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.