A Preview of Single Payer: Ötzi the Iceman

By | July 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

Some time ago, a corpse was found frozen in an Alpine glacier. Soon it became apparent that it was approximately 5300 years old. Scientists named him “Ötzi” and speculated about his cause of death. Ten years later, they did a CAT scan and found an arrowhead embedded in his body. You see, they finally had received permission from the ObamaCare Independent Payment Advisory Board to do the diagnostic test.

They should have known that government bureaucrats, like glaciers, move slowly. Still, it was gratifying to know that 5300 years after he died, the okay for the CAT scan finally came through. What Ötzi himself thought is, of course, also the subject of speculation. One rarely hears complaints from corpses, frozen or not. If one waits long enough before authorizing diagnostic tests or treatments, the problem solves itself. This might be termed the Final Solution to the health-care problem.

But let us end this whimsical visit to prehistoric times, and return to a considerably less amusing present.
Like most liberal newspapers − that is, like most newspapers − the Los Angeles Times favors government control of health care. One might think that the editors had an optimistic view of government medicine.

One would be wrong.

The Times carried a series of reports of substandard or downright atrocious care at Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Center, which was the newest of Los Angeles County’s hospitals. It was built after the 1965 Watts riots in an effort to improve the health care of the largely African American South Central area of Los Angeles.

But politics intruded into health care. The hospital was intended to fulfill a political objective − to solidify Democratic Party rule in South Central. The persons in power at the hospital were chosen for their political connections, not for their medical abilities.

The quality of care deteriorated. Patients referred to the hospital as “Killer King.” What a sad way to commemorate the great civil-rights leader. For years, inadequate care at the hospital was ignored by politicians and the media. This is not the first example, nor will it be the last, in which those who claim to be “caring” turn out to be the most uncaring.

Ultimately, care at King Medical Center became so bad that the feds were forced to close it. In one case, a woman was left writhing on the floor in pain for 45 minutes, while the staff ignored her − until she died.

Still, think of the cost savings. The County Department of Health Services spent no money at all on this woman. The costs were incurred by the Department of Coroner. That’s how bureaucrats think: “I’ll save money on my budget. What kind of care patients get, and what costs are pushed onto other budgets, aren’t my problem.”

It took an outside agency, the federal government, to close the hospital. The county government, which ran it, proved unable either to improve it or to close it. But with ObamaCare, the federal government itself will be in charge. There will be no outside agency to step in when things go wrong. But no organization can oversee itself. This is a guarantee of inefficiency at best, and dangerous incompetence at worst.

For example, check out substandard conditions at a veterans’ hospital, including dirty instruments exposing patients to hepatitis, and a Medal of Honor recipient left in his own feces and urine. That’s not my idea of honor, but it is my idea of an organization overseeing itself.

Only outpatient clinics remain at King. The number of beds for indigent patients in the county was further decreased when the old Los Angeles County−USC Medical Center was replaced by a new building with 25% fewer beds. The older, larger hospital could have been refurbished, probably at lower cost, but politics trumps health care every time.

So now women with positive mammograms at King must wait five months for a biopsy. If you or a loved one had a positive mammogram, would you wait five months? Would you sit around while a cancer might be growing and spreading? Of course not. But you wouldn’t have to wait. You still have options.

These women have no options. Being indigent, they depend on government-run health care. For them, there already is a single payer. How’s that working out?

ObamaCare is claimed to promote preventive care, including mammograms. Even if this were true, what good are mammograms if positive ones are not promptly followed by biopsies? But ObamaCare includes not one penny for training more doctors or other health-care providers. With increased demand, but no increased supply, inevitably there will be longer waiting times − that is, rationing.

Preventive care should mean care designed to prevent disease or detect it in an early stage. But to some people, preventive care means only contraception and abortion. Note the current push to rename low-grade cancers as “not cancer,” so patients will not demand expensive treatments. Note the current push for women to have fewer mammograms, and for men to have no PSAs.

Of course, their wives, daughters, and mothers will get mammograms. How else could celebrities have breast cancer diagnosed early? They will get PSAs. How else did California Governor Jerry Brown or Secretary of State John Kerry have their prostate cancers detected? ObamaCare is for the “masses,” not for the “elite.”

We rightly view with suspicion “studies” funded by drug companies that show their product is best. But we should view with equal suspicion “studies” funded by the government that show we should do fewer mammograms and no PSAs. The government can buy “research” at least as well as can private industry.

One might think that liberals like the editors of the Los Angeles Times would be able to connect the dots, especially when there are only two dots: (1) Deteriorating care at local government-run hospitals. (2) Proposals that all health care be government-run.

Again, one would be wrong. Cognitive dissonance is the ability to hold two incompatible ideas without noticing the incompatibility. This is cognitive dissonance on steroids.

How can it be that the people who spent eight years of the Bush administration and the three years of the Trump administration condemning the government for its supposed violations of human rights are the very same people who now want to empower the government to control everyone’s health care? Their thought process, if one can dignify it with that term, seems to be as follows:

● The government is too powerful, so give it more power.

● The government is uncaring, so put it in charge of health care.

● The government is untrustworthy, so entrust it with the health of our families.

● The government is dangerous, so give it the power of life and death over all of us.

Why are the editors of the Los Angeles Times upset by the long waiting times for needed biopsies? These waiting times are similar to those in Canada and the United Kingdom, where care is rationed by the government. In Canada, the median waiting time for surgery is now over four months. The system these people advocate produces similar waiting times, as well as many other examples of inadequate care. What did the editors expect?

Advocates of Single Payer claim that our health-care system is “broken.” Then why does America have the best cancer survival statistics? Britain’s National Health Service, with its waiting times and rationed care, produces much lower cancer survival. And why is America responsible for the majority of advances in health care and over 60% of the Nobel Prizes in Medicine? No, our health-care system isn’t “broken,” but the portion that is government-run is really dilapidated. What does that tell you?

If you doubt this, consider the case of Natasha Richardson. The 45-year-old actress, wife of Liam Neeson, and mother of two young children had what appeared to be a mild head injury while skiing in Canada. She then lapsed into a coma. But by the time she could be brought to a general hospital by road, about six hours had passed, and it was too late.

The medical examiner ruled that Richardson died from a blood clot on the brain. But in fact, she died because the government of Quebec decided not to purchase any medevac helicopters.

No doubt there were cultural fairs, art exhibits, and wine-and-cheese festivals that the politicians felt were more worthy − and more likely to put the politicians’ names before the voters. But it is difficult to enjoy cultural fairs, art exhibits, and wine-and-cheese festivals when you’re dead.

Still, one must admit that the Richardson case demonstrates cost savings. The Quebec government saved money by not buying medevac helicopters or establishing more trauma centers. But the U.S. government saved money, too.

Having died at 45, Richardson will never collect a penny of the Social Security or Medicare she paid into. She will never need expensive treatment for cancer or heart disease. She will never break her hip and require surgery and rehabilitation. She will never get old, have a stroke, and require home health care or a nursing home.

As we seek a solution for our Social Security and Medicare problems, let us make sure it is not the Final Solution. A five-month delay for a breast biopsy in government-run hospitals is not an encouraging sign.

I’ve seen the preview, and I really don’t want to see the film. I don’t look forward to interminable delays before receiving needed diagnostic tests or treatments. I don’t want to wind up like Ötzi – an object of interest, but only after he’s dead.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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