The Future of Universal Healthcare: A Warning

I am skeptical of socialized medicine / universal healthcare / give the unsolvable problem to the Government and hope for the best plans. Why? Our government.

The New York Times (h/t anonymous reader #9) reports the following:

August 12, 2007

Select Hospitals Reap a Windfall Under Child Bill

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 — Despite promises by Congress to end the secrecy of earmarks and other pet projects, the House of Representatives has quietly funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to specific hospitals and health care providers under a bill passed this month to help low-income children.

Instead of naming the hospitals, the bill describes them in cryptic terms, so that identifying a beneficiary is like solving a riddle. Most of the provisions were added to the bill at the request of Democratic lawmakers.

One hospital, Bay Area Medical Center, sits on Green Bay, straddling the border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, more than 200 miles north of Chicago. The bill would increase Medicare payments to the hospital by instructing federal officials to assume that it was in Chicago, where Medicare rates are set to cover substantially higher wages for hospital workers.

The article goes on to name names, on both sides of the isle, who’ve used the power of legislation to reward / give money to one hospital over another for entirely non-transparent reasons.

This is before Congress completely controls the medical system. Think Governmental regulations are onerous now? Just wait until every medical complaint is, in effect, a Federal case. “The Congressman’s office called and wants answers” is going to get a lot more attention, and response, than the current complaints. (I’ve seen a tiny amount of this, when in the military: the Congrint (a congressional inquiry) would absolutely stop the Battalion senior staff who spent the next several hours jumping through hoops to answer whatever questions were put to them (usually regarding a complaint from a Marine or Sailor about some percieved maltreatment)).

I’m not so naive as to believe this sort of political foolishness is new, but for now, consider you’re a competing hospital of the ones that just got congressionally mandated favorite-son treatment. Being a hospital administrator is now even harder than it was, now you’ll be expected to curry favor with the Political Class, else your hospital is at a disadvantage, at least. You can be the most efficient system in town, but you’ll lose to the one who gets the pork.

Given the historic levels of corruption in Congress in the last several sessions, I’m now even more leery of turning the whole system over to them. They’ve earned their popularity (24%).


  1. TheNewGuy says:

    Corruption and kickbacks. Second verse, same as the first…

  2. As one of my old mentors used to say: Picture in your mind the worst president and worst congressman you can think of. Now picture them in charge of healthcare. That is Universal healthcare.

    And here is a chilling thought. Remember Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the 90’s to change healthcare? Well, take a look at one of the outcomes of her advancement of Universal Healthcare.

    Now, this could happen to any politician of any party, because when it comes to politicians and medicine, we are still diluting the serum Stupid level.

  3. The House Whisperer says:

    It baffles me how people can lambast the administration over Katrina, Iraq, etc. and in almost the same breath insist that those same morons should be running health care.

  4. OTOH, it’s not clear to me that one can expect understanding of the negative aspects of national health care the way it’s being presented in various medblogs. It comes across, I think, like some AMA-generated mantra that we all have been taught and directed to promulgate. (I say this unsure of where the AMA stands on this issue — for all I know they’re in favor of national health care.)

    While there may be no good reason to scrap the current system entirely, I worry that this is what is likely to happen since things are getting at least slowly worse, so if national health care is seen as the only other option, we’re cooked.

    In theory, and probably only on some other planet, national health care could work, but it would require intelligent beings designing it, with sufficient funding to back it up. The main problem is, everyone wants it to save money compared to what we have now, and there’s no reason to expect that. How can you enroll more people and supply more health care at less cost? There is a tremendous amount of hidden cost right now in all the care that is given to people who have no coverage and no means to pay for it…it’s just written off by doctors and hospitals.

    We need to start with the basics, “simply” looking at what the basic level of health care is that we want to ensure that people have access to, then try to figure out how to deliver that. But it’s going to cost money, and digging that money out of doctors’ pockets is a sad, sad mistake, and a wrong approach, unless the goal is to create a collapse of health care delivery.

  5. I gave lived in Canada, have relatives in Scandanavia and Britain. Regardless of wherever it has been tried in whatever form, socialized medicine has been failure EVERYWHERE( yes even in that heaven of socialist experimentation, Canada). It grows uncontrollably, uses up ever increasing tax revenues , always results in high person income taxes (which makes it hardly free), which continue to escalate until the system crashes. Patient waiting times increase dramatically. I have been around the world and I don’t care what the WHO says, the USA still has the best system. Yes, we have probems and we had better get a handle on rising health costs or we to will be walking down that “long and lonesome road” that leads to socialized medicine. Michael Moore can get his MRI scan tommorow but my mother in Canada has to wait 6-months. Waits for a specialist visit can be up a year. I know 1st hand. The U.S system is far from perfect and is need of much repair, but lets not repair the machine by destroying it.

  6. I have found there are some universal constants of healthcare, no matter which system is in place.

    Healthcare will always be over-consumed and underfunded.
    Healthcare, therefore, has to be rationed.
    The rationing process will over-indulge some, and under-serve others.
    You can ration by money (the US system) or time (delay of care or technology, as in other countries).

    There is really no such thing as “everybody should have basic healthcare”, because every patient will tell you that their condition is basic healthcare, from stubbed toes to fibromyalgia to metatstatic cancer. So someone, somewhere, has to make a decision. And when the decision is made what constitutes “basic healthcare”, those who are excluded or under-served will mobilize (enter the lawyers and courts in the US) or lobby (enter the politicians) or both. Look for the decision makers (politicians and corporations in the US, politicians everywhere else) to be included in the over-indulged.

    This article makes the point that politicians are the LEAST able to make decisions about health care. Yes, it sounds like chanting the mantra, but do you really want Democrats like Ted Kennedy making policy about alcohol treatment or Republicans like David Vitter handling reproductive health care? Perhaps it’s not chanting, but hard lessons learned in the tile floor section of the hospital. Healthcare is like making sausage, and we have work to do and patients to see. Leave the idealism to the carpeted section, so we can figure out how to work around them later.

  7. I understand people wanting the government to “fix” everything. However, I think The House Whisperer (above) said it best:

    “It baffles me how people can lambast the administration over Katrina, Iraq, etc. and in almost the same breath insist that those same morons should be running health care.”

    If we learned anything from Katrina, it was that the private sector (religious groups and charities) is better equipped to tackle social problems. The Feds will just turn it into a conduit for graft and corruption.

  8. I should clarify that I don’t mean that charities should run health care. I’m referring to the question of dealing with uninsured patients.

  9. Aerospace Genius says:

    I’m amazed that this comment thread has not been overrun by the opposing viewpoint and lawyeristics. Yet.