Eat It, Doctors

To paraphrase Ayn Rand, in the battle over socialized medicine from 2009-2012, nobody ever stopped to consider the perspective, needs, wants, and rights of … the doctors themselves.

Case in point, from a recent story reported by [4/24/14]:

While the debate continues over how many ObamaCare enrollees are actually paying their premiums, one aspect of the law temporarily rewards those who actually stop paying – and doctors may wind up bearing the cost.

“This law provides a 90-day grace period for people who have subsidized ObamaCare exchange plans and stopped paying their premium,” said Betsy McCaughey, health care author and former New York lieutenant governor.

But the insurance companies are only obligated to cover the first 30 days of the 90-day grace period

“You’re still entitled to care for another 60 days,” said John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. “The insurance company doesn’t pay, you don’t pay, who pays? Well, the doctors and the hospitals have to eat it. That’s a very strange feature of this new health reform.”

It’ s not just ObamaCare. It’s health care as we know it.

ObamaCare took health care as we know it, and made it even worse. It did so by the same unstated and unchallenged assumptions of government intervention in health care since the beginning of time (actually, since Medicare or somewhat earlier, i.e. health insurance regulation begun in the 1930s.)

Allow me to suggest a psychological exercise. The purpose here is not to be morbid. It’s simply to place you more in contact with objective reality, as it applies to you personally.

Imagine you have just been diagnosed with a significant illness, such as cancer. It’s possible you will survive, but you’ll have to obtain the best medical treatment available. Focus on this fact for at least five minutes. Think about nothing else but this recent diagnosis. How do you feel? What are you thinking? What images pop into your head? Where does your mind travel? In this situation, what are you most counting on, and hoping for?

Personal answers will vary, but I imagine for most of  you, the answer will be: Good doctors. And good hospitals, as well. Those who have already survived bouts with heart disease or cancer know this better than anyone. The minds and capacities of doctors: without these, all the money and even the best technology in the world will not save your life.

I’m not suggesting you dwell on the fact we will all eventually die, most likely from some form of illness. I am asking you to recognize how important medical care is. It’s shameful, wrong and dangerous to politicize medicine as we have allowed our elected officials to do.

Politicizing medicine is done in the name of what politicians and others claim is the best interest of everyone, “so all will be covered.” What could be wrong with universal coverage, right? But if you sacrifice the well-being and welfare of doctors in the process, then exactly how does that help the patient? And remember my psychological exercise: We are all potential patients.

Instead of passing ObamaCare, and making government mismanagement of hospitals and doctors’ practices even worse than it already was, we should have done what the federal government did for airlines (not airports, but airlines, at least) back in the 1970s: Deregulate. Government only partially deregulated airlines, but efficiency, competition and costs all moved in a more rational direction, because customers (passengers) were more directly involved in, and responsible for, the purchasing and ultimately the pricing of airlines. Some shrieked that deregulations would result in planes immediately falling out of the sky and plane tickets costing $1000 each at a minimum, but exactly the opposite happened.

What we need in medicine is a free market. Even a partially free market, as we have in airlines or other industries, would help a lot. This frightens people, because they think they shouldn’t have to worry about cost when considering hospitalization, illness, and doctor care. But everything worthwhile costs something. Cell phones, computers, automobiles, vacations — they all cost something, and we expect ourselves to make wise decisions in a marketplace of competing options, prices and countless variations of all kinds. We don’t look to somebody else to make those decisions for us, least of all the government, and we would resent the intrusion if anyone attempted to do so.

Why is there none of this consumer-driven, self-responsible attitude when it comes to medical care? As important as cell phones, computers, automobiles and vacations are, medical care is more important. When you need it, at least.

If you think you can wish into existence (via vote) the effortless provision of good medical care when you actually come to need it, then you’re making a big mistake. Yet that’s what ObamaCare does, and it’s not just ObamaCare. ObamaCare did not start the fire, but it sure has poured gasoline on it.

Just ask doctors. They’re the ones we’re asking to “eat it.”

Be sure to “friend” Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest.