Right now ... my wife [is] resting in a hospital bed. Because I’m self-employed, we don’t have health insurance, either.
My loving wife was having some pain and went to the emergency room about 2:00 Friday morning. After a number of tests, the indications were that it was her gall bladder. No big deal. They wheeled her into surgery a short time later and found out the problem was much, much more severe.
It could have been fatal, actually.
They went ahead and fixed it. Now, she’s recovering. It’s painful, but she’s recovering.
On my way home from the hospital last night, I couldn’t help but think about the debate over healthcare yet again. As I said, we know it’s coming.
Some would believe that considering the bill we’re going to be faced with that it would change my mind about all kinds of things. It doesn’t though. Yes, we’re going to have some serious debt moving forward, but I’d much rather have that than some of the alternatives.
See, I don’t blame the bill on the fact that the insurance companies aren’t even more regulated than they currently are. Quite the contrary.
I blame FDR.
It was his administration that froze wages. Because they were frozen, employers had to find new ways to attract employees, so they started adding benefit packages. That included insurance.
Because people began to be divorced from the cost of their medical decisions. As a result, medical costs began to skyrocket.
. . .
“But single-payer would mean there wouldn’t be any bill,” someone might say. Of course, with single-payer, my wife would be dead.
Take the UK, for example. The average wait time for gall bladder surgery in the UK was about 90 days in 2015. That was too long to wait for what was actually wrong with my wife. She wouldn’t have held on for that long, most likely.
In other words, single-payer would have turned me into a single father.
. . .
Now, I don’t necessarily think people who want single-payer are evil. I believe the vast majority are horribly misguided. They want something they consider essential and they want it for free.
To be sure, most of us do see healthcare as essential to some degree. However, those of us who oppose any single-payer scheme aren’t monsters for that opposition. We recognize the realities of such a system.
Once something becomes free, becomes a “right,” then people will begin to make use of it for every ache and pain. They’re not going to have to pay for it, even a co-pay, so why not?
. . .
Because of this massive influx of new patients, the system begins to bog down. People don’t try to take care of any issues on their own. They just go to the doctor or hospital and expect treatment as is their “right.”
With that system bogged down, there’s only so much you can do to speed it up. Delays for routine but non-life-threatening surgeries pop up. Longer and longer you have to wait.
And then, some people die because while the surgery they were waiting for wasn’t a life-threatening situation, the doctors would only have been able to tell that the real problem was something else once they started operating.
People like my wife.
There's more at the link.
I've seen this at first hand in the third world. Medical budgets will only stretch so far, so they're applied to "the greatest good for the greatest number". Primary medical facilities are provided as widely as possible, to cover people's basic needs. However, due to the need to spend so much money to provide them, there's not enough left over to offer secondary and tertiary medical care (i.e. advanced surgical facilities, expensive medications, etc.) to everyone who needs them. As a result, they're rationed. So much money is available each month, or each year, to provide them. If you need that sort of care, you have to wait until a doctor can see you to provide it, or the pharmacy has enough of the expensive medication(s) you need to be able to provide them (usually because the person ahead of you in the queue is either dead or cured, and thus no longer needs them).
The upshot is that only the "elite" get the advanced stuff. Elected representatives and senior bureaucrats will get whatever they need, whenever they need it, because they control the purse strings. All the rest of the people get by (or, all too often, don't) with what's left over. That doesn't just happen in the Third World, either. Remember when President Trump contracted coronavirus? When Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracted it in the UK? They got top-flight care, no expense spared, whatever they needed, without delay. Ordinary citizens with the same disease, at the same time, had to hope that a hospital bed would be available when they needed it. If it wasn't, they got sent home with a packet of pills and told to wait until there was a vacancy, or until they recovered on their own . . . or until they died, and no longer needed further care.
Socialized medicine, because it relies on central funding and administration, always defaults to the level of the lowest common denominator. Private medicine, because it can charge according to the actual cost and availability of the care it provides, has a profit motive; it will provide services to anyone who can pay for them. Tom may have to pay off his wife's medical debt over several years, perhaps a decade or more, but he still has her. In a socialized medical system, he probably wouldn't. You've read how he feels about that.
I'm not opposed to a certain level of socialized medicine for the indigent and low-income sectors of society. However, that can only be at a level that is practically affordable. Once you start saying that everyone is entitled to everything in medicine, you make it impractical and unaffordable except by rationing it - and some of those who don't get a ration this week, or this month, or this year, are going to die because of that. The bureaucrats administering the system get to play God. They're trying to provide "the greatest good to the greatest number": so if they gave primary health care to ten families, but one person died because there was no surgeon available for the life-saving operation she needed, then on balance, the system has worked - at least, as far as the bureaucrats are concerned.
I hope we'll always have private medical care available for those who can afford it, alongside some sort of subsidized medical care for those who can't afford anything else. That, at least, gives people a choice.
Let's change the subject for a moment. This doesn't apply to Tom Knighton or his wife, but it will probably, sooner or later, apply to most of us.
We have to accept that, sooner or later, we're all going to die. I've already talked to my wife about that. I've had two heart attacks, and I'm partly physically disabled due to a workplace injury in 2004. I'm at high risk for certain complications, and am more vulnerable than most to some health risks. Therefore, I've already informed her that if one of those risks should become reality, I'm not going to beggar her through insisting that we pay for the latest and greatest medical care. Why should I leave my wife a pauper? If I know I'm going to die sooner or later, and a health crisis suddenly makes that "sooner", that's just the way it is. I may not like it, but that's not going to alter the situation.
As a pastor, I saw far too many families spend every penny they had, then go into substantial debt, to prolong the life of a loved one for no more than a few months or a couple of years. Was it worth it? Some would say yes, but I'm not so sure. The financial misery left behind by the deceased lasted far longer than the family's regret at their loss.
Even if private health care can provide a slightly longer period of life, is that always a good idea? Several doctors told me, while I was doing chaplain's rounds in a hospital, that if they were to develop an aggressive, terminal disease, rather than undergo the latest and most rigorous treatments, they'd simply go home with enough palliative care to take care of the pain, and enjoy their last few weeks or months with their families. They knew the outcome would be inevitable, and all the treatments would do is prolong the agony.
For more information on that subject, try these three articles:
- ‘How Long Have I Got, Doc?’ Why Many Cancer Patients Don’t Have Answers
- The Refuseniks
- Saying no to your oncologist is sometimes the right thing to do