Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.”     Edmund Burke

March 15, 2009

Logic Problems for the Single-Payer Cabal

by Quincy

Believe it or not, Jay Leno is not the biggest clown with that particular last name.  No, really, he’s not.  That dubious honor instead falls to my State Senator, Mark Leno.  Leno’s latest clown move is again introducing a single-payer health care measure that would impact all Californians:

The new version of the bill, SB 810, would provide medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits to every California resident and make state government the single payer of all benefit claims. Both employees and employers would be required to contribute to pay for the coverage.

So, in Leno’s California, every person would be dependent on a single agency to get health care. He sidesteps the issue by saying the following:

“It is not socialized medicine. Your doctor doesn’t change. Your hospital doesn’t change. Your clinic doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is who pays for the health care provision.”

That’s wonderful. It really is. I can choose my doctor, my hospital, my clinic, my medical marijuana club, and anything else. But to actually pay them and get anything in return, I have to crawl to a bureaucrat in Sacramento. That sure sounds like socialized medicine to me. However, I don’t just want to argue semantics about what is and isn’t socialized medicine. I want to take a look at how single-payer health care squares with some other sacred cows of the political left.

First, let’s take a trip back to the late 1990s. The fashionable thing among the left was to bitch about the big, evil corporation Microsoft and their monopolistic behavior with their operating system. I don’t dispute that monopolistic behavior is bad, but it must be remembered that this monopoly dealt with bits in a computer and was never complete. The fact that I’m typing this from Mac OS X is proof enough of that.

In comparison, the Leno bill comes off just a bit worse. Where the maligned Microsoft monopoly allowed other OS players in the space, the Leno bill creates a true, iron-clad monopoly. This brings up logic problem number 1: Why is a quasi-monopoly on computer software evil while a real monopoly on medical services is good?

Next, let’s come back to the present day and talk about the death penalty. Even after all the appeals and reexaminations of the evidence, innocent people still wind up on death row. The left, along with libertarians, argue that systems composed of human beings cannot justly hold the power of life and death in their hands.

However, the Leno bill would require that the State of California to hold the power of life and death in its hands in the form of authorizations and declinations of medical care. Here’s logic problem number 2: Why is it unjust for the courts to decide whether criminal defendants should die but just for a bureaucrat to decide whether an innocent person should die?

Finally, let’s visit a topic rarely touched on the pages of the Liberty Papers–abortion. The left argues that it is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. There are legitimate questions about when a life begins, and that’s part of why the debate continues to rage.

The Leno bill places the choice about what happens to my body in the hands of a bureaucracy in Sacramento. This brings us to logic problem number 3: Why is choice for abortion sacrosanct while choice for all other procedures can be sacrificed for the common good?

How can the left support single-payer health care when it seems to go against their own principles? Discuss.


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8 Comments

  1. I don’t agree with the below arguments, but since I used to be a leftist before I saw the libertarian light, I can imagine they’d argue along the lines of:

    1. Corporate monopolies are run by greedy executives who will abuse the power in order to exploit the poor. Government monopolies are run by a choir of angels who will use superpowers to make everything perfect. Just look at the example of {insert small pilot program with no actual data available yet}: that’s going great, right?

    2, 3. See #1: the government will be using superpowers to make sure that no rationing decisions are ever necessary. Oh yeah, and did you hear about {insert atypical and purely anecdotal insurance horror story}? Bet that wouldn’t happen under a government-run system.

    Comment by Miko — March 15, 2009 @ 12:40 pm
  2. I’m a Canadian. We’ve had socialized medicine for decades. Our system is lauded as an example of the benefit of having a monopoly healthcare system. It’s a sham! Much like the US, in Canada there is a division of powers between the Federal and Provincial (State) governments. Healthcare is a Provincial resposibility, although the Federal government plays an actve role in the system. Particularly regarding financing- to the tune of several billions of dollars every year. Each province adds additional billions to support the system. Already over 40% of each province’s budget is devoted to healthcare provision. It’s expected to be 50% or more in just a few years. Five million Canadians (out of a population of thirty-five million) don’t have/can’t get a doctor. Wait times are atrocious! A top healthcare bureaucrat has publicly stated that wait times are a good thing because it means Canadians aren’t over served, like in the US. Where I live, a patient recently spent 34 hours in a hospital emergency waiting room and died before anyone noticed! The health authority board dismissed the death as “irrelevant” and stated that no one in the system would be held accountable- for the death, or the lies and coverup that ensued (bureaucracy and government). In an attempt to end hallway medicine (patients lining hospital hallways because there aren’t enough rooms) simply eliminated the problem by redefining the term. It’s hallway medicine if the patient spends more than 12 hours in a hallway. The government’s solution- rotate the patients so no one is in a hallway for more than 12 hours. Voila- no more hallway medicine! There aren’t enough doctors but the bureaucracy is growing exponentially. I could go on and on about the inadequacies of socialized medicine but I’ve given you a glimpse of what you have to look forward to.

    Rorie

    Comment by Rorie Bruce — March 16, 2009 @ 2:17 pm
  3. Rorie,

    Thanks for the Canadian perspective. I’ve heard many such reports from subject of countries with socialized medicine.

    I think the disconnect that Quincy’s examples highlight was described well by Miko. Any industry taken over by politicians and bureaucrats is assumed to become pure as a result of an eliminated profit motive. The politicians and bureaucrats are assumed to be a choir of angels with superpowers (as opposed to regular people motivated by a guaranteed paycheck or political power).

    Supporters assume that a profit motive makes people greedy and evil. Any service provided voluntarily for profit is tainted by the fact that the providers dare to make a living at it. These assertions are not usually followed by any examination of what competition does for every other industry in terms of product and service quality and price driven by demand.

    In the Canadian system, as with all such systems, there is no built-in motivation to curb abuse and incompetence. In a profit-oriented system, abusive and incompetent providers cannot make a profit and are forced to provide more competitive products and services, or forced out of that industry entirely. In a government monopoly, the only pressure is long term disconnected political pressure, so the abuse and incompetence continues and becomes stratified.

    Measure any government monopoly against any competitive industry and you see the same results. Yes, profit motive is ruthless and demanding. That’s a very good thing for consumers.

    Comment by Akston — March 16, 2009 @ 2:49 pm
  4. “from subject” = “from subjects” above.

    I think I need to increase my medication.

    Comment by Akston — March 16, 2009 @ 2:51 pm
  5. 1. How many government employees do you know that make $24 million a year? There are at least 14,000 medical insurance companies and HMOs doing business in the US. Each has it’s own CEOs and upper management and paperwork systems. Does that sound like efficiency?
    2. You are OK with the way it is – the bureaucrats at the insurance companies deciding who lives and dies? But you can’t bear the thought of probably the same person, who’s moved from the profit sector to the government, making the same call?

    You can always pay cash. There’s nothing in today’s system preventing that and there’s nothing in the single-payer system that prevents that. Other than paying cash, you will always have someone processing a claim for payment. That claim is filed by the health care provider in the single-payer system.

    3. How abortion differs from any other medical treatment in payment by this plan is something you have made up for incitement purposes. It’s not in the plan.

    Get real.

    Comment by Mike Shunney — March 19, 2009 @ 12:12 pm
  6. Mike, how many gov’t employees do anything or make anything that is worth $24 million a year?

    At the very least, CEOs run large companies that keep thousands of people employed and provide goods and services to millions of people. When they do not produce, their customers go elsewhere. When the problem is really bad, the media helps shine some sunlight on the problem to get it fixed faster.

    What happens when it is the gov’t running things? How often do gov’t employees get fired, even for blatant incompetence? Look at the school system. How often are sexual predators, who just happen to be teachers, too, shuffled from around to avoid the hassle of firing them?

    If a doctor is bad, even within an HMO, he can be fired. How often do you think that would happen if all the doctors were hired by the gov’t? Look at the VA system. Convicted of incompetence and malpractice in one state? Move to another.

    In fact, the auto industry and AIG are both a wonderful example of what you can expect from gov’t interference. Huge bonuses but no results? In the real world, the company fails. But if you can get gov’t to step in, then there is no reason you can’t eat your profits and have them, too!

    Comment by Merf — March 19, 2009 @ 12:28 pm
  7. Government healthcare doesn’t have to be a monopoly.
    I always try and avoid the whole good and evil thing when talking about healthcare. Ok Canada and the rest of the world’s countries have their problems with free healthcare, socialized medicine, or whatever you care to label it. What many aren’t taking into account is that in America, there is the possiblility of taking on a challenge and coming out ahead. There is a way to cover our poor and our sick with healthcare and avoid the problems and mistakes that have defined government healthcare in other countries. It can be done. The main point is, that it should be done. Those who say it can’t aren’t trying hard enough to solve the problem. Those who say it shouldn’t be done might want to consider how to solve the problem another way. It’s difficult, but it really needs to be addressed. I don’t have an answer, but I know what we have doesn’t work. Also, I know that even if we did have a government healthcare system, there would still be private doctors, hospitals and nurses available out there for the ones that want or need them. What we need to do is find a way to cover those that can’t afford them. Here’s a few facts:
    25% of all US families make under 25K
    50% make less than 45K
    75% less than 85K
    With that as a given, anyone can see that with health care coverage as expensive as it is, nearly half of the nation cannot afford it and the system is stacked against nearly ¾ of Americans. Most anyone knows what it would cost an uninsured middle income family if their child had to go to the emergency room for a burst appendix. Just think what that would mean to the parents. If they don’t own a home, getting one will be very tough. If they do own a home, keeping it might be tough. God help them if something else or worse went wrong the same year. The “what if” factor goes on and on. I know first hand because it happened to our family and my son. The bill came to 65K. Luckily I had insurance and only had to pay about 3 grand out of pocket. No vacation that year.
    So you see, an incident like that or worse could sink most people. Where did I get my attitude? Never mind, I want to tell you about my heart. It goes out to all those people who lose children and loved ones after they suffered and died because they didn’t have health insurance. The statement, “All children receive health care, the poor ones get it through Medicaid”, is untrue. They only get it if the family qualifies under the guidelines of falling around or below the federal poverty level. There’s quite a gap there if you care to look it up. That’s what the whole debate is about. It’s all about the people not covered.

    Here is a quote from our soon-to-be new president when Tom Brokaw put the question to each candidate, “Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?”:
    OBAMA: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills — for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.” – I agree with the president.

    Now, some will argue that healthcare is not a right. OK, I have to agree. But it could be. Remember, blacks and women didn’t have the right to vote at one point in our country. Was it the “liberals” who changed that behind the American people’s backs? Hmmm, I’m not so sure about that. Maybe it was. But I do know that there have been so many changes to what is a “right” or entitlement, that we need lawyers to figure it all out. The real point is that it was “Americans” who made these changes. I say God bless them for it.

    In my opinion a government system doesn’t mean that the private system goes away. It means that the poor who can’t afford a system at least have one. It may not be perfect at first, but we can make it better and shape it to our needs. Isn’t that what this country does best?

    Mike Armijo

    Comment by Mike Armijo — March 19, 2009 @ 1:20 pm
  8. Mike Armijo –

    I’m not talking about government health care, I’m talking very specifically about single-payer health care, which by definition *is* a monopoly. This also, by definition, means the private system goes away.

    If universal coverage is decided to be a desirable goal, there are lightweight solutions that can be implemented without impacting every single person within a jurisdiction. Single-payer health care is more of a power grab by politicians than a move to make sure everyone gets health care.

    Mike Shunney –

    You’re wrong on all counts.

    One, I hold none of the beliefs you ascribe to me. I believe the current system is horribly inefficient and is in desperate need of reform. I also believe taking the worst elements of our current system, centralizing them, and backing them with the force of law is a recipe for disaster.

    Two, Leno’s bill, by making the state health care agency the sole payer of all claims actually does exclude cash payments from the patient.

    Three, how is my right to seek medical care *I*, as opposed to a government bureaucrat, deem appropriate completely unrelated to the left-wing shibboleth that women have an unrestricted right “to choose what to do with their bodies”?

    When I choose an experimental but expensive cancer treatment because I want to live, I’m choosing what to do with my body. When this is precluded by bureaucratic guidelines, I am denied the choice of what to do with my body. Clear enough for you?

    Comment by Quincy — March 19, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

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