Guest Opinion: Is Universal Health Care What Jesus Had in Mind?
care system is the same - get ready to get paid less. Aside from the fact that the only way this attitude makes any sense is if you consider that anyone and everyone involved in providing health care is a crook, this will inevitably result in a shortage of care. When you have increased demand and decreased ability to provide care, you have a recipe for disaster. There are two logical corollaries of that result - long waiting times and decreased quality of care. It should surprise nobody that this has been the history of government health care schemes wherever they have been tried.
What does "rationing" mean, anyway? The Encarta® 98 Desk Encyclopedia says that rationing is "regulating the distribution of items that are in short supply. Rationing is usually conducted by a government only in response to a severe emergency such as war." Economics is the study of the system that "rations" items in short supply, which is virtually everything as we noted previously. This is normally done by prices. Only when the government interferes with the free marked do we call it rationing.
Medical care is limited in supply. This is because facilities, equipment, personnel, and financial resources are all in short supply. The government cannot create any of these things out of thin air, although the Fed appears to be trying to do just that with the last item. Although insurance, government transfer payments, and all sorts of third party arrangements have already mucked up the relationship between patient and doctor, prices to some extent still control the allocation of these scarce resources. If you know that a medical procedure will cost you $X out of pocket, you can then decide whether or not you are willing to trade your dollars for that service.
Under the facetiously named "Affordable Care Act", even that remnant of choice will be removed. None of it will be your money, and none of it will be your choice. You will be at the mercy of the system. Since the demand for your procedure will have increased, since everybody wants it for free, and the supply will have decreased, because it cannot be provided in the needed quantity at the fixed price, someone will have to make the decision as to when or if you will get the treatment. There is no way around it. The treatment will be rationed, by the market, or by bureaucrats.
The word "fair" is frequently bandied about by those favoring universal health care, but it is rather hard to define. Resorting to my American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, I read that something that is fair is, "a. Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias; impartial: a fair mediator. b. Just to all parties; equitable: a compromise that is fair to both factions". That sounds wonderful, but how do you say it is "unfair" that someone has less money than you do? We often hear politicians talking about "fairness" in income, about an "unfair distribution" of wealth, as if there were some big pot of money somewhere and, when it was passed out, some got more than others, or as if the distribution could have nothing to do with effort on those who received it.
The misuse of "fairness" in this country is legion. There was a time when civil rights were denied to blacks, but thankfully that shameful bit of history is long behind us. What has taken its place, however, is hardly "fair". Affirmative action has substituted racial and sexual preferences for old discrimination. Often the justification for this is statistics, whether they be accurate or not, and for "redress" for past sins. There are already provisions in the unbelievably comprehensive social engineering of Obamacare that more non-White medical students must be accepted by schools, and other similar provisions. Imagine a care rationing situation where statistics as to the higher rate of hypertension in Black patients led to preferential treatment for those patients, or affirmative action medicine led to their preferential treatment to redress past inequities, or even present ones. This is not some sort of appeal to White supremacists or other looneys to engage in conspiracy theories, but it is simply the way the government has dealt with scarcities in other areas, and for that reason it is not inconceivable.
A much more likely scenario, especially considering the data that show that the most money is spent on elderly patients in their last year or so of life, would be to form some sort of "death panel" mechanism that says that after such-and-such age, or with such-and-such a diagnosis and prognosis, you are simply not eligible for treatment. In a system that is run for the system, to keep it solvent, unlike Medicare and Social Security, rather than being run for the patient, this sort of rationing is inevitable.
The question for Americans is, and should have been from the beginning, is who do you want to make those decisions? Non free-marketers scoff at Adam Smith's "invisible hand" and call it chaos, preferring decisions made by some of their luminaries. However, the history of central planning has been dismal failure, because there is no way that any person or persons can possibly have all the information to make the millions and millions of decisions that are made every day in a dispersed economy.
In their arrogance, they fail to see that because they do not understand something does not mean that it does not exist. To a person who is not a cell biologist, the inner workings of the cell are simply a black box, the implications of which for Darwinism will have to wait for another paper. It is easy for someone who does not understand the irreducible complexity of the cellular mechanisms to create Darwinian Just So Stories that reveal more about their lack of knowledge than their insight. So with economists who think they can control a huge economy efficiently without price information.
So, what are we called to do for our neighbor, particularly with regard to his health care? The key is our call to charity, or love. Christ did not call for the government to provide healthcare, or much of anything else, for that matter. His injunctions were directed at individuals: you and me. What has happened over the years is that we have forsaken our duty to our families, our neighbors, and our communities by saying, "Let the government do it. They have all the money". Jesus' admonitions and the principle of subsidiarity, require that we solve these problems at the lowest level. Do we actively participate in the care of elderly members of our families? Do we visit the sick and elderly of our parishes? Do we know who in our parishes have no health insurance, and what would we do if we knew?
Much of the push for "affordable health care" then has been driven by our own desire to shift our responsibilities onto the State. When that happens, the State will take them on, but only if it is done their way. When you stop being responsible for your obligations, you then become like a whiny adolescent and start to agitate for whatever you think should be done for you, or is due you because of some imagined "right". That could include a $500,000 liver transplant for a patient who will probably last no more than six months, or free contraceptives that you could easily buy with the money you saved having a coffee rather than a latte. When you do not participate monetarily in an expense, nothing seems unreasonable to you any longer. So the nation is transformed into whiny patients and heartless administrators. So much for the doctor-patient relationship.
What can be done at this point? Unfortunately it is a bit late for that discussion. It is important, however, to understand that the government does not have a pot of gold, nor a goose to create it, and if there was one, it was killed by the current economic situation. What we have to do at this point is to understand that resources are scarce and they will be distributed, and to ensure that the distribution is made by an informed conscience.
Dr. Frederick Liewehr is an endodontist who teaches and works in private practice. He converted from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1983, having been drawn ineluctably to Christ's Church by the light of Truth. He is a member of St. Benedict parish in Richmond, a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a Cooperator of Opus Dei.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Affordable Care Act, health Care, Universal Health Care, subsidiarity, President Obama, Dr. Frederick Liewehr
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