The Nightmare of Single-Payer Healthcare

Bob Barr
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Posted: Jul 19, 2017 12:01 AM
The Nightmare of Single-Payer Healthcare

Despite the title of “Senate Majority Leader” prefixed to his name, Mitch McConnell has demonstrated little leadership in his approach to repealing Obamacare over the last few months. Rather than starting with a straight repeal – a bill that sailed through the Senate in 2015 – such action long-demanded by conservative voters finally came Tuesday, but only as a Hail Mary to save face after Republicans refused to support his two previous attempts -- terrible and slightly-less-terrible. Of course, Democrats have had plenty of time to gleefully stir the pot, making McConnell’s efforts appear little more than throwing a bowl of pasta at the wall to see what sticks. Now, moderates who once supported repeal are no longer interested in playing along, and another opportunity for real reform is come and gone.

Opting against a repeal and replacement with a free market-based plan, McConnell and other Senate Republicans flirted with the notion that government-run healthcare is a viable option, so long as it be guided by a Republican hand. But, as they twice discovered, not only is this a doomed approach politically, the ongoing saga of the United Kingdom’s “Baby Charlie Gard” illuminates the frightening moral savagery of such a system; one in which the courts, not parents, spouses, physicians, or even the very individual affected, have the final say in the fate of the sick.

In the case of Baby Charlie, a British infant suffering from what appears to be an incurable disease, the Courts have ordered the baby be “humanely” killed, against the wishes of his parents who are desperate to explore all options to extend his life. In the healthcare system in a free society, the ability to seek treatment for a seriously ill infant would not even be a question for debate. However, in a government-run healthcare system like that in the UK, resources are rationed, with government bureaucrats serving as all-powerful gatekeepers, whose decisions are backed by black-robed judges whose allegiance is to the system and not to human beings.

The cold, utilitarian rationing of healthcare is not a component of a single-payer healthcare system liberals are keen to discuss. It is far easier to paint a rosy picture of healthcare utopias; where doctors joyfully work for minimum wage, resources are plentiful and cheap, and everybody has access to the same wonderful standard of medical treatment. This obviously is a fantasy, but one that constitutes the backbone of every liberal’s notion of universal healthcare. When reality rears its unwelcome head, as in the continuing collapse of Obamacare, the GOP gets blamed -- a task made easier due to the failure of congressional Republicans to make any real progress in formulating and passing a meaningful alternative to Obamacare.

Compounding the problem, Senate Republicans have wasted precious time chasing a golden ratio for government-to-private control over healthcare that cannot possibly exist. Why? Not only has government repeatedly proven itself to be horrible managers of anything, much less something as complex as healthcare for a nation as large and diverse as ours, but the inescapable consequences of such a system are simply incompatible with a free and moral society. In making healthcare a “right,” citizens trade away the ability to be in charge of one’s own health. This is the sad but inevitable end game for any single-payer system, demonstrated by the ongoing tragedy in the UK.

The reality is such that not every person can see the nation’s best doctors, access the highest grade of medical devices, or explore every treatment option to save his or her life. Neither Democrats nor the GOP can find a way to make this happen in a world with limited resources. But, at least in a free market system, the opportunity to pursue these options is available without a court or a bureaucrat’s blessing, even if such options are financially prohibitive; individuals still have a right to pursue treatment until the very end.

A government-run, single-payer healthcare system in the United States may still sound far-fetched, but liberals already are anxiously preparing for it. They know the unholy fusion of private insurance and government mandate in Obamacare is not sustainable (and perhaps never was meant to be), and they know the Republican Establishment is too timid to actually repeal it. So, for them, it is simply a waiting game, during which they can sell the public on single-payer being the only viable option to “save healthcare.” In this game, Republican control of Congress and the White House will have meant absolutely nothing, after years of promising to “get it right.”

Obamacare is dead, long live single-payer!