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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Socialized Medicine in Minnesota - A Disease We Need to Avoid

In his essay in the 2/29 New Brighton Bulletin ultra liberal Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville) advocates that Minnesota make and keep "a bold promise on health care". In truth, there is nothing bold about it and it has very little to do with access to health care. It has everything to do with getting as many people as possible dependent on big government and the ceding of several liberties and a lot of our wealth to government.

As is typical in the sales pitch for yet another big government entitlement program Marty first asserts that there is a "crisis", that the "current system is broken", and presents a lot of morbid statistics about just how bad the situation is. As part of the pitch some official sounding academic, NGO, or government groups or think tanks (e.g. "The National Academy of Sciences") are cited as the source of the sobering statistics.

Once the citizenry is scared Sierra-less the pitch begins in earnest along the lines of "we cannot afford to continue on without such a program" and that the proposal will actually save us all money "in the long run" (whatever that means).

Health care hucksters know that most people have at least a general sense of the problems with programs like the one Marty is proposing. It is therefore necessary for the pitch to include some comforting promises to make the case that this particular scheme is different than and vastly superior to all of the others. Socialists like Marty cannot cite a single example of where socialized medicine (or, expressed euphemistically "Universal Health Care") has actually been implemented where the amount and quality of health care have not ended up being rationed. This is because no such example exists.

So what evidence does the good senator present to assure doubters that the promises can and will be fulfilled? Why, his solemn word, of course. That, Kate Knuth's grasp of economics, and eight bucks will get you into a movie. Who, other than a someone concerned about the preservation of life, liberty, and property, as well as someone who supports the availability of good health care, could ask for anything more?

From Senator Marty's piece linked above:
We want to make sure every Minnesotan gets health care. We want to make sure they get the care they need, including things like dental care. And we want to improve public health so people don't need as much medical care.

Along with more than 50 other legislators, I have authored legislation to reach those goals. Our proposal would create the MN Health Plan, a single, statewide plan that covers all Minnesotans for all their medical needs. Equally important, it would reduce the need for costly medical care through prevention and early intervention, education and public health programs.

Under the plan, patients would be able to see the doctor of their choice, and their coverage would not end when they lose their job or switch to a new employer. Dental care, prescription drugs, optometry, mental health services, chemical dependency treatment, medical equipment and supplies would all be covered.

Consumers would stay with the same doctors and medical professionals, the same hospitals and clinics, with all payments being made by the MN Health Plan (MHP). There would be no complex application forms, no worrying about pre-existing conditions disqualifying anyone, no worrying about whether the needed treatment was covered, and no problem of patients going without their prescriptions.

The MN Health Plan would be prohibited from reducing the quality of care, or restricting, delaying or denying it to save money. Instead it would lower health spending through prevention, efficiency and the elimination of unnecessary paperwork. The MHP would return medical decision-making to the doctor and patient, removing health insurance companies from determining treatment.

Sounds wonderful! You get to keep your doctor, no need to worry about insurability, and you don't even have to fill out a lot of paperwork. How about testing out this part of the system with the Department of Revenue first? They seem to make people (at least those who earn money) fill out a lot of paperwork as part of the confiscation process.

But wouldn't this kind of quality coverage be expensive? How could such value come without an astronomical price tag?

Apparently I worry too much as Senator Marty and his health care homies have come up with a brilliant solution to this apparently untenable situation [my emphasis added]:
Everyone would pay for the plan, based on their ability to pay. Their premiums would cover all health care costs, replacing current premiums, as well as co-payments, deductibles, payments for care not currently covered and the costs of existing government health care programs.
"...based on their ability to pay"...now where have we heard this before?

Senator Marty does not elaborate on who will determine one's "ability to pay" and what criteria will be used, but I'm sure the process will be fair and equitable. If some people do not have the ability to pay the government can always subsidize their "premium" payment.

Come to think of it, why not have the government subsidize everyone's "premiums", then this wonderful health care panacea will be totally free! You've got to love the creative use of the word "premiums"--almost as if referring to a private sector insurance policy. Do the IRS and the Minnesota Department of Revenue require us to file Premium Returns?

Sounds good, Senator Marty, but it seems to me that covering everyone for everything is going to cost a whole bunch, even if everyone chips in. Can we really afford it?

Silly me! Of course we can. Senator Marty and others in the Marxist Majority have that all figured out:
Covering everyone will cost less, not more. This may seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you recognize that people without insurance eventually get care in emergency rooms or hospitals with costly treatments that are ultimately paid by everyone else. With all of the cost-shifting and disputes about who is responsible for which costs, about 30 cents of each health care dollar is spent on administration.

The MN Health Plan would save money in five major ways, by:

* reducing administrative costs

* helping people use health care services appropriately

* negotiating fair prices with drug companies and medical providers

* avoiding excess capacity of costly equipment

* focusing on prevention and early intervention.

Although the MN Health Plan is not inexpensive, it is significantly less costly than our current system and would provide care to everyone.
Yes, it does seem "counterintuitive", but, shazam, we even save money with the program! Is there nothing this program doesn't accomplish? Not to rain on the senators parade, but I see at least one little oversight here, am I'm sure it was accidental. I must have missed the discussion on how these great money savers will be implemented, but I guess minor details like that can be worked out by legislative committees once the system is in place and made mandatory for everyone.

Since it's "significantly less costly than our current system and would provide care to everyone" then how can we afford not to do it? I don't want to seem greedy, but as good as this plan sounds, is there a possibility that we could do even better?

According to Senator Marty, apparently not:
There are other health reform proposals being considered at the Capitol, but no other plan covers every Minnesotan, no other plan addresses the affordability problems of people who have insurance, and no other plan costs less than our present system.
Gee, if the solution is so simple why not just go ahead and implement it? Surely no reasonable person would object to free health care that practically puts money into our pockets with its sound economic underpinnings and inherent efficiencies.

But, alas, there are apparently some socialized medicine deniers who undoubtedly get their jollies denying us our right to universal health care:
The Minnesota Health Plan will face strong opposition from insurance companies, drug companies and others. We are preparing for a three or four-year effort to pass the legislation.
Those silly, short-sighted people! We're also going to have to fight those Conservatives and even some liberals (those with 3-digit IQs). They're going to make us wait at least three years for our right to health care.

OK, Senator Marty. Take us home with the grand finish:
People are tired of wasting hours filling out complex medical insurance and billing forms, and they recognize that insurance marketing, underwriting, billing and million dollar executive salaries add huge costs to our health care system. People also understand that it is less costly to prevent heart disease, premature births and dental infections than it is to ignore them. People realize that they are over charged for medical services and supplies because there is no one to negotiate a fair price for them. And most people believe that everyone should have access to health care.

The Minnesota Health Plan will address all of these problems and give us a health care system that serves Minnesota well.

...and we'll all live happier and healthier ever after. And Bill Clinton will voluntarily embrace a celibant lifestyle.

Of course Senator Marty's plan is, as are virtually all ideas rooted in socialism, pure folly (keepin' it clean, boss!) that cannot possibly succeed. Anyone with even a minimal knowledge of economics (which, by definition leaves out all socialists unless they also have no problem being an accessory to theft) knows that if a desired commodity is free the demand for it eventually becomes infinite. In order to satisfy infinite demand (after all, Senator Marty promised that everyone and everything is covered) there has to be an infinite supply. An infinite supply, or one even approaching such a level, regardless on how good of a unit price our benefactors in the government can negotiate (or mandate) can only theoretically be realized at an infinite price. Unfortunately this is even more than the bottomless pockets of the Minnesota taxpayers can come up with.

It is at this point that rationing, price controls, cost and quality reductions, regulations, and mandates backed by legal penalties will be enacted in an attempt to force providers to keep providing services even when there is no economic incentive to them to do so. This inevitably will result in a loss of liberty as well as wealth, and probably shoddy health care. Dr. Walter Williams, my favorite economist, weighs in on this in his column this week with his usual impeccable insight.

When providers eventually cannot provide goods and services in spite of all of the threats and pressures from the government, Senator Marty's utopian dream will crumble like the Berlin Wall and leave a path of devastation in its wake. Ultimately the state will be forced to renig on its "bold promise" and substitute rationed, shoddy, and/or overpriced care. Once the government has forced the people to depend on it for health care it will never return control to the private sector.

I've spoken with Senator Marty a couple of times and he seems to be too nice of a guy who cares too much about us to be made a liar. Let's make sure this doesn't happen by burying his asinine health care plan so deep that it ends up in China where it would actually fit in better with their ideas of liberty and economics.

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Anonymous Right Fielder said...

John Marty is a Socialist? Someone alert the media at that breaking news. Maybe Nick Coleman can get an exclusive.

What's with the Northern burbs sending the next generation Marxists to Saint Paul? Between Marty, Tilberry, Chaudhary, Knuth, Betzold, Grieling, etc. we have effectively moved the ideas that used to come from the Kremlin to Saint Paul.

I sincerely apologize to the rest of the state for the damage our reps do to all of us.

3/06/2008 8:49 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Great post, RH. At bottom, the issue is the same. Once the government controls your health care, it controls you. I suppose I can discuss the finer points with you on the mandatory wellness walks; then maybe afterward we can enjoy a nice vegan repast before we go in for our regulary scheduled enemas. I'm sure that enemas will be part of this plan, because they've been so integral to the planning.

And by the way, why doesn't the New Brighton Bulletin just cut out the middleman and start printing their paper directly at DFL headquarters? Last week Marty, this week Greiling, Tilberry and Gardner and one letter to the editor that bashes Rick Moses. Sheesh!

3/06/2008 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right Hook linked to this in a health care post a while ago and I bookmarked it for when people ask me why I oppose government run healthcare. Excellent. Sorry, but I don't know how to make it link so just copy into your browser.


3/07/2008 10:42 AM  
Blogger Michael Ejercito said...

What about people losing homes and businesses due to rising medical costs?

Should we not avoid such things by imposing price controls?

3/21/2008 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! How can we not take as gospel the word of someone who cannot spell? (i.e. "celebant") This rant feels like it comes from someone snug in the security of adequate health care coverage; it's definitely not written by someone who works two jobs to make the mortgage and STILL can't afford to see a doctor because the insurance companies in this country have priced coverage out of the range of most average Americans.

5/30/2008 1:36 PM  
Blogger Right Hook said...

I humbly apologize for the spelling mistake...but anyone who would even consider taking any blog post by anyone as "gospel" has problems far greater than imperfect writing mechanics.

Your comment seems to be from someone who feels that other people should pay for their needs and wants. Health care is not a right! No legitimate right requires others to give up their liberty or property. Socialized medicine is nothing more than a massive transfer of wealth scheme to buy votes for politicians and enslave people into a dependency on government (and therefore dependent on the politicians). Are you willing to sacrifice your liberty for "free" (it hardly is free) health care?

Problems with the health care pricing structure exist largely because it is not a free market environment. Interference by the nanny state government and liberals in the legal community have done far more to contribute to soaring health care costs than any insurance company.

Yes, I have adequate health coverage as the result of having taken the initiative to obtain it. I also pay a lot for it (and probably often put in more hours at my one job than many people do with their two). Perhaps if you can't afford your mortgage and health coverage you should set priorities and, at least temporarily, downgrade your housing situation until you can afford better. Perhaps you can work harder or get some training and get a better paying job. You can also apply for and hopefully receive voluntary charity.

I'm not happy with the high cost of health insurance and medical services, but at least I am trying to do something about it by getting people elected who understand that big government is the major cause of the high prices. Socialized medicine has predictably been a miserable failure everywhere it has been implemented. Anyone with a minimal grasp of economics understands that such schemes invariably result in the rationing of products and services, not to mention reductions to the standard of living and of liberty, and will drag down the quality of available care across the board.

We do not have people dying in the streets in this country. There are plenty of places where people can get free or discounted health care. It may not always be convenient or dignified, but the bottom line is that if you have a serious medical problem you can and will be treated. This is not a very efficient or cost effective system, but it is available to handle worst case scenarios and has been proven to provide quality care (admittedly, sometimes at a price, but at least the care exists). See G-man's post on how well the government run system works in Canada.

I am all in favor of bringing the cost of health care down. This is best accomplished by getting the government the hell out of picture and allowing liberty and the free market to work its magic.

5/30/2008 2:46 PM  

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