ObamaCare? Ask the British and Canadians

Larry Elder
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Posted: Aug 20, 2009 12:01 AM

"We spend more on health care than most other countries." "We need to bring costs down."

To address these complaints, enter ObamaCare -- which may or may not include a "public option" or a taxpayer-assisted "co-op" to keep insurance companies "honest." But do countries with government-run health care succeed in retaining high quality while "bringing costs down"?

What about England?

Civitas, a nonpartisan British think tank, recently scolded the British National Health Service (NHS) for "putting the patient last." Why? Civitas blames the government-run health care system's monolithic nature, lack of competition, and the burdensome and wasteful regulation, redundancy, oversight and meddling by government -- including some 69 public bodies besides the Department of Health, such as the Care Quality Commission and the Environment Agency. This means the NHS serves the bureaucrat, not the patient.

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What about our neighbor to the north, Canada?

After all, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said that if "starting from scratch," he'd emulate their "single-payer," government-run system. Tell that to the incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association, the equivalent of the American Medical Association.

"We all agree that the

system is imploding (emphasis added). We all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize," said Dr. Anne Doig. "We know that there must be change," she continued. "We're all running flat-out. We're all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands." She said the Canadian model has some "very good things," but "(Canadians) have to understand that the system that we have right now -- if it keeps on going without change -- is not sustainable."

What does the current president of the Canadian Medical Association suggest? Competition.

Dr. Robert Ouellet conducted a fact-finding trip to Europe, meeting with those involved in health care from England, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. On his return, he said that "competition should be welcomed, not feared."

How many of us take for granted the things created by our profit-driven, competitive system of capitalism? Someone seeking profits created the computers we use, the chairs we sit on, the clothing we wear, the food we buy, the cars we drive.

To many people, profits -- when it comes to health care -- represent pure evil. But how many of the same people turn down salary increases in order "to equalize incomes" of their colleagues? How many sell houses for less than they could get for them when other would-be buyers offer more? No, only the greed of others requires government to rein them in -- lest they lie, cheat, steal.

Health care and insurance are not "rights." Freedom of speech is a right. A fair trial -- in which one is judged by a jury of one's peers -- is a right. Protection against government discrimination based on race or religion or against being victimized by unreasonable searches and seizures are rights. One is no more entitled to health care or insurance than one is to a Lexus or a mansion or courtside seats at a Los Angeles Lakers game. Desirable? Sure. A "right"? No. Yet unlike the Lexus, extending health care to the unfortunate is a moral imperative. That's the definition of charity. But it's not a constitutional right.

Health care and insurance are commodities. Without government intrusion, excessive regulation and mandates, they would get cheaper and more affordable. Free market competition -- the same system that gives us ever-cheaper flat-screen televisions and cell phones with more power and ever-expanding functions -- remains the greatest wealth-producing system with the most widespread benefits known to humankind. It gives us cheaper and higher-quality elective surgeries, such as laser eye surgery, face-lifts, hair transplants and liposuction. Inexplicably, the President seems to understand this. He recently said, "UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. ... It's the post office that's always having problems."!!??

Apart from these arguments against ObamaCare, what will it cost, and who will pay?

With the millions of soon-to-retire baby boomers, the Social Security "safety net" will run a massive deficit. Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly, is tens of trillions of dollars under-funded -- meaning no money for future demands without substantially higher taxes on current workers. Medicaid -- the state/federal program of health insurance for the poor -- is in similar shape.

Nearly 40 percent of voters pay nothing in federal income tax. The number could soon reach 50 percent. So by voting in people like Obama and the Democrats (and many Republicans), people vote themselves a raise. The money comes from taxing the so-called rich (the top 1 percent -- earning more than $410,000 a year -- who already pay more than 40 percent of the nation's income taxes while receiving 23 percent of the nation's income), borrowing (taxes on layaway) or simply printing currency (causing inflation, which lowers the value of money).

As a result of all this spending on entitlements, bailouts and -- perhaps in addition -- some form of taxpayer-funded ObamaCare, expect inflation, higher taxes and higher interest rates -- disincentives for those who take risks and create jobs. Unless and until we turn to less government, lower taxes and fewer regulations, the outlook is bleak.