On ABC's "20/20" last week, reporter John Stossel devoted one hour to health care. Anyone who didn't see it should go to ABC.com and read the summation. Stossel showed what happens when prices for goods and services are forced lower or offered for free. Demand increases, adding to wait times and lower quality in order to control costs. When government pays for health care (as it will under the Clinton plan for the estimated 47 million Americans who don't have it) people wait. "In the United Kingdom, one in eight patients waits more than a year for hospital treatment," noted Stossel, " and the British government recently set its goal to keep wait times to less than 18 weeks. Š In Canada, almost a million citizens are waiting for necessary surgery and more than a million Canadians can't find a regular doctor." That's the future in America once government establishes a firm foothold in health care.
Karl Rove, the former top adviser to President Bush and a bette noir to liberals, penned an essay in The Wall Street Journal on how Republicans can "win" on health care. Among other things, Rove proposes using the principles of free enterprise, personal accountability, tax incentives (not tax increases), portability of health plans and more competition. It is ridiculous, he says, for medical procedures to cost one amount in one town and a much higher amount in another. Pooling risks will lower costs, he argues, along with greater cost transparency and stopping junk lawsuits that drive some doctors out of business.
Do we want the federal government having more control over our health? When the costs get too large and the taxes too high (even for liberals) the only "choice" then will be who gets care and who doesn't. One of the proposals accompanying Sen. Clinton's ill-fated 1994 plan was the creation of a board that would determine who gets a life-saving operation and who does not. Do we want to go down that road toward practical eugenics?
Some of this might make people feel good for the moment, but in the end, they or their children and grandchildren, will feel very, very bad. By then it will be too late, because once a government program is established, even failure is not a reason for its elimination.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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