Charley Reese endorses socialized medicine

From his latest column [via Bill St. Clair]:

I never thought I'd say this, but what Congress should do is go whole-hog and provide health care for the entire population and tax people to pay for it. Then the government would be in a position to drive hard bargains with hospitals, pharmaceuticals and doctors.

Tell me again why this guy is supposed to be some sort of libertarian?

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Reese writes: "Canadians pay

Reese writes: "Canadians pay less for the same drugs because the Canadian government won't allow the drug companies to profiteer at the expense of Canadians."

Americans pay more for drugs because Americans are wealthier than Canadians. Buyers in other markets can negotiate lower prices because of the "free-rider" problem and the much higher regulatory burden in the US.

The groups most vociferously opposing the prescription drug program are pharmacists--the APhA and the NCPA, among others.

As the son of a physician and a nurse, socialized medicine has always been a hot topic for me. Round about 1992, my father had a serious talk with me in which he advised me not to go into medicine (and this is someone who's never otherwise pushed me in any certain direction at all otherwise). He's going to retire in a few years, and as he tells it now, he's "just in time", because it's going to get very ugly here soon.

His clinic is very much about competition. He provides a product, plain and simple. He deals with no insurance companies, ever, and does not take Medicare or Medicaid. Patients like him because he always makes decisions that are 100% HIS, not the result of a compromise with some GED holder in another state working for an HMO; his prices are reasonable; he's always available by beeper or celphone; he doesn't overbook so he's able to keep the waiting time down and still give each patient ample time; and, unlike with the HMO doctor, when you call him (or the receptionist), he actually WANTS you to come in.

But times are changing, and it's hard to make a living doing what he's doing. He traded income for autonomy, basically. Things get worse all the time.

I'm glad doctors are still able to do what dad does, but it's not going to be for much longer, even if Mr. Reese doesn't get his giant healthcare bureaucracy.

I think what gets lost on

I think what gets lost on socialized-health proponents is that a large number of those uninsured don't want health insurance because they don't WANT to buy it, not because they cannot afford it. This is based more on personal observation over the years than science and statistics, as I've witnessed a great deal of acquaintences and heard multiple stories about those who are between jobs for x number of months, and simply choose not to buy health insurance. Yet, they live in a nice house, drive nice cars, and still continue to purchase high-speed Internet, cell phones, PS2, TiVo, concert tickets, CDs, snacks, cigarettes, etc.

The reason is because health insurance isn't a 'sexy' purchase. It is an expenditure on a seemingly intangible product that insures against something that most likely won't happen. In other words, dry and boring. People are hesitant to buy dry and boring stuff, especially when odds are high that it won't turn out to be useful. When laid off and faced with a few months out of work, some would rather not spend the few hundred bucks per month, and may just decide to forgo physical activities that may result in injury (if even that).

Therefore, I'm suspicious with soundbites that claim that 40 million Americans "can't afford health insurance."

Great point. Say you're in

Great point. Say you're in your twenties, healthy, don't ride motorcycles or engage in many high-risk activities. Going without insurance may be a relatively rational choice.

But to some folks, the fact that 40 million have no insurance, even if some of those are making a CHOICE--not buying it because they don't want to--doesn't matter. They must be protected from themselves and their free will.

And a point could be made about the societal costs of the uninsured. Because we don't just let people die in this country, insurance or no.

As for the statistics themselves, going to back to my father's practice, I should mention that many of his patients DO carry insurance. This covers them for the big things--the catastrophes, accidents, life-changing illnesses, etc. But they still to choose to go to a "real" (pardon my arrogance) doctor for their basic checkups and day to day health needs and pay cash. I wonder if this type of thing ever skews the stats.

I just saw a commercial for "Citizens Health Card" which claims "fifty million working Americans don't have health insurance." Of course, that's a private insurance-type organization.

Kevin, I agree with you -


I agree with you - the times are a changin'. I am a physician myself, and I can tell you that it is a mistake to call what other countries like England and Canada do 'socialized medicine' while calling the US system 'free market'. The US system is also socialized medicine, but only to a lesser degree. But even in the days of the early part of your father's career, I would have also characterized that as socialized medicine. The whole system is breaking down, and getting worse due to the regulatory burden.