It’s been my experience that most people who favor a form of universal, government controlled health care have extremely unrealistic expectations. They want unlimited resources to be available to everyone, at any time, no matter the cost.
This subject was recently explored by Susanna at A Cut on the Bias. The subject of her short post was a proposal by the Australian government to limit in vitro fertilization treatments to 3 tries per couple. Any further attempts would have to be funded by the couple themselves.
That seems perfectly reasonable to me, at least so far as any government controlled health care plan can be said to be reasonable. But Deb over at Accidental Verbosity doesn‘t see it that way.
Deb details the resource-intensive care that she received during her pregnancy, and she argues that since the care allocated to a healthy fetus shouldn’t be rationed then the procedures to create such a fetus also shouldn’t be rationed.
Deb makes a good case as long as you accept the base she’s using to build her arguments: that unlimited care is too valuable and politically sensitive to ration. The only problem is that this is a straw man.
The system cited most often by supporters of socialized medicine is that of Canada. They say that it’s the most caring, the most efficient. That may well be true, but it’s also true that the Canadian system is in trouble, and that it’s only lasted as long as it has by severe rationing. It’s not realistic to assume that, under a universal health care system, everyone who needed it would enjoy the massive amounts of care that Deb did during her last pregnancy. Instead it’s more realistic to expect that she would be denied some forms of pre-natal care that she now has easy access to, even if it results in a stillbirth.
One form of rationing that was completely unanticipated was that imposed by Canadian physicians themselves, many of whom are cutting back on their hours in response to a lack of financial incentives. It’s gotten so bad that one proposed solution is to import foreign doctors. The simularities to Europe’s solution to an aging work force is astounding.
The closest thing we’ve had to a Canadian system down here in the US is TennCare, a system to provide government funded health care to eligible consumers. It was a complete disaster, something that compares unfavorably to a natural disaster. (By that I mean that a natural disaster would actually do less damage.) So far as pediatric care is concerned, notice that only 19% of Tennessee’s pediatricians would accept TennCare patients in an effort to protect their income stream. Arguments that doctors would have to accept patients under a blanket government plan ignores the points that I made in the previous paragraph: that there would be less docotrs providing a lower level of care if the finacial incentives were removed.
Another thing to consider is the incredible sophistication and technical base that supported Deb during her pregnancy. None of that equipment or techniques formed out of thin air. As a commenter points out on this blog post, the Canadian system has practically destroyed the incentives for medical research in that country. The current level of medical technology might be good enough for Deb, but I look forward to more lives being saved and a healthier and longer life span for my children.