Let Them Die In The Gutters?

A self-denying socialist friend of this author recently defended universal health care with the oldest argument in the book – that without socialized medicine, people would ‘die in the gutters.’ With last week’s one year anniversary of Obamacare, this argument needs to die in the gutter itself.

The ‘die in the gutter’ argument states that without universal access to health care for serious diseases like COPD and cancer, poor people will go without treatment and face ugly and painful deaths. While this argument seems obvious in today’s health care system, the argument sits atop a number of lies and market distortions caused by government meddling.

The biggest lie ever told is perhaps Medicare. Medicare is a socialist promise that, in exchange for 2.9% of a worker’s lifetime wages, the government will largely pay for any and all expensive medical care starting at age 65. Unlike real insurance, but exactly like Social Security, Medicare is a Ponzi scheme that has no reserves to back its promises. Medicare has no plan to continue operations as US demographics shift from a worker class to a retiree class. Medicare has no plan to cope with rapidly expanding health care options and costs. Medicare is a lie and a robbery; those who are working today are this crime’s victims. There is no money to pay for Medicare’s promise, and the Ponzi scheme is about to collapse.

Rather than simply stating that Medicare was a crime and that workers are its victims, Pres. Bush (43) chose to expand the crime. Pres. Obama chose to wave a magic wand at Medicare by pledging to cut $500 billion from its operations without reducing its services. Precious few in Washington, save a few brave warriors like Rep. Paul Ryan, even acknowledge these crimes. Instead, as the author’s friend does, Washington Pols claim that cutting or reforming Medicare will leave poor people ‘dying in the gutter.’ That is a false argument because Medicare will not prevent these deaths either; Medicare cannot treat everyone with every new treatment. Medicare promises what it cannot deliver, so eventually it is the socialist lie that will leave poor people ‘dying in the gutter.’

Government induced market distortions are also to blame for our socialist friend’s perception that without universal health care, people will ‘die in the gutter’. Consider that last week Bristol-Myers Squibb received FDA approval for a new metastatic melanoma treatment that will cost $120,000 per treatment, but it will raise the two year survival rate to 20% from 14%. $120,000 for an extra one in twenty chance of living an extra two years? Is that a call for universal health care? No, the new drug’s price reflects the market distortions of government health care and abusive regulations.

By pumping trillions of dollars into health care, the government has sent the market a message: we will buy any marginal medical treatment no matter what the price. The market has responded by developing expensive treatments that would not find buyers if they had to spend their own money. Further, the FDA’s counterproductive approval process adds billions to the cost of developing a drug, thus reducing the barriers to competition once a drug is approved. The combination of restricted competition and an unrestricted budget is the cause of many boondoggles like Bristol’s $120,000 melanoma drug.

Our socialist friend humanely worries that society will not tolerate leaving poor people untreated, but he ignores that government meddling caused the runaway costs and impossible expectations to begin with. The government alone caused the health care problem, yet many well intentioned people think more socialist policy will resolve it. It may seem cruel, but not everyone can have everything. Here’s hoping that the collapse of the US government is not required to bring universal health care socialists back to earth.

4 thoughts on “Let Them Die In The Gutters?

  1. Author’s Note:

    The notion that Social Security is a crime and that today’s workers are its victims is not original. Despite some searching, we cannot find the person we should credit. If any reader knows the original source for this idea, let us know, and we will give credit where it is due.

  2. Solutions, my friend. We need solutions. Are you going to offer some? Or just whine?

    It seems intuitively obvious that no one (except the richest of the rich) can afford $120,000 treatments with minimal success – but that is exactly what the government WILL pay for because any attempt to reduce costs by limiting care is met with cries of “DEATH PANELS” by people exactly like the author of this column. Fact is, Medicare is here. Fact is, health costs are going up. Let’s hear some SOLUTIONS. (And “High Deductable Health Plans” isn’t one! At $120K, it’s beyond that.)

    So please – offer some suggestions for a complete solution.

  3. The solution is not Obamacare and more regulation and central planning.

    Here is their gameplan. The new buzzword is “ACO” or Accountable Care Organization. Under this plan, doctors will no longer have a fee for service, physician patient relationship.

    Instead, the ACO will employ or contract with doctors directly. The doctor’s livelihood will depend upon meeting the financial goals of the ACO. The needs of the many will outweigh the needs of the patient.

    So if a patient has an expensive problem…the doctor, whose practice patterns and expenses will be extensively monitored…will at the least be faced with this inherent conflict of interest. That is, the best interests of the patient may cost the ACO “too much”.

    The ACO will use the electronic medical record for it’s true purpose…not to enhance patient care, but to monitor the doctor’s practice plan. The ACO will also be incentivized to implement so called “quality care” guidelines, which in reality are practice guidelines based on populations, not patients. So for example, a 65 year old with a headache will not qualify for a CT or MRI scan, even if the doctor believes it necessary.

    In effect, the ACO model turns the doctor against patient and into the tool of a societal model of health care…whats best for society, not a patient. If you are 65 or older…what good are you to society, except as a burden.

    What I just wrote can be stated in another way. Under Obamacare, the true death panels are not some faceless bureacrat in DC. The true death panels are at the point of care…the ACO and the doctor will be incentivized (so called shared savings) to deny care.

    Thus, the death panels will be your own doctor, who will be just another bureacrat whose decisions will be shielded by the organization.

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