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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Life and Death Issue: Universal Health Care (IV)

The Rule and Not the Exception

One of my good friends from Canada emailed me recently recounting the excellent health care service that an acquaintance of his received. I have no reason to doubt what he said. Moreover, while playing squash with my family physician at the YMCA in Toronto, I tore the meniscus in my right knee. It was painful and thanks to him calling a friend, I had my knee “scoped” the next day. My point here is that there will always be exceptions to the rule. For whatever reason, some people will get good care, while others go wanting.

For every story that my friend sent me, or my story for that matter, there are other stories about socialized medicine. Besides, we need to keep in mind that we are talking about socialized medicine which means that this form of medicine is not provided in a free market environment, which further means that there are all kinds of economic implications and applications attached. There are a number of serious economic problems with socialized medicine, but I just want to take few moments and touch on a few of them.

From the Hippocratic Oath to the Vet’s Office

This probably sounds like a stretch, but stay with me on this one. The name, Dr. Hans Truffer from Switzerland, in all likelihood, does not ring a bell. Dr. Truffer is a longtime opponent of socialized medicine—for a number of valid reasons. Dr. Bill Gairdner quotes him in his book The Trouble With Canada to this end: “The real danger of collectivized state medicine is that the patient becomes a tool in the hands of the holders of power, and is dispossessed of the protection afforded by Hippocratic principles.”[1] Truffer goes on to explain that what socialized medicine offers is quite often “a veterinary ethic, which consists in caring for the sick animal, not in accordance with its specific needs, but according to the dictates of its master and owner, the person responsible for meeting any costs incurred.”[2]

This is a good example regarding socialized medicine. Our family owns a wonderful German Shepherd named Hosanna. The whole family loves her dearly, but if she were ever diagnosed with a debilitating or terminal illness, we would have to make choices and if the expenditure of large amounts of our discretionary income were involved, we might have to choose to put her down; to euthanize her. She would have no say in the matter.

In a similar vein, socialized medicine, although it pretends to be the compassionate thing to do, actually dehumanizes those in the system in the end. We will touch on this notion more fully in a moment (the “triage” mentality), but for the present it should be duly noted that just as an animal’s medical well being is controlled by others, so, in the end, is the case with socialized medicine, where ultimately the government decides.

In America, citizens became part owner of GM (Government Motors; not General Motors anymore) last Monday. Well, not really, but that’s what we’ve been led to believe. President O’Bama promised us that the government will be in and out of GM in a heartbeat. Of course, no one in their right mind believes that. What reasonable Americans anticipate is a new line of environmentally gentler, kinder, and greener automobiles. We will no longer be able to purchase the automobiles that we want from GM because they will not pass government standards of greenhouse emissions. We “owners” do not even have the opportunity to discuss whether all the “greenie” hoopla about CO2 is valid or junk science. The government and the President seemed convinced that “climate change” is valid so it’s a done deal.

Therefore, the government will dictate how much gas mileage they deem acceptable by their CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, not to mention their cap-and-trade policies. The “only practical way to meet higher CAFE standards is by the rather low-tech method of reducing car weight. And lighter cars are deadlier cars.”[3] We’re already seeing the disregard for human life in the stupid “Smart Cars” that are dotting our highways. The great advantage of these cars is that they double as a coffin. Once you tangle with a big rig or even a Toyota Camry, your chances of surviving the crash are minimal. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences discovered in 2001 that “the manufacture of smaller, lighter cars in the late 1970s and early ‘80s—partly due to CAFE standards—‘probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993.’”[4] In addition, consider this: “…USA Today reported in 1999 that its analysis of previously unpublished government data showed that ‘46,000 people have died because of a 1970s-era push for greater fuel efficiency that has led to smaller cars.’”[5]

So what does this have to do with socialized medicine? The short answer is: everything. Just as with nationalized car ownership, the “customer” is given a limited selection, so with government run, operated, and controlled health care. There is a “board” (read: bureaucracy) that will decide what procedures will be covered, for how much, and for whom. In other words, Barney Frank and John Kerry could manage your health care from now on.

Health dies the death (no pun intended) of unintended consequences. For example, in Ontario, Canada (OHIP) if the patient has “means,” he or she might fly to the United States for treatment, knowing that OHIP will reimburse them 90% of out of pocket costs. If, however, you are a foreigner in Canada and offer to pay for the medical treatment yourself, you go to the head of the line, while some Canadians have to wait and some die. Oh, did I mention that foreigners pay double?[6]

The “Triage” Method of Health Care

I remember the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan on the beach in Normandy. The medics were going from soldier to soldier performing triage, which is a French label, derived from the wartime habit of dividing the wounded into three groups: non-death threatening, serious, and hopeless. Medical supplies were doled out in accordance with the nature of the wound(s) sustained.

Those who were in the hopeless category received minimum care and attention. In a very real sense, some kind of triage is inevitable, but it is substantially more likely in a socialized medicine setting that under another system, especially since those who screw up our lives daily—the government—are in charge of socialized systems. I still chuckle when I think that our Congress, many of whom have never had a real job in their lives, are now going to tell the auto industry how it should be run. The same thing, with the necessary changes made, applies to health care.

No matter how wealthy a nation is, there will always be a relative scarcity of available doctors and medicine to contend with. And where medical care is perceived as “free,” which is a total misnomer, there will always have to be a rather strict triage system at play.

Take a Number Please

Bill Gairdner is correct when he writes, “scarcity is inherent in our delivery of medical services. This means that not everyone will be able to get what in a perfect world he might wish to have.”[7] Here is really where socialized medicine begins to break down. The utopia of free medicine has a very harsh and realistic side to it. As much as our egalitarian ideologues want to “level the playing field,” it simply does not happen in socialized medicine. How is that?

Well, the explanation has an economic side to it. In America, most of us are keenly and acutely aware that we are in a recession that threatens to go deeper and deeper daily due to the economic policies our current President has put in place. Yes, I understand that he inherited part of the mess from Bush, but the President cannot keep riding that pony forever. In point of fact, the serious blunders that he has put in place and the exorbitant and extraordinary amounts of U.S. tax dollars poured into the “bailouts,” not to mention the misappropriated or lost U.S. tax dollars for which ACORN cannot account, are clear signs of gross economic mismanagement. Now the President wants to spend even more to implement socialized medicine. If the American people are so foolish to allow this to occur, the nation will be looking at hyper-inflation in the not too distant future. In addition, we will be witnesses to the demise of the greatest health care system in the world.

Allow me to conclude this installment with some positive recommendations. These are far from exhaustive, but certainly constitute, I believe, a vast improvement on our present health care system here in America as well as having the added advantage of stopping socialized medicine in our land.

First, eliminate all unfair tax treatment of health insurance for all Americans, i.e., those who are here legally. Expand choices, coverage possibilities, and personal control over individual health care.

Second, increase affordable options for working families and small businesses to purchase health insurance through a standard tax deduction. That is to say, give legalized citizens a tax break here.

Third, provide cross-state “pooling” to reduce health care costs. For example, if Arizona can provide a cheaper rate for the same coverage in California, allow citizens to purchase health care coverage in another state.

Fourth, emphasize preventative care and reward healthy individuals with extra rate reductions. Make it worth a person’s while to live a healthy lifestyle.

Fifth, give legal citizens the choice to opt out of, say, Medicaid, and to convert their benefits into private health insurance, thus putting them in the driver’s seat and not government.

[1] William Gairdner, The Trouble with Canada, (Toronto: General Paperbacks, 1991), p. 314.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Steve Milloy, Green Hell, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2009), p. 61.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Gairdner, Trouble, 315.

[7] Ibid., 316.



Blogger Sermonwriter said...

I like your positive recomendations, especially #4: "Fourth, emphasize preventative care and reward healthy individuals with extra rate reductions. Make it worth a person’s while to live a healthy lifestyle."

However, our gov't is doing all it can to comply with UN standards of alternative health solutions, such as nutrition; which would include not only supplements, but food as well.

I don't see this as being consistent with anything but seeking total control over our health, which of course leads to total control over how long we live and our quality of health along the addition, a diabolical way to line the pockets of the 'legal' drug cartels.

CODEX alimentarius

7:59 AM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

In a crash test at 40mph, I saw the Mercedes C-Class toss aside the Smart ForTwo like it was an empty soda can. The cage was fine, but anybody inside it would have been liquified and missing their legs. The crumple zone is about 1/2 of the car. It's an apt metaphor for socialized medicine where, in places like Canada, Hosanna could get a CT scan quicker than you or I coule.

When the government is involved, you can bet on two things: it will be really cheap for them and really inconvenient for you - "Smart car inconvenient".

1:51 AM  
Blogger Sermonwriter said...

Your "cheap for them, inconvenient for you" remark reminds me of this quote I just noticed in my email...

“The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few to ride them.” — Thomas Jefferson

5:33 AM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

That's a great quote. I think Jefferson was one of the greatest statesman of all time.

I paraphrased that saying from (now Congressman) Tom McClintock. He's one of the few modern politicians that I like.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

"If your employer chose your grocery store for you, I guarantee you two things. It’s going to be cheap for the employer and it’s going to be very inconvenient for you. And health plans are no different. We’ve got to bring within the reach of families, again, control over their own health plans."
-Tom McClintock, Sept. 2003 regarding SB-2 in CA

12:40 PM  
Blogger Sermonwriter said...

The frustrating thing is, as Pastor Ron points out in this series, is that there are extremely doable solutions to achieve exactly what everyone wants and what would be beneficial and 'Godly' alternatives, but the "establishment" just won't let these wise and good ideas becaome realities. I am completely sick of the wicked being in authority, and I think most everyone else is too. Hopefully sick enough to repent and insist on Godly alternatives even if we have to do it ourselves. Such as, there are ways to start a sort of "co-op" medical care insurance that Churches can initiate for members.

1:14 PM  

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