Unlike many of those who actually supported President Obama’s healthcare reform, DrRich always remained confident (even during the darkest days, such as right after the Scott Brown election) that Obamacare would pass.
DrRich’s confidence stemmed from the simple fact that the health insurance industry required this outcome. That industry, having clearly reached the end of its life-cycle and having nowhere else to turn, desperately needed the government to provide it with a graceful exit strategy. And Obamacare, which promised to convert the health insurance industry into a public utility, was as good a deal as they were going to get. And so, while the President and his supporters traveled the land, painting insurers as the very embodiment of all healthcare evil, with sundry hapless victims of insurance industry atrocities in tow (for demonstration purposes), we Americans were treated to the spectacle of the insurers themselves not only declining to defend themselves, but actively adding fuel to the fire whenever necessary to keep reform moving along, and gratefully embracing their assigned role as the villains of the set piece. And in the end we got the healthcare reform the insurers desperately needed.
So, dear readers, now that this thing has finally come to pass, it is time to prepare ourselves for the real fight, the fight whose outcome is actually in question, and which will determine not merely what kind of healthcare system we will finally end up with, but more importantly, what kind of society we will be. That question, of course, is whether individual Americans ultimately will be restrained from using their own resources to provide for their own medical care.
DrRich has said many times that this was to be our real battle. And whenever he has said this, loyal (but misguided) readers have questioned his sanity – or at least, his judgment. There is simply no reason (these critics insist) for our leaders to attempt to prevent individuals from buying some of their own healthcare with their own money. There is nothing in the bill (they go on) that explicitly does so. And besides (they offer as a clincher), we’re Americans, and even our clueless political leaders know that we’d never stand for it. The very notion that our government would try such a thing amounts to simple paranoia.
DrRich sincerely hopes his critics are right, and that his fear over such a restriction to our personal liberties is just one more manifestation of his paranoid psychosis. For, if his critics are right, not only do we have drugs for that, but also DrRich would be allowed to buy them.
DrRich is sorry to say, however, that if we Americans are to suffer no restrictions on our ability to purchase healthcare services with our own money (and, ultimately, on our ability to expend any individual resources for any individual benefit), this outcome will likely result solely from enough of us remaining vigilant, and vigorously fighting oppressive efforts whenever we find them. It will not result from our complacency, or from placing our trust in the beneficence, the common sense, or the respect for fundamental American precepts, of our political leaders.
This will truly be a momentous fight. Its outcome will determine, to a very great extent, what kind of country we will be, and more importantly, whether the Great American Experiment – arguably the greatest secular endeavor in human history – will continue, or will end in a whimper.
In this and in the next few posts, DrRich will attempt to explain himself by addressing three specific questions. 1) Why must individual prerogatives be restrained in our new healthcare system? 2) What evidence do we have that such restraining efforts are already in the works? 3) How have such restraining efforts already become ingrained in our current, pre-reform healthcare system?
Why Individual Prerogatives Must Be Restrained
It is natural and unavoidable for universal healthcare systems to strive to limit individual prerogatives.*
These healthcare systems are “universal” in two senses. First, they attempt to cover all people. Second, almost by definition they cover “all” healthcare services. Under America’s new healthcare law, for instance, our new health insurance utilities (formerly health insurance companies) are required to issue policies (which every American must have) that cover everything. “Qualified” health plans under our new law MUST cover (as laid out in Section 1302): ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, pediatric services, including oral and vision care.
Fundamentally, this “universality of features” reflects a particular philosophy. The central authority is telling the individual that “everything” will be taken care of for them, from soup to nuts. So no need to worry your pretty little heads. But, as always when the central authority assumes all responsibility for providing some aspect of security (in this case, healthcare security), it also assumes all control.
It is important for the government to control all healthcare spending not only because it is the natural state of governments to continually accrue all the power they can (see: Thomas Jefferson), but also because, in the case of healthcare, controlling all expenditures is essential for the purpose of covert rationing.
Allowing individuals to spend their own money fundamentally undermines such a system. It implies that the central authority is actually not supplying all useful healthcare services (when, by definition, it is), and thus implies that the government may be doing some kind of rationing. When one is dedicated to rationing covertly, such an implication cannot be permitted.
Perhaps more importantly, when individuals are allowed to purchase “extra” healthcare, that’s a graphic admission to the unwashed masses that there is extra healthcare to be had. That is, it raises expectations for everybody, and these higher expectations make it that much more difficult for the central authority to pull its covert rationing strings.
(The official reason the central authority will always give for restricting individual prerogatives is one of “fairness.” Allowing the rich to go outside the system would create an unfair, two-tiered healthcare system, etc., etc. But the real reason is that individual healthcare spending undermines the government’s control, and that control is essential for covert rationing.)
The critical importance of controlling the expectations of the masses is nicely illustrated by some of the problems being experienced by the British and the Canadian healthcare systems. In both of these systems, the very visible progress that has been made in the American healthcare system – new drugs, new techniques and new technology – has created new demands and new expectations among Canadian and British citizens. Essentially, seeing what was possible, enough of the population demanded better care that something had to change.
The inability of these universal healthcare systems to ignore such increased expectations has led to an acceleration in expenditures, and even to loosening up the restrictions on individuals. (Both of these universal systems started out, as a simple matter of course, by strictly forbidding individuals from purchasing “extra” healthcare with their own funds.)
Some of DrRich’s critics have argued that such “loosening up” shows that any restrictions on individuals simply will not stand – so we don’t really have anything to worry about. For, if such restrictions cannot be maintained in Canada or Great Britain, how will they ever be maintained in the U.S.? Perhaps. But DrRich suggests that, to the contrary, the fact that restrictions on individuals in Canada and Great Britain systems had to be revised simply illustrates the critical necessity, in any universal healthcare system, of managing expectations. For a failure to manage expectations, obviously, leads to a loss of control. Had it not been for the very visible example of American healthcare to show them what was possible, citizens of Canada and Great Britain quite possibly never would have agitated for “more.” As it is, thanks to the unfortunate example of high-cost healthcare their citizens saw in the U.S., British and Canadian officials were simply unable to manage the expectations of their citizenry.
Now that we too will soon have mandated universal healthcare (much to the relief, no doubt, of Canadian and British healthcare bureaucrats), it will become critically important for our government to manage the expectations of American citizens. Since American healthcare bureaucrats won’t have an annoying external healthcare system to worry about, continually displaying more effective, and more expensive, healthcare options,the job will be somewhat easier for them than it was for their counterparts in Canada and England. For American bureaucrats, managing public expectations will mainly mean restraining individual American citizens from going outside the system, and buying extra healthcare with their own money. This makes restricting individual prerogatives in the U.S. critical, even more critical than it was in our cousin nations. And we should not be surprised if our bureaucrats employ some very devious and even draconian maneuvers to do so.
DrRich believes that they will pull out all the stops to restrict individuals. Whatever methods they employ will, of course, be conducted only for the best of reasons – to have the fairest healthcare system possible, to have the most ethical healthcare system we can devise, and to protect misled Americans from throwing their hard-earned money away on unproven medical services. Whatever the reasons they might offer, their attempt to restrict individual prerogatives will become deadly serious, because doing so is absolutely essential to their real aims.
Covert rationing demands it.
*This is the case in practice, but not necessarily in theory. In his book, DrRich proposed a kind of universal healthcare system in which each American would be provided with catastrophic universal health insurance (which would operate under a system of open and transparent rationing), and in which Americans would then be expected to buy their more routine healthcare, as well as any non-covered healthcare they might want, themselves. (Poor Americans would be subsidized to do so.) But a system like DrRich’s encourages – even demands – individual responsibility, and is therefore philosophically objectionable.
Part 2 of Limiting Individual Prerogatives