ShareThis Page
News Columnists

Health costs scare us toward socialism

| Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003

Socialized medicine keeps creeping forward. Inch by inch.

One sign is a cleaned-up image. It's not called socialized medicine anymore. It's called national health insurance, which cuts half the wind out of the sails of opponents. Nobody opposes insurance.

It troubles the conscience, in fact, that 43.6 million Americans are uninsured by the latest government estimate. That huge number, more than 15 percent of us, conjures up nightmares. Are millions going to emergency wards and doctors' offices and being turned away• In scattered cases, this undoubtedly happens.

But one suspects the great majority get treated one way or another. Treated and billed. Then the bill is not paid or partly paid, and the service provider eats the rest. In short, charity.

Yet no service is really free. It is only that the bills are paid by everyone else, the paying customers, to make up for the expenditure of time and skills. So a kind of socialization actually takes place, but privately, voluntarily, and with "heart." In some sense, it may be even be efficient. It certainly wastes no care.

However, an involuntary "insurance" scheme run by government threatens to turn an American triumph -- world-leading medical knowledge -- into a costly, bureaucratic, red-tape-and-wait-your-turn regime of mediocrity. Which won't keep the country from going that way -- if the people want it.

And they seem to, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll.

By 62 percent to 32 percent -- almost two to one -- 1,000 randomly asked adults expressed a choice for universal government health insurance, sometimes called the "single-payer system," versus the current system, which is employment-based.

True, socialism won a smaller majority under two conditions. One was a limited choice of doctors. The other was if "free" treatment means longer waits for nonemergency procedures.

But lawmakers shouldn't have trouble making promises along those lines. Ever since President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton's spider web of health care proposals got brushed aside 10 years ago, it's been a retreat for the principles of free exchange among doctors, hospitals and patients.

Health care inflation seems to have gone absolutely crazy. And the result is that amidst the world's greatest research and facilities, the poll found 54 percent of us dissatisfied with overall U.S. health care. That's up from 44 percent three years ago.

Over half of those polled, 53 percent, are scared. They fear job loss and benefit loss -- their health coverage. And for the retired the White House and Congress are in a race to create a new multibillion-dollar elderly entitlement -- prescription drug coverage under a Medicare system even now headed for bust.

Yet eight in 10 poll respondents said health care coverage for everybody, even if it means higher taxes, is more important than restraining taxes and leaving anybody uncovered. Hear that, lawmakers• Socialism grows rosier in the cheek all the time.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me