawsuit. But if Medicare rejects a claim, you appeal to…Medicare, not a hopeful prospect. Bigger often isn’t better, but it is always bigger. To quote a character in “Bridge of Spies,” the boss isn’t always right, but he is always the boss.
We are told, “The health-care system is broken.” This sentence contains two errors. First, our health care is flawed and needs improvement. It is not “broken” and does not need replacement. If you think insurance-company employees are hard to deal with, try government bureaucrats.
Second, our health care is not a “system.” It is a loose conglomeration of private insurance, government insurance, and care for the needy provided by government and charitable institutions. To these are added life-saving drugs and equipment developed by a combination of private enterprise and government grants. The very lack of a “system” is a source of strength. We used to know that. We called it “freedom.”
If you doubt this, ask yourself why America, with 4% of the world’s population, earns over 60% of recent Nobel Prizes in Medicine. How many life-saving new drugs were developed in the Soviet Union in its 74 years of existence? None. How many new drugs are developed by the government-controlled “systems” of Europe? Few. And even there, new drugs are developed with the American market in mind.
“Systems” appeal to politicians and paper-pushers. Patients need care from human beings. But if you want to know what a government-controlled, monopolistic “system” is like, just visit the DMV − and imagine that not your driving privilege but your life depended on the wisdom and empathy of bureaucrats.

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