Nothing is more contentious these days than the subject of heath care, especially in light of the looming implementation of the disaster known as Obamacare. These days it seems that the solutions are always worse than the problems they purport to serve. But do we really have only two options here? Are we really stuck between the Scylla of massive corporate conglomerate health care and the Charybdis of a government takeover? Today, we time travel back to summer of 2009, before Obamacare had been passed, to hear Catholic blogger Ryan Grant's take on the dangers of government run healthcare as well as basic proposals for a Distributist approach to the health care question. This article originally appeared on the blog Athanasius Contra Mundum on August 11th, 2009:
"One of the hottest issues for the last few years has been health care. Something basic, such as being able to be treated by a physician, is subject to more rules, legislation, politicizing, and tom foolery than anything out there with the exception of food production (and both are linked).
My essential contention is that governments since the Protestant revolution have sought more and more control. First it is the control of the Church, then it is control of society by an elite. In the 19th and 20th centuries health care has become the golden egg of totalitarian governments. Hitler used the budding hygiene movement in Germany to promote Darwinian evolution through the establishment of the courts of genetic purity (i.e. weed Jews and blacks out of society), outlaw smoking as a means of further government control, regulate doctor's visits and obtain information about the populace at large. Health was nationalized under the Nazis, much as it was in the Soviet Union.
Controlling health care gives the government life and death power over its populace. Any veterans denied care at the VA can certainly relate to that fact. If the government is benign and motivated by Catholic principles of social justice, namely that all things are done for the common good, then it wouldn't be so bad if a working system could be developed. In reality of course a bad government will turn it completely to evil. It is one of the necessary steps in the big government trap to keep the populace contained.
On the other hand, the situation which prompts government control is little better. A man is now unable to afford basic medical coverage unless he has insurance. So he must continually pay money which might not be used on health services otherwise, and instead pay it to a group of executors (although recently they have turned investors), who then agree to pay for their medical costs. Without that, they must simply wing it on their own. Ideally, only those in chronic need of medical care ought to require insurance.
The problem became so bad many years ago, when people with insurance would go to the doctor, and some more enterprising doctors realized that insurance is paying it out, so they could milk it for all it was worth, and begin ordering all forms of unnecessary tests. Then as insurance companies paid more out, they raised more premiums. Doctors, increasing their staff and size, investments in technology and covering losses needed more money so they raised their prices, and then the media began the craze for health care, promoting all forms of new health fashions and fads, created more demand for care which is generally not necessary. This brings us to the situation today where if you go to the hospital for some small injury you get charged $500 for two band-aids. In case you doubt that, look at your bill the next time you go. Health care can literally be called the proverbial government charging the taxpayer $35,000 for a toilet seat.
That is an overly simplified, but no less correct, account of why health care is overpriced and often under-preforming. It is too big for its own britches and too mismanaged by large corporate conglomerates looking to turn a profit at the patient's expense, and the patient, completely edged out of the system, has no recourse since he must go as his HMO directs him. There is also the problem of the lack of responsibility, with people who overeat, under exercise (and by exercise I don't mean going to the gym but simply being active outside), over drink, eat fast food frequently or fail to take legitimate steps to take care of themselves, then expect the system to take care of them.
The Obama plan proposes to take the same mismanagement, make it twice as bad and change the name from HMO to US Government without imparting serious responsibility on the patient, unless it is something the government wants you to do. Now they want to make sure that everyone is included in the same mismanagement. Now what does the government benefit from taking over health care?
First what is on the agenda of the elite? Population control, forced abortion, forced vaccination, sterilization, state controlled education, and state determination of what control not only of the Church but any religious and secular body which offers a different vision. Thus, homeschooling will be illegal (not in virtue of this bill but down the road as a consequence of it), private health practice, conscientious objection for immoral medical practices, conscientious and religious objection to government mandated health care such as vaccinations against non-health threats with vaccines not even tested. Many of these things are already occurring as we speak. In several states a pharmacist is not allowed to refuse contraception, even though the person could get it from the drug street down the road. Proposed legislation which is right around the corner will eliminate the right for Catholic or Protestant doctors (or any other religion for that matter) from refusing to do abortions.
The contradiction couldn't be more glaring. We don't want to tell people they can't live as they please (except for Christians), we don't want to tell people they don't have a choice (unless they don't want what we have to give them, such as mandatory health care). And that is what it all boils down to. If you must constantly check in with the doctor, and the doctor's practice is run by the government, the government can start determining what kind of care you receive, what kind of drugs you must take, and if you don't you'll go to jail and your family will suffer, your kids will get taken away, etc. It is the ultimate black hole from which the family can not escape.
Thus, what is the solution? It is neither reliance on atheistic capitalism or atheistic socialism and its variants, it is the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, that the smallest possible unit ought to do something.
Get the government out of medicine, except to work for the common good and regulate the safety of medicine. Get the corporations out of medicine, and reduce the research of new drugs to occupational guilds of physicians, who know their patients and their needs while at the same time outlawing patents so the doctor's don't see green but will be encouraged to share their discoveries for the benefits of others. Think that is unrealistic? All the discoveries of science, the dramatic increase in technology in the middle ages and the modern period was done without patents.
On the other hand, one also needs to change the culture at the same time. Modern man is a wimp who must go to the emergency room for every paper cut, and so burdens medicine with needless corrections, and this needs to be corrected. Locally owned, or co-operative clinics with lower overhead costs would mean lower costs for patients. There are many examples of low-cost, direct pay only clinics operating in many cities in the United States.
Short of that, there are other systems which may in fact work. Australia's system for example works for what it provides, doesn't run in the red and does not allow for government intrusion into medical records or care. Though vastly superior to EU and Canadian systems, I question whether or not it would be viable here. It would certainly work better than Obamacare. A short look at this bill, which many and I daresay most Americans do not want, is like a trip into an Orwellian nightmare. After reading this, please do something to let your senate/congressman know your displeasure, whether it be by letters, e-mail, phone or a town hall appearance, that is if you want Nancy Pelosi calling you a Nazi."
[Grant's original article ended with an appeal for his readership to contact their Senators and Legislators in hopes the bill subsequently known as Obamacare would not pass]