Monday, July 13, 2009

A Controversial Issue . . .

Some issues are like the tar-baby Bre'r Rabbit got tangled up with, and I think nationalizing health care is one of them.
On one hand, it's clear that a lot of people are in trouble when it comes to paying for medical care. I heard one commentator reflecting that we already ration health care based on what people can pay. I think there is some truth in that.
On the other hand, I am opposed to our government becoming involved in health care. They can't help but drive the federal budget deficit higher, which will encourage the move toward health care rationing -- and whose care will be rationed? According to the President's speeches and comments, instead of being able to decide for ourselves what to do when extreme or unusual or expensive care is needed, a board or other appointed group will be responsible for deciding if we are worth treating. For those who are elderly, or have chronic illnesses or unusual conditions, this is not good news! Additionally it is an invasion of privacy to invite the government to evaluate health care records for any reason.
These possibilities are a huge loss of freedom and liberty, and cannot be tolerated by a free people.
Health care rationing seems to be a reality in other places where nationalized health care is in place. It may not apply to every individual who seeks health care, but for those with chronic illnesses, or health issues that are difficult to manage, how do you make decisions about who gets expensive resources? Who makes those decisions, and what are the criteria?
For an interesting discussion about this issue, check out this website. Gunner Hawkins is a baby boy with cystic fibrosis. Because his illness was discovered early and managed aggressively, he is doing well right now. Sadly, though, his life expectancy is only about 37 years, but only because he lives in the United States, where his parents have private health insurance and are able to find doctors who will treat his illness aggressively. They have investigated, though, and found out that in countries where nationalized health care is the norm, the life expectancy of people with CF is ten years less due to less aggressive treatment and scarcer resources.
It is true that even in this country, a lack of insurance or good care might cause someone with CF to have a shorter life expectancy, but the opportunity for better care is here for people with the energy and resourcefulness to find it.
Liberty and freedom come with an obligation to take responsibility for one's own self, and in some circumstances, for one's neighbor as well. If we do that on an individual basis, it is less likely that we need to invite government into the situation. Government does many many things well, but would managing everyone's health care be one of them? Or would we find ourselves being lectured to as if we were children? Would we find that a bureaucrat is making decisions about our health care based on charts, records, and whim? Or worse yet, his departmental budget constraints?
It is true that health care is expensive and currently can be hard for some people to obtain. Let's find private-sector and/or charitable answers to this problem, and not enact an intrusive, expensive government solution that will cost us far more than money.

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