When it comes to political marketing gimmicks, Obama knows every trick in the bag. He may be one hell of a swindler, but with the way he sells his agenda, few of us would ever know it. He knows how to tug at our heartstrings. He knows how to touch our nerves. By the time he’s done delivering his presidential Sermon on the Mount, our face is drenched in tears, with tissues all over the floor. He is an insurmountable master of emotional manipulation – like that spoiled, prissy rich kid who knows how to push dear ol’ Daddy’s buttons and get him to buy her three ponies, five Chryslers, and a chinchilla every week. But instead of stomping his feet on the floor like a bull on steroids, throwing the antique China around, and shouting “Daddy, you hate me!” loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear, our Commander in Chief shows his big shiny teeth, emphatically says “Now, let me be clear” a hundred different times, and hopes we’re about as moved by his tales of despair as we are by the wildebeest stampede scene from The Lion King. He’s one slick snake oils merchant.
So as his supporters were biting off fingers at town halls and sending union goons to beat up black dudes, our political Messiah in the White House – doing his best impression of a holier than thou crusader for justice – hoodwinked many of us into believing that his health care reform bill would part the oceans and turn fish into bread. And boy, did we ever fall for it! The American health care system is broken, we were told. Those discriminatory insurance companies were the new Jim Crow, charging – gasp! – different fees to different people based on health status, age, sex, and all the rest. They were shaking down poor people for everything they were worth and breaking open piggybanks. And as soon as they’d left you penniless, they offered additional coverage in exchange for your – gulp! – soul. They were pushing old grannies down the stairs and stealing crutches from the crippled. These cold-blooded monsters only cared about one thing and one thing only: their bottom line. Not the welfare of their clients. Not the sick. Not those who were crawling on the kitchen floor, looking for a crumb of leftover cake to eat underneath the stove or refrigerator. Not those who can barely afford inhalers and cough medicine for their kids. And President Je – I mean, Obama, was going to put a stop to it.
He became the self-anointed maker of miracles. No longer will you be denied coverage because of an erroneous “pre-existing condition,” like asthma or diabetes, he said. No longer will you be dumped by your insurer unexpectedly and forced to fend for yourself. No longer will those money-grubbing power-brokers in the insurance industry get to unilaterally dictate the terms their clients will agree to. No longer will you be charged a different rate than somebody else. With my divine, mystical, otherworldly edicts handed down to me by my angelic scroll-writers in the clouds up high, I will heal your wounds and rid you of all suffering. We will twist the arms of Satan’s earthbound marionettes who sit on the staffs of the insurance agencies all across this country and soak them for all they’re worth – with taxes, penalties, and fees they’ve never seen even in their worst nightmares. We will be the righteous, God-ordained victors in this momentous battle for redistributionist justice, and I will lead you, dear followers, to the land of Milk and Honey. For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Amen.
Now what kind of loathsome capitalist zealot would be against “free” health care for all? Give universal access a chance, they say. Free-market, for-profit medicine has thrown millions of poor folks to the dogs. We gave it a shot, and it failed.
Except we don’t have a free market in medicine.
If This Is Capitalism, Then I’m the Mayor of Lazytown
Bureaucrats are constantly getting between us and our doctors. They’re telling us what vitamins, pills, and supplements we can swallow. They’re telling us what our insurance policy has to cover, and cornering us into “comprehensive coverage plans” that cost more than the full production budget of Avatar. They’re actively preventing new hospitals from being built, through “CON” regulations that allow area providers to monopolize on that community and bring to court any clinic or physician that tries to compete with them. (If Wal-Mart did that, it would be called “extortion.” They’d be digging up Sam Walton’s corpse as we speak and dragging it to the state penitentiary. Another case of monopolies for me, but not for thee.) Nurses and health specialists can only see patients with the blessing of the State’s benevolent overlords, and if they’d like to enter the profession, they have to jump through a million bureaucratic hoops (Look, Sasha, the stethoscope people are doing tricks!) and attend State-approved universities with State-approved faculty. In some cases, there are only one or two medical schools in any given state, and they can only accept a fixed number of students each year. (And I thought my taste in jewelry was restrictive.) Since there are less physicians and such working in the field, the low supply of medical workers artificially inflates the values of their services, and their fees are just that much more out of the average person’s price range. This is sort of like what would happen if 150 platinum Jigglypuff cards were produced in mass and all but three of them, for no apparent reason, were thrown into a vortex leading to a parallel dimension filled with aqua-kittens and cyberbats. Those remaining cards would be worth more than the annual salary of a Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO.
Government virtually dictates that we go through a third party HMO – eyes rolling, heads banging against the desk, and perplexed clients asking God why he allowed them be born all the way – to purchase all of our tests, check-ups, and all that other good medical biddly-doodle. Any large (or soon to be small-time) employer who doesn’t lavish his workers with Obama and Pelosi-rubberstamped (that is, government-approved) insurance benefits is threatened with fines, or possibly even everybody’s idea of the perfect family getaway – the slammer. (See you on visiting day, Mommy. I’m looking forward to playing jacks with the prison guard and throwing Frisbees to his bulldogs. Maybe if I make my puppy eyes weepy enough, the IRS will let you off the hook. When life gives you lemonades, um – make the most of prison.) If you buy an individual plan, there is no tax deduction. In some states, paying your physician with an over-the-counter cash payment is illegal. (What, are we dealing cocaine to two-year-olds or something?) With less of the cost coming out of your pocket, why should you pay attention to price? Medicare or your friendly neighborhood HMO will pay for it. Why shop around for the best bargain? Why try to get the best bang for your buck? Why negotiate with your physician for a lower fee, or go to a hospital that offers you a better deal? I mean, if some agency promised to cover certain canned goods, vegetables, packaged meat, and breakfast cereal at the grocery store – and all you had to pay was a monthly premium – why shouldn’t you take a giant metal rake and sweep everything into your shopping cart? Why shouldn’t you buy Snooty Pricilla’s Hundred-Dollar Apricots or Pompous Edward’s Oats & Grains for Billionaires? You’re not the one digging into your wallet (or so you think). The “insurance company” is. Just buy everything you possibly can on that green-lighted list of items the insurance commissioner gave you.
Government outlaws you from buying out-of-state insurance. Government makes it harder for you to buy a low-cost, high-deductible, catastrophic-only policy with all the mandates it piles onto the spreadsheet of your insurer. (Take that, 19-year-old orphan.) Government directs a whopping fifty percent of all transactions. It’s worse than that bossy twin sister who acts like she’s your married-for-life spouse. The system is government-subsidized, government-regulated, and government-controlled. The “experts” and patricians who sit on central planning committees and administrative regulatory boards are dabbling in our affairs and tampering with our lives every step of the way. They want to mold citizens, like clay, into their ideal image – patients, doctors, commissioners, and insurance clients. It’s like they’re in a high school art class all over again – except this time, they get to mush, squeeze, and fiddle with us. (Teacher, teacher! I made AETNA into a charity organization now! Watch what else I can do!) Physicians and nurses are pushed around like slaves, to some omnipotent, bureaucratic, managerial state. Our most intimidate health decisions are constantly micromanaged and second-guessed by the rule-makers (scribble, scribble), pencil-pushers (chomp, chomp), and “trade” police (wee-oo, wee-oo) that occupy the halls and offices of Washington.
The reason why doctors are flying the coop and moving away to far-distant lands (or merely wrapping up their careers altogether) is because of the piles of paperwork and the tangle of complicated, bureaucratic edicts that are almost like, well – the feeling you’d get if you were lost in the deep, exotic forests of the Amazon, breaking a sweat trying to hack and shear through the mess of leaves and prickly vines blocking your way. That’s how physicians feel about all the regulations that muddle up their practice. They can barely keep up – what with all the fine print and statutory “revisions” that are literally hatched up overnight by the unelected Gods who run these agencies. There’s no legislative debate. These bureaucrats can’t be tossed out of their throne by voters. And nobody really knows what’s going on because a lot of this happens behind closed doors, with very little public oversight. It literally makes one’s head spin. The pay is decent, but the draconian litigation laws, procedural guidelines, and government-enforced responsibilities among State-approved specialists are a whirlwind of bureaucratic torture. No wonder we have doctor shortages.
Out-of-this-world premiums, drug prices, and medical fees are not “market-created,” or necessarily an inherent part of the American free-enterprise system. Anybody who wails about the government turning a blind eye to “rapacious penny pinchers” and “insurance industry robber barons” needs to get their head screwed on straight. These things are a direct result of government interference – of a government set-up where third party payers dominate, entry into the medical field is restricted, the approval process for new tablets and medications can take over a decade, and insurance companies practically have a business model fit for a taxpayer-funded welfare agency, thanks to all the coverage mandates they’re slammed up against the wall with by our overzealous, fanatical, “social justice” do-gooders in government.
The president is right that our medical system doesn’t reflect America’s core values. He’s right that the poor and uninsured, in many cases, get the short end of the stick. His heart is in the right place when he shares stories of unfortunate souls who were unlucky enough to be stricken with terminal illnesses they couldn’t treat, of children with leukemia, of young women with breast cancer and young men with prostate cancer. It tugs at the heart strings of every person with an ounce of compassion – who doesn’t like to see people suffer and doesn’t like to see tragedy strike families who don’t deserve it. The President isn’t a bad person. But he’s dangerously wrong when he tries to point fingers at the insurance industry, or pin the blame on Republicans who oppose socialized medicine, or condemn capitalists for not wanting to go the way of Canada or Britain with our health care system. He’s wrong that the government isn’t doing enough to make health care “affordable” or “help” people in need. It’s already doing way too much.
And what’s he prescribing for this country will only make things worse.