As presented by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), socialized health care offers moral and physical perfection: quality treatment for all at a lower cost for society. Sadly, as he is on many issues, Bernie is wrong about socialized health care.
But first, a caveat: in opposing socialized medicine, conservatives must present alternatives. For all of Obamacare’s flaws — from picking middle-class wallets to price gouging the young — conservatives have enabled it indirectly. Until Obamacare, many conservatives pretended the existing health care system was fit-for-business. But in terms of market efficiency, accessible coverage and treatment cost, the opposite was true. Too many conservatives tolerated the plight of Americans who worked hard but still could not afford good quality care. While Republicans are working towards a comprehensive replacement for Obamacare, that replacement is long overdue.
That said, the socialized health care that Sanders promotes would be disastrous for the United States.
For a start, socialized medicine annihilates the social imperative of personal responsibility. Just look at the experience of modern Europe. Able to access free health services, a small but significant minority abuses the system. They create inefficiencies with frivolous medical requests (calling for ambulances while being drunk) and happily miss specialist appointments because doing so incurs no penalty. This waste is expensive and hard to prevent: as most British medical administrators will attest, the abusers are masters at finding excuses and manipulating the system.
Socialized medical systems also encourage “health-tourism,” wherein ineligible immigrants take advantage of free care at the cost to British taxpayers of many hundreds of millions of dollars. But there’s a deeper systemic problem with socialized medicine and personal responsibility. To restrain long-term health care inflation, individuals must prioritize their own well being. But where exercise and good diets are not seen to affect an individual’s wallet, individuals are less likely to act healthily. The corresponding impact is measured by Europe’s rising tide of obesity related illnesses.
The socialized healthcare plan that Sanders promotes would be disastrous for the United States, and not only from a fiscal standpoint. | Photo: AP
Where government is the master of health care, the individual is forgotten. Enter government treatment rationing. Speak to a European and you will hear stories about fighting a doctor to gain referral for specialist care, long waiting times and doctors who are massively overworked. These challenges are not the fault of doctors, but rather a function of the system. As public-employees, doctors in socialized medical systems are also required to balance costs and service demands with limited supply. This cost-calculation is an especially significant issue for the elderly who are disenfranchised in treatment evaluations.
And while the U.S. health care bureaucracy means our access to services can be lethargic and inefficient (medicare covers too many expensive drugs, for example), power remains more or less with the individual, not the government. We must discourage unnecessary treatments and uncompetitive treatment prices in America, but prioritizing the individual is only possible in a private sector-centered health system.
Socialized medical systems embrace the inefficiencies of government and remove the advantages of entrepreneurship. Government is inefficient in achieving maximal social interests. Yet just as socialized medical systems disregard personal responsibility and individual interests, they also disincentivize medical research. After all, it’s not accidental that the United States is birthplace for the vast majority of new medical technologies and treatments. Incentivizing research with potential profit, the private citizen researcher becomes the servant of the social interest. Indeed, this also explains why American capitalism serves Europe with the benefits of modernity.
Ultimately, the ideal of socialized medicine is appealing. Promising affordable treatment for all, it promises moral purity and individual satisfaction. Yet below the surface, the flaws of socialized medicine are not just significant, they are catastrophic. Just as Obamacare is especially unpleasant for young Americans, socialized medicine would be unpleasant for all Americans. Personal responsibility would die at the altar of big government, medical research would stagnate and individually focused treatment would evaporate.
Tom Rogan is a Senior Contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.