Fifty Links to Our Healthcare Future?
As someone who has long been critical of our healthcare system and who has argued for true reform, I was frustrated with the bill passed in February by simple majorities in the House and Senate. Change in itself is not reform, and chanting "yes we can" to yourself one thousand times cannot make it so.
Yet I wonder, Why did efforts to centralize healthcare fail in the early 1990s but succeed today? One big reason is that baby boomers are now older, grayer, and scared out of their wits by the economic crisis's effect on their retirement. Therefore, they are more open to the idea of using the coercive power of the state to force others to pay for their medical care.
Add to the equation the unemployed, who can be defined as laborers without capital. A great deal of this lost capital was squandered by the expansion of the welfare and warfare states in the years following 9/11, which were also years (mostly) of one-party domination of the legislative and executive branches. With medical costs continuing to rise, mostly due to countless previous interventions in the healthcare economy, the unemployed and downsized workers thought that at the very least their Uncle Santa should take care of their medical needs.
Perhaps these factors, more than any others, made the outcome inevitable.
Economics is all about preferences and constraints, we tell our Micro 101 students, and politicians like to emphasize the preferences, while economists — at least those not employed by the politicians — point out the constraints. I'd like to remind readers of how these constraints have been revealed in two countries, Canada (C) and Great Britain (GB), that were often extolled in recent weeks as healthcare models by those who equate healthcare reform with expanding not economic liberty but Soviet-style command and control. The links, of course, are included.
"NHS Postcode Lottery System Must Change." Liverpool Echo (GB), March 26, 2010.
"Hundreds of New Cancer Drugs Challenge the Health-Care System." CanWest News Service (C), March 24, 2010.
"Annual Report Card on Cancer in Canada(TM) Reveals Canadians Still Waiting for Access to Innovative Care." CNW (C), March 24, 2010
"Britain Tackling The NHS Medicine Shortage." The Gov Monitor (GB), March 5, 2010.
"Children's Heart Deaths: Single Surgeon Operated on All Four Cases." The Telegraph (GB), March 5, 2010.
"Rising Costs of Health Care Demand Reality Check from Everyone." Vancouver Sun (C), March 3, 2010.
"Almost 50,000 Patients a Year 'Die in Hospital While Suffering From Malnutrition'." The Telegraph (GB), February 26, 2010.
"Patient Care Suffers as European Rules Cut Doctors' Hours: BMA." The Telegraph (GB), February 22, 2010.
"One in 10 Pharmacies 'illicitly selling NHS drugs abroad'." The Telegraph (GB), February 20, 2010
"NHS Hospital 'sold drugs for profit'." The Telegraph (GB), February 17, 2010.
"Why Does Health Inequality Persist?" The Telegraph (GB), February 15, 2010.
"Williams Wrong to Seek U.S. Health Care." The Montreal Gazette (C), February 14, 2010.
"False Limbs Specialist Who Gave Patient Two Left Feet Is Struck Off." The Scotsman (GB), February 12, 2010.
"Plea to improve cancer care in rural areas amid 'lottery' fears." Yorkshire Post (GB), February 10, 2010.
"Tough Questions on Health Care Rationing." Victoria Times (C), February 9, 2010
"British Patients Left in Lurch as Lifesaving Medicines Are Sold Abroad." Daily Mail (GB), February 9, 2010.
"Silence Surrounds Health-Care Problems." Winnipeg Free Press (C), February 8, 2010.
"It's About the Wait." The Toronto Sun (C), February 3, 2010.
"GP Out-of-Hours Variation Unacceptable, Says Government." BBC News (GB), February 2, 2010.
"Establishment Betrayed its Agenda with MMR Vaccine." The Scotsman (GB), January 31, 2010.
"New 'Week After' Pill Ignites Controversy." The Scotsman (GB), January 29, 2010.
"Surgeon Under Investigation Over Amputation Case." The Telegraph (GB), January 29, 2010.
"Hospital Conflict Questions Asked." BBC News (GB), January 29, 2010.
"Late Diabetes Diagnosis 'Killing Thousands Early'." The Guardian (GB), January 21, 2010.
"Child Drug Errors 'Too Frequent'." BBC News (GB), January 19, 2010.
"Scaremongering Claim after NHS Bed Reduction Revealed." Western Mail (GB), January 15, 2010.
"Dementia Crisis Looms, Study Finds." National Post (C), January 4, 2010.
"The Great Canadian Health-Care Evasion." The Globe and Mail (C), January 1, 2010.
"Kidney Cancer Patients Denied Life-Saving Drugs by NHS Rationing Body NICE." The Daily Mail (GB), April 29, 2009.
"GPs 'May Not Work amid Pandemic'." BBC News (GB), June 15, 2009.
"Mental Health Care in Need of Miracle." The Edmonton Sun (C), August 21, 2009.
"Surgery Postponed Indefinitely for 1,000 Kelowna Patients." The Globe and Mail (C), April 8, 2009.
"Girl, 3, Has Heart Operation Cancelled Three Times Because of Bed Shortage." The Times of London (GB), April 3, 2009.
"NHS 'Failings' Over Elderly Falls." BBC News (GB), March 25, 2009.
"Learning Disabled 'Failed by NHS'." BBC News (GB), March 24, 2009.
"Cancer Survivor Confronts the Health Secretary on 62-Day Wait." The Scotsman (GB), March 21, 2009.
"Culture of Targets Prevents Nurses from Tending to Patients." The Telegraph (GB), March 21, 2009.
"Children Being Failed by Health System, Says Head of Watchdog." The Guardian (GB), March 21, 2009.
"Our Cancer Shame: Survival Rates Still Lag Behind EU Despite Spending Billions." The Daily Mail (GB), March 20, 2009.
"'Political Meddling' Threatens General Practice, Warns GP Leader." Management in Practice (GB), March 13, 2009.
"Patient Removed From Waiting List to Meet Target." The Scotsman (GB), January 31, 2008.
"Annual Doctor Checks Will Raise Standards, Says Donaldson." The Guardian (GB), July 23, 2008.
"Wait Times for Surgery, Medical Treatments at All-Time High: Report." CBC News (C), October 15, 2007.
"Fury Over NHS Review Wait." The Sun (GB), July 5, 2007.
"Cancer Patients Question Why PET Scan Not Covered." CBC News (C), May 28, 2007.
"Call for Debate on NHS Rationing." The Herald (GB), May 7, 2007.
"Ont. Physician Turns Away Patient For Being 55+." CTV News (C), March 17, 2006.
"Dogma Trumps Truth in Health-Care Issues." Business Edge (C), July 7, 2005.
"Mothers Going into Labour Still Lack Expert Care."The Observer (GB), June 12, 2005.
My list barely (as they say) scratches the surface of the possible news items that could have been included. Given the nature of the state — and in a modern democracy, no matter whom you vote for, the government always gets elected — it is hardly surprising that the president and congress have decided to move the country down similar paths. They assume that economic laws can be damned, and that all it takes is a little hope to avoid shortages, rationing, waiting periods, and corruption. In this sense, "healthcare reform" echoes the Republicans' full-bore campaign to invade Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003, with promised results of wine and roses.
Many of us are left with hope that in the dealings that will take place between now and the distant future when this bill is actually implemented, there will be leniency shown to those who would rather opt out of this system. Such secession is already permitted in education, and millions of children attend private schools or are taught at home as a result (although I'd argue that free societies recognize the right of parents to educate their children as they see fit, and that this is not a right that governments can give). The healthcare bill currently allows such opting out from it as well — if you are a president or congressman. Is it asking too much to broaden the terms?
That is the best-case scenario that I can see right now, and it is my hope. True hope, however, is a theological virtue but not an economic one. In healthcare, we are about to witness, again, what happens when faith and reason become divorced.