Friday, 02 April 2010 00:00
With the House of Representatives passing a health care bill, we are on the path to getting some kind of national health care plan; socialized medicine, with all the attending horror stories, bureaucratic bungling, mismanagement, and corruption the Tea Party protestors fear. What avenue undertaken by government on a large scale is not utterly festooned with these things? But for the sake of future historians, let’s acknowledge that this revolution in health care is because the current system is awful. It has bankrupted families and contributed to the malpractice that kills and injures more Americans than the Vietnam War.
Putting aside all the horror stories, just look at our health care system in its workday mode. I currently take a “maintenance drug.” That means a medication that requires multiple prescription refills; a medicine that needs to be taken over the course of many months or longer. I’ve had to deal with clerks, billers, pharmacists, multiple doctor’s offices, and medical insurance representatives; been asked to fill out the identical forms I filled out a week earlier; had to repeat myself on the telephone again and again and again and again to employees who spoke broken English, didn’t seem to care what I was saying, or were suffering from some kind of developmental disability; and once spent four minutes and 23 seconds, according to the digital clock, endeavoring to establish the spelling of my last name. Well, you get the picture. None of these efforts were to make arrangements for a heart transplant. They were to obtain a dozen pills that cost pennies to manufacture and are produced with an industrial technique less complex than the one that produces soup crackers. It would have been easier, cheaper, and less time-consuming to “score” some illegal narcotic or prescription drug that had “fallen off the back of a truck” on a street corner.
We will indeed get socialized medicine. All of the people I dealt with will then be unionized civil servants. No wonder increasing numbers of people obtain drugs illegally, purchase their medication in Mexico, and have their elective surgery in Costa Rica.
Socialized medicine will do little for the image of government. I mean, tens of thousands of Americans home school their kids because they are convinced that it’s the only way they will get a decent education. Tens of thousands of Americans own firearms, registered or otherwise, because they are convinced that it’s the only way they will be safe in their homes and businesses. I’d hate to think of people scrubbing-up for surgery in the living room, anatomy text in hand, or establishing a neighborhood apothecary in their garage.
Finally, I don’t claim to have the answer to our health care problems. It’s a complex issue and probably entails a multiplicity of solutions. I do know, however, that replacing money-hungry corporate bureaucracies with power-crazed governmental bureaucracies is not one of them.
(Mr. Manton is vice president of the Levittown Historical Society. The views expressed in this letter are his and not necessarily those of the Levittown Historical Society.)