Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Weather and People's Health

-- Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: I do hope we won’t have any unseasonable cold spells; they bring on so much influenza. And the whole of our family is susceptible to it.

-- Eliza Doolittle: My Aunt died of influenza, or so they said. But it’s my belief they done the old woman in.
After thoroughly training Eliza Doolittle in culture, refinement and speech, Henry Higgins was ready to test her ability to maneuver in high society without betraying her humble upbringing and Cockney accent. As a safeguard, he had one proviso: “She's to keep to two subjects: the weather and everybody's health.” These memorable lines from My Fair Lady have perhaps contributed to the almost proverbial notion that “the weather and people’s health” are the last polite and safe topics for conversation, as opposed to, for instance, religion and politics.

Alas, as Eliza discovered, I am not sure either topic is safe anymore. This day and age, even an innocent comment about a delightfully mild winter might provoke a diatribe about global warming, caused by the evils of corporations and the American way of life, which are responsible for excess emissions of carbon dioxide--that newest of pollutants that also happens to be what we exhale.

And speaking of exhaling, people’s health is no longer a safe topic either, as it has the potential to devolve into a debate about doctors, health insurance and national health care. I have known this for a while, but it was brought home to me recently on Facebook. It all started last week when my niece posted the following:
No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

The unspoken but obvious implication is that if you agree with the above premise, you must also believe in national health care. And if you aren’t for national health care, you are obviously a cruel and heartless cad who has no problem with people dying because they can’t afford health care or facing financial ruin because of a long term illness.

I have for the longest time avoided getting into political discussions with members of my family, where conservatism is definitely a minority viewpoint, but I could not let this go unanswered, so I posted the following counter-statement:

No one should have to die because they can't get access to decent health care due to an inefficient, broken, government-controlled health care system run by bureaucrats. Neither should anyone go broke because they, their children and their grandchildren have been saddled with confiscatory taxes and massive public debt.
And that, my friends, is what we are headed for if anything close to what is being proposed today becomes law (actually, we are already being saddled with confiscatory taxes and multi-generational debt even before—God forbid—we enact national health care.). We have seen it happen in other countries where they have “free” health care, but in our arrogance we somehow think that what has failed in Canada and much of Europe will somehow work in the USA. Some of us refuse to realize that nothing in life is free, and the reason we have the quality of care we do in the USA is that individuals and corporations have had the freedom and incentive to deliver goods and services—even health care services—at a profit.

Alas, this is no longer as true as it used to be, and I submit that if there is anything wrong with our health care system, it is that we already have nationalized healthcare to a great extent, including but not limited to:
  • government regulations that have if anything stifled true competition among insurance companies and health care providers;
  • government plans such as Medicare that are bankrupt, despite the fact that they pay a pittance to providers, who must charge higher costs to paying patients to make up for those who don’t;
  • lawsuit happy lawyers who drive up costs of malpractice insurance
There is indeed much about healthcare in the USA that can and should be reformed. The difference between me and those who clamor for government health care has nothing to do with levels of compassion or desire to see everyone get the healthcare they need at an affordable price. Rather, the difference is how best to achieve these noble ends. As in many other facets of life, I don’t see the government as the solution, but rather the problem.

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