It is a stated objective of President Obama and of theDemocratic Party to nationalize health care. They came close to getting it while they still had a veto-proof majority-- they jammed Obamacare through Congress.
The election of 2010, however, gave Republicans control ofthe House, and it gave them more power in the Senate, which means the issue isstill alive - they can delay the implementation of Obamacare; after theelection of 2012, they could possibly overturn it.
Politics aside, is control of health care by the centralgovernment a good idea? Before decidinga question that deals with such a huge sector of the economy, and which couldhead the U.S. irrevocably toward socialism, perhaps it is useful to pose a fewqualifying questions:
1) Isit constitutional?
2) Isthe U.S.government capable of managing such a huge operation?
3) Hassuch a system worked well in other nations that have tried it?
4) Wouldsuch a system be "free," as advertised?
Is it Constitutional?
Teddy Roosevelt (Republican) questioned the usefulness ofthe U.S. Constitution in the "modern" age. Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt (Democrats) did the same. Roosevelt went so faras to propose his own Economic Bill of Rights -- they were never ratified, but theywere eagerly adopted by Democrats who thereafter used them to justify all sortsof social programs.
Since Wilson,constitutional scholars have broken into two camps: 1) those who believe theoriginal constitution still applies; those who think it doesn't (the "livingconstitution" advocates).
As an originalist, I find nothing in the Constitution thatjustifies the takeover of the health care industry.
Those from the other school of thought will point to ArticleI, Section 8 - "The Congress shall have the Power To ... provide for the ...general Welfare of the United States." To them "general welfare" means anything theycan do, or wish to do, for American citizens.
To me ‘general welfare" means exactly what it says -- thegeneral welfare of the United States-- the nation, not its individual citizens, which is the business of states andother local organizations. Additionally,Amendments 9 and 10 make the intent of the Founders crystal clear - keep thecentral government out of the business of the states and of the people.
So is universal health care constitutional? You decide for yourself, as I have done formyself.
Is the U.S. Government Capable of Managing Such a Huge Operation?
The central government manages several large socialprograms. A review of its performance intwo of these projects, Medicare and Social Security is enlightening.
Martin Gross, a social scientist, has written more than adozen books, and he has appeared before Congressional committees more than fivetimes about waste in Washington, He hasa good deal to say about waste in the subject programs:
The cost of false claims, cheating and fraud - $100 billiona year.
Some of the finest medical institutions in the nation areinvolved: Massachusetts General Hospital;Harvard Medical School; Boston University Medical Center; Yale-New Haven Hospital;Beth Israel Medical Center (NY); University of Medicine and Dentistry (NJ).
A thousand hospitals have confessed to double-billingpractices.
The nation's largest psychiatric hospital chain, NationalMedical Enterprises, Inc., paid the U.S.government the largest settlement -- $363 million - related to improper claims.
On and on it goes. Anunbelievable mess!
This program raises the question of the trustworthiness ofgovernment when it receives huge amounts of money, which it is supposed tocarefully manage.
Social Security revenue has been joined with all otherrevenue and it is spent as fast as it arrives. Much of the public still believes that the payroll taxes they pay gointo a special fund in D.C. that will be available to them when theyretire. Not true - never has been.
As late as 2000, Al Gore (Democrat) was telling Americaabout the "lockbox" in D.C. which he sanctimoniously swore never to touch -which he courageously promised to defend.
These were easy promises to make, because there is no box.
Currently, revenues are less than payments in the SocialSecurity fund. The fund's deficit isadded to the regular operational deficit; national debt is increased. This will continue until the balloon bustsand the nation goes broke.
Democrats demonize anyone who attempts to restructure SocialSecurity, which in its current form is unsustainable.
The sin of Social Security is the lie that has supportedit. It is dangerous to give greatauthority to Washington politicianswho lie to their constituents.
Has Such a System Worked Well in Other Nations?
Canadaand much of Western Europe have nationalized healthcare. Let's examine the system in twonations that are, in many ways, the closest to us, Canadaand England.
Canada - It is a well-known factthat Canadians flock to U.S.hospitals for treatment. The averagewait time in Canadafor all forms of surgery is 18 weeks - medical practice is obviously not asattractive a profession as it once was in Canada. The Canadian government decides eachyear how much it will spend on health care. By definition, this means that health care is rationed.
England - Englandalso pre-determines each year how much it will spend on health care.3 Rationed careis the obvious consequence. Universalcare has had a dampening effect on the supply of doctors, which is reflected inthe wait times for major surgery: hip surgery - 3 to 11 months; knee surgery -3 to 7 months; replace knee - one year; cataract surgery - 8 months; etc.
Would Such a System be Free, as Advertised?
One way or another, taxpayers pick up the tab for healthcare. Government has no money exceptthat which it extracts from its citizens. Americans can have the health care that Europeans have if they'rewilling to do the following:
1. Increasetaxes to the level of Sweden(+ 62%); Belgiumand Britain(+43%); Germany(+26%); Italy (+20%);France (+14%).
2. Lowerliving standards to those found in socialistic Europe: Sweden/Belgium(-19%); Britain/Germany (-25%); Italy/France (-32%).
Health care shouldn't be looked at in isolation from allother characteristics of a nation, including how much of his income a citizen cankeep, and what happens to the nation's economy as it becomes less free.
Many respectable constitutional lawyers regard the take over of health care as unconstitutional.
Medicare is full of fraud. The management of the current program has been atrocious.
Social Security, a good idea if properly financed, was builton a lie that its protectors refuse to admit. Those of age 50 and above should be protected as is; for those who areyounger, a more affordable structure must be devised. Several have been offered.
The central government has demonstrated over and over thatit cannot be trusted to manage huge social programs; to give it another onewould be suicidal.
Reports from Canadaand Englandindicate that the national health program is good for those who are neverseriously ill. But as soon as the systemis tested for surgical or prolonged treatments of consequence, it breaks down. There are also serious signs that treatmentis being denied through a rationing process and that doctors-to-be are lookingelsewhere for a less-regulated way to make a living.
Free national health care isn't as free as it's cracked upto be. Citizens of socialized nationsare taxed up to the teeth. The impact ofover-regulation and over-centralization is seen in the average GDP per capitaof socialized nations - it is but a fraction of America's.
America'shealth care system needs revision and expansion. But to try to emulate the practices of Canadaand Western Europe by funding and expanding Obamacarewould be an act of insanity.
Americans are (so far) free, with problems; Europeans areover-regulated, with problems.
I'll take the freedom.
Robert Kelly, author of several books on baseball and history/politics,is also a freelance, award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in many Massachusetts newspapers. His latest book, Neck and Neck to the White House, is available atAmazon and the better bookstores. His e-mail address is [email protected]