In their weekly radio chat Thursday, Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn discussed the horrors of government ownership of health insurance. Steyn is Canadian by birth, has also lived in the UK and now lives in New England; so he knows all too well what a raw deal government insurance is. In addition to the utter inadequacy of it all, conservative leaders need to fight this and fight it very hard. Hewitt is identified as “HH” and Steyn as “MS”:
HH: Well now, this all is a roundabout way of coming, because I’m trying to figure this out, I’m spending the month of May on American medicine, asking doctors, posting their e-mails at Hughhewitt.com, why do the Democrats want to do this? We have no evidence that it works anywhere. They call it a government option, but it’s really single payer, and it really means rationing. Everywhere you try it, you just mentioned Bulgaria, Great Britain and Canada, it is a disaster. Why do they want to do it?
MS: Well, what is does is, if you’re a Democrat, what it does is it changes the relationship between the citizen and the state. It alters the equation. If you provide government health care, then suddenly all the elections, they’re not thought about war and foreign policy, or even big economic questions. They’re suddenly fought about government services, and the level of government services, and that’s all they’re about, because once you get government health care, the citizens’ dependency on government as provider is so fundamentally changed that in effect, every election is fought on left wing terms. And for the Democratic Party, that is a huge, transformative advantage.
HH: Oh, that’s very interesting. Now in Canada, though, don’t people get mad at their quality of health care? Don’t they throw the bums out and perhaps urge a return to American style medicine?
MS: No, because the strange thing is that when people, even when people have really bad experiences, you see this in the British press all the time whenever they have one of these horror stories about someone who goes in because they’ve got a bad case of, they’ve got a case of pneumonia, and they wake up and find their left leg’s been amputated because the wrong memo went around. All those horror stories are always followed two days later by someone writing a fawningly, groveling letter about having received mediocre, third world care, but being eternally grateful for it. It really does, government health care is really the ditch you want to fight in, because once you surrender that, I think it’s very difficult to have genuine self-reliant citizenry every again. It really fundamentally changes the equation.
HH: Then where’s the AMA? Where is business? Why hasn’t this battle been joined even as the ink is getting very dry on the big Obama rewrite of American medicine?
MS: Well, because I think most of the spokesmen for the conservative argument in Washington do not make the case. And they don’t understand that once you’ve got a government system, it becomes like any other government program. On Friday, you have to pay the doctor, you have to pay the nurse, you have to pay the janitor. So your only way of controlling the cost is to restrict access to the patient, to the customer. And that’s why once you’ve got a government health care system, everything is about waiting lists and waiting time. It’s about waiting two years for a hip operation. It’s about waiting 9 months for an MRI. It’s about waiting, waiting, waiting.