Monday, August 24, 2009

Health Care Talk

I enjoyed the Health Care Talk last week at Liberty House.
Dr. Lappert gave a wonderful talk that he called, "Taking Our Medicine: The Government Takeover of Medicine and its Consequences for Human Dignity". I went expecting a talk on the ins and outs of the current Health Care bill (since Dr. Lappert is one of the few I've heard of who has read more of it than me). But this talk was so much more than that. In fact, my biggest frustration was that the group present to hear him was so small! As is my habit, I took notes throughout his presentation, but he talked very quickly, and shared much good information, so this is just the highlights of what he covered last week (his comments are in bold, my thoughts are italicized).

Right away, Dr. Lappert was changing the tune of today's debate, at least for me; spelling out clearly that this is not the first time liberals have tried to take over the Health Care system; the battle has been running for over 70 years (he explained that further, later in the evening). I really liked what he said next:
"If we are arguing about the details of the current legislative effort, we have already lost. It is NOT a question of too much, too fast. We need to get away from any argument that makes it seem like we're just unhappy about portions of the bill – even large portions of it." He then pointed out that we are living with a government manufactured crisis (which he also explained further at a later point). And he explained that most of the current Health Care problems could/should be solved at the State level, not the National level (which many of us have been saying throughout this argument!)

Dr. Lappert explained that the role of government in private lives is unparalleled! (I don't think there was much disagreement in the room that night!) And he talked of the collision of interests in this "crisis" – private, corporations, state, and federal. (Depending on which figure you believe, Health Care equals ~14 – 20% of our Economy.)

Meanwhile those in the Government complain that the crisis is worsening because the population is getting older, the number of workers paying taxes is going down, the rising costs of high technology, fraud, poor patients abusing the Emergency Room, and Insurance Company abuses.

But then Dr. Lappert pointed out that we need to look at our Health Care "Crisis" in the context of the History of Western Medicine, which cannot be fully understood without understanding the Christian Worldview (a connection I'm sure that most of us had not made before!) He spoke of: Faith (in an eternal destiny),
(our actions have meaning and affect our destiny), and Charity
(perfection in the love of God is best action for affecting our destiny).
And that right there summed up much of what has happened in Western Medicine, and what we have strayed away from today, in ways that I had never thought of before!

From the earliest days of Christianity, Christians have believed in caring for the sick, the poor, the forgotten, and the impoverished! In fact, hospitals were started by Christians because of those beliefs…In the third century hospitals first appeared, run by Christians, for the care of the poor, the stranger, and pilgrims. (Before that, the Romans had clinics in wealthy homes for the care of the rich, their families, their servants, etc.)

Julian the Apostate, nephew of Constantine, who had renounced his faith when he came to power, saw the effectiveness of Christian medical care and ordered a state version, based on taxes. (Sounds familiar…)

The Christian methods of caring for the sick and the poor worked well for centuries, until:

The rise of materialism during the Age of Enlightenment; which put faith and reason at odds with each other. The myth of progressivism claimed that man today is superior to those from 1000 years ago, and that science is "based on reality". Dialectical Materialism comes out of this belief and was the foundation of Marxism.

Meanwhile, in America public and private efforts in Health Care had grown in parallel. For instance, the Mayo Clinic was started by the Sisters of St Francis and the two Mayo brothers… But, charity is not obtained at the point of a gun – that kills charity….the Government has no business "doing charity". And under this system, who got care? Everyone who needed it – No one went without medical care. (And until the 1960's it was understood that all doctors gave 10% of their time to pro bono work.)

But even before then the Federal Government started to get involved in Health Care: In 1934, with FDR's Committee on Economic Security's Social Security Bill came the promise that a "health insurance plan would be forthcoming"… and it was violently rejected by the voters of the time.
Bills were presented to give the government more control over Health Care starting in 1943 – and President Truman was the first president to publically support the idea – costing his party the 1950 mid-term elections.
(Hopefully, the same will happen in 2010!)

In 1956 the Disability Act, a "necessary prelude to universal health care", was passed. And in 1957 the AFL-CIO came out in support of the idea. In 1965 65% support was garnered for Medicare – with the idea of shifting dependency away from family and charity to the state. Claims were made that elderly would be ruined by catastrophic illness – even though there was no catastrophic coverage in Medicare. Among other things, they misrepresented the poverty level of the elderly in the U.S. The AMA fought the idea of Medicare idea (the last intelligent thing they ever did?)

In the beginning of Medicare, the bills were paid in full – and there was no incentive to cut costs. (We were in the midst of a booming economy, since Kennedy had cut taxes recently.) The generous Medicare payments skewed the valuation of services, and resulted in 30% of spending on the last three years of people's lives. Before this government interference, less than 40% of Americans had any insurance at all! Medicare caused a rise in the prices of Health Care for all. And it led to an explosion in malpractice and product liability lawsuits. It also led to a dramatic rise in private insurance with the promise of "Pay a little, get a lot" (Actual result: "Pay a lot, get a little.")

With all this government intervention, we have gotten to a place where insurance companies pay only an average of 9% of the total bills that hospitals submit to them…And doctors average 40% payment on the bills they submit. (And yet, a private payer, with no insurance, is expected to pay 100% of the bill!)
And then these billed prices are the ones used to calculate "Health Care costs", even though they are inflated, and not generally paid in full!

Our system has become nothing more than a
protection racket. But the threat has been createdby the Government – those that are now offering to solve it for us!

What are the top reasons most of us think Health Care is as expensive as it is? Inflation? Litigation? Technology? Bureaucracy? And of those, technology is often believed to be the worst culprit – but technology makes goods and services less expensive and more available to more people.
No, the real reason is the implementation of the "Soviet Model" of Federal Government with central planning, unmanageable complexity, and the denial of basic human motivation…

And now those who are trying to get the current bill rammed through over our protests are changing the terms – referring to the bill as the "Insurance Reform Bill" rather than the "Health Care Reform Bill",
as if that would make it more palatable! And they've started calling for "medical co-ops", blending market forces with collectivism…but the result will still be central planning, federal start up money; cherry picking of the lowest risk patient pool, and entry into "Medicare for the young"….none of which those of us who believe in liberty/free markets can endorse!

There are a couple of truisms that will hold up well in this argument against the socializing of our Health Care: (1)
"The most efficient place to control costs is at the point of sale" and (2) "People are most frugal with their own money!" If we spend our own money on Health Care – we reduce the cost at the point of sale; remove issues of "injustice" (who's paying for what and who's receiving what); and get rid of morality issues (like "end of life decisions").

We need to make incremental changes – we didn't get here overnight; tort law is mostly state law; insurance law is mostly state law; we need to keep hammering the MORAL TRUTH – not the TECHNICALITIES – of Socialism (including this bill!) A
good starting point would be: States should mandate that those using Health Care Savings Accounts must get the same discounts as the insurance companies…And we do need tort reform: caps on punitive awards; caps on product liability awards; and jury of peers …

In summary: What is the central issue that makes this an unjust system? The use of other people's money! (He who pays the piper calls the tune)
Medical care is the current battleground between forces of liberty and forces of statism! It is an Invented Crisis! And they are trying to nationalize a state problem.

And finally: Remember 1950 – Keep them on the run! We need true champions of liberty!

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