President Barack Obama has undertaken the expansion of health care to the roughly 45 million Americans who do not currently have health insurance. Having about one American in seven with no health insurance is undeniably an undesirable situation which deserves our attention and concern.
This is not just a matter of compassion either, but also of practicality. About the most expensive way imaginable to deal with routine illness is to provide it in hospital emergency rooms, yet this is the only alternative for millions of people. In addition, the uninsured commonly defer getting needed treatment, and with the looming threat of infectious diseases to all our families, we are all at risk when millions go without needed treatment.
Our problem, however, lies in the dwindling supply of health care providers. Most doctors are overworked, many are underpaid. The number of doctors is increasing at a woeful 1 percent a year, and the number of available nurses has been flat for years. With an increasing population -- and one that is aging as baby boomers move into their 60s -- who is going to provide health care to 45 million more Americans, even if we make the wildly optimistic assumption that we could afford to pay for it?
Well, if you are not scared yet, you should be. Let me tell you how the so-called experts would solve this conundrum. It is not pretty. In fact it is so ugly that no one wants to discuss it publicly. Certainly not the Obama administration, or the Democratic-controlled Congress, but also not the private insurance companies -- the ones that once opposed the Clinton health care plan but now apparently see government as the almighty solution.
Apparently the agreed-upon approach is to give health care to 47 million new beneficiaries without massive new costs by being "more efficient" in allocating the currently available health care assets. Well, efficiency is good, right? Not necessarily.
Here is what this "efficiency" would mean in stark terms: severely restricting health care services to our elderly, and the severely and terminally ill. "Efficiency" here means providing services to millions of young and healthy, who do not need much of it, and cutting health care to seniors and the severely ill who "statistically do not have as much to lose by not getting good health care."