“Universal health care” has failed again

Most Americans, not knowing any better, think “universal health care” is a really good idea. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. To see exactly what American universal health care will look like, one needs look no farther than the smaller version of universal health care which already exists.

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows that 55 percent of Americans think the most important domestic issue is making health insurance available to all Americans, and 64 percent said the federal government should provide it, the Times reported Friday.

And it sounds great. Everybody would finally get all the health care they could possibly ever want, and it wouldn’t cost anything. At least, that’s what we’re told. Okay, maybe taxes would go up a little bit, they’ll admit when pressed. But it’ll be so much better once everyone gets free medical care and doctors no longer get paid exorbitant rates.

But before we jump headlong into universal health care, just because it sounds so good, we should have some idea what we’re getting into.

“Universal health care” is a national tragedy wherever it has been tried, resulting in needless death and suffering as fewer and fewer people actually get anything resembling health care from the national health bureaucracy. The reason for this is simple: no government can effectively run a social program.

Indeed, there’s no need to leave the country to see what universal health care would look like. You need go no farther than Building 18 of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the nation’s so-called leading military hospital.

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post reported on conditions at Walter Reed:

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses. — Washington Post

The reaction of the bureaucrats to this exposé? They rushed in a crew to paint over everything. I kid you not.

After the media tour of Building 18, the Army’s surgeon general [Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley] gave a news conference. “I do not consider Building 18 to be substandard,” he said of a facility Priest and Hull found full of “mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses” and other delights. “We needed to do a better job on some of those rooms, and those of you that got in today saw that we frankly have fixed all of those problems. They weren’t serious, and there weren’t a lot of them.”

Kiley might have had a stronger case if men wearing Tyvek hazmat suits and gas masks hadn’t walked through the lobby while the camera crews waited for the tour to start, or if he hadn’t acknowledged, moments later, that the entire building would have to be closed for a complete renovation. The general also seemed to miss a larger point identified by other officials: Walter Reed’s problem isn’t of mice and mold but a bureaucracy that has impeded the recovery of wounded soldiers. — Washington Post

Then the bureaucrats did indeed retaliate against soldiers who spoke to the press and smuggled reporters in and out of Walter Reed for months.

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media. . . . It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training. . . .

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed. — Army Times

A government bureaucracy can never deal with these sorts of problems in a manner any of us would think reasonable. As mentioned before, social programs are simply something government cannot do. The reason, of course, is bureaucracy, a natural component of any government agency. National security columnist and attorney Phillip Carter explains that bureaucracies have a reverse BS filtration system where, when information is passed up the chain of command, “excrement is added to the final product, instead of being removed. . . . By the time information reaches a senior commander or civilian official, it no longer reflects reality.”

Everyone in the U.S. armed forces, including veterans, already has the sort of universal health care that the majority of uninformed Americans would like to foist on the rest of us. Studying this existing universal health care system will show exactly how this nice-sounding idea utterly fails in practice.

But the problem with universal health care is worse than dirty, rat-infested hospitals with the normal hospital staff replaced with uncaring bureaucrats straight out of the DMV. In Canada and Britain, which both have this type of socialized health care, actual health care services are strictly rationed. I’ve read more reports than I care to count of people whose doctors don’t care one bit for them, and just move them through “routine” visits, and of people who die while on months-long waiting lists for necessary life-saving procedures such as emergency heart surgery. In fact, this is the norm in every country with socialized health care.

Of course, these things happen sometimes in the U.S. too, but most people mistake the reason. The reason, of course, is that the health care system here is partially socialized already. This is why doctors no longer make house calls, only spend five minutes or less on your $100 office visit, and don’t seem to care. But at least you can still get your heart bypass surgery before you die — for now.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s the way it is, and the sooner you learn to accept reality, the sooner you’ll get over this universal health care thing and maybe help actually solve the health care problem instead of making it worse.

One thought on ““Universal health care” has failed again

  • July 4, 2007 at 10:02 am

    No system is perfect. But we have been lied to. Did you know that there is not a nursing shortage? The truth is that there is a

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