Saturday, August 1, 2009

Egalitarianism in Health Care

As a libertarian, I really don't think the government has any business interfering in most private matters, and for the most part that includes health care. Much like the current financial market, things have grown so complex that some regulation seems to be in order, but I still believe that government interference is a last resort, and an informed consumer is still the best way to control any system. If a practice is unfair, people won't buy that product or service, ending it without need for regulation. This is similar to politics. the best way to moderate politicians isn't term limits, it's an informed electorate that will vote out a bad politician.

The focus of this post is commentary made by President Obama about the current socialized medicine bill being worked on in Congress. The first comes from President Obama's fifth news conference:
Q And what about yourself and Congress? Would you abide by the same benefit package?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I would be happy to abide by the same benefit package. I will just be honest with you. I'm the president of the United States, so I've got a doctor following me every minute -- (laughter) -- which is why I say, this is not about me.

I've got the best health care in the world. I'm trying to make sure that everybody has good health care, and they don't right now.
The second comes from a health care forum at the White House:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: ...end-of-life care is one of the most difficult sets of decisions that we're going to have to make...But what we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system that's not making anybody's mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know and your mom know that, you know what? Maybe this isn't going to help. Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.
For the interested, here's the video of that exchange:

The second has been characterized as indicating that for the old, it's better to give them pain medication than to use precious resources to treat them. In short, we should let them die. That's not quite what he's saying if one reads the whole quotation. However, the health care bill does include mandatory end of life counseling for senior citizens. That is, the government to reduce costs does seem interested in making sure seniors die sooner than they do now rather than go through expensive treatments.

Both of these quotations point to a real problem in the health care plan. In previous posts, I've indicated I don't believe there should be a political class living by a separate set of rules. They should have to abide by the same rules they make for their constituency, and live as their constituency does. When a separate political class with special rules exists, there is no justice, no egalitarianism, and none of the founding principles that made the U.S. great will stand.

What's truly irksome about the first quotation is that it's very easy to say, "Sure, I'd live with that plan," when the President knows he doesn't have to. He'll retire with his full pay and elitist health care plan paid for by the taxpayer. That's not acceptable even under the current system. I appreciate a president's service, and recognize he needs some pension and some protection for the rest of his life. I agree that in office, he needs the best medical care possible. Once he's out, however, he can buy insurance like the rest of us out of his pension.

"I would be happy to abide by the same benefit package... I've got the best health care in the world," is horrifically condescending and astoundingly arrogant. It is saying, "While I'd live like you plebes if I had to, I don't, and never will. My care is top notch, but you'll have to live with what you get." Thanks, Mr. President. Show some real dedication to egalitarianism and forfeit your Federal health plan when you leave office, and I'll believe you.

I don't think that socialized medicine is the answer for America. If it's to be implemented, however, I absolutely insist that there shall be no special classes of people, because that will mean it will be overturned in time. We've seen how the political elites of the U.S.S.R. were treated, and how they're treated in China and North Korea now. It's happening to a lesser degree in the U.S. and other Western countries. It must be stopped, not expanded.

Other evidence of the disparity between the elite political class and plebeians comes from current treatment of our politicians. Remember, at end of life, it might be a better option to save resources for younger, healthier people and let the elderly take pain killers, according to President Obama.

If that's the case, then why was Ted Kennedy given extensive and expensive treatment for his brain cancer? Why was his son Teddy given experimental treatment for bone cancer? Why will Senator Chris Dodd have surgery and treatment for his prostate cancer? If we're going to let nature take its course more often under this socialized medicine bill, the same way E.U. countries and Canada do, then these expensive treatments shouldn't happen, ever, for anyone. You get end of life counseling and some pain killers. Nearly all men will develop prostate cancer later in life. In many men, it won't progress quickly enough to end our lives before other causes cause our passing anyway, so wouldn't be treated under this new plan. So, Senator Dodd, I challenge you to let this cancer take its course. Let's see your dedication to health care "reform."

Now, while I do actually object to Senator Kennedy and Senator Dodd getting expensive treatments on the taxpayer's dime, I don't object to people with coverage getting these treatments. End of life care should be up to the individual and his or her family, never the government. If Senators Kennedy and Dodd are paying for these treatments out of pocket, I'm fine with that.

What I do object to is the abandonment of the excellent founding principles of our country for a health care system that is failing in most countries and locations where it has been tried (including Massachussets and Hawaii) under the guise of egalitarian health care for all. It won't be egalitarian, everyone still won't get it, and it will be used to extend government control into the lives of ordinary Americans using the excuse that we must reduce costs. That's unAmerican, unConstitutional and unacceptable.

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