Sunday, April 12, 2009

America already has a big problem with socialized medicine

Last week, when Congress passed the largest deficit spending budget in American history, it included more than $720 billion for an exponential expansion of Medicare and Medicaid. It also included an additional $634 billion “reserve” fund to be used, according to the White House, “over 10 years to finance fundamental reform of our health care system that will bring down costs and expand coverage.”

In short, the fund was Mr. Obama's down payment on the government takeover of America's health care industry. And, as is so often the case when politicians bloviate, it was built on a deliberate deception.

What the politicians know full well—and bend over backwards not to admit—is that the more government spends to subsidize and socialize the health care industry, the more health care costs are going to escalate, and the less quality service will be available.

The fact is—again, as the politicians know full well—the primary reason medical costs are already out of sight is that subsidies are already out of control. And that's because medical bills themselves are largely works of fiction.

Simply put, the price most patients pay for medical treatment today is a far cry from the actual cost of the procedure. Built into each bill is a substantial surcharge to help pay for the hospital's overhead—which is sent through the ceiling because so many patients already fail to pay their own way. And, it gets even worse.

Since there's a limit to how much hospitals can add onto the cost of any given procedure, even the padded payments fail to cover the free riders' exorbitant bills. And who makes up the difference? You guessed it: the American taxpayer. In fact, by some estimates, taxpayers are already paying some 85 percent of unpaid hospital bills.

For those who remain skeptical of the cost of subsidized—i.e., socialized—medicine, a quick glance at the average emergency room is in order. Public law now demands that emergency room treatment be administered regardless of whether the recipients can pay all—or, in fact, any—of the bill. The result of such misguided utopian altruism is that many “underprivileged” Americans now consider the ER their family doctor.

And who foots the bill for such outrageous abuse? Take a look in the nearest mirror.

So, now comes Barack Obama and his querulous gaggle of cloying quacks to tell us that the way to reduce medical costs is to increase subsidization—the facts of the matter (and the burgeoning deficit) notwithstanding. And when no one is any longer able to afford either subsidization or the true costs of actual treatments (on the rare occasions when they will still be available), well, there go the actuarial charts and in walks the Grim Reaper.

Actually, of course, the way to reduce medical costs is to end subsidization altogether. Does this mean that some people will not be able to go to the emergency room for a band aid or a bottle of aspirin? Probably. In fact, it may even mean that some people will not be able to charge others (as in, you) to cover the costs of their catastrophic illnesses.

But for most people, it will mean that America's health care system will continue to be the best this side of Shangri-La. And it will also mean that, though nobody lives forever, those who are willing to work hard and pay their own way will have a fighting chance to top the charts. As fortunate as that may be.


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