There is a joke — or not so much of a joke — among American Indian tribes that warns against getting sick after June.
You see, the federal government already has a single-payer health care system. Two actually. The Department of Veterans Affairs runs a system for veterans and the U.S. Indian Health Service, run by the Department of Health and Human Services, exists for 2.5 million American Indians.
Most Americans are familiar with many of the troubles plaguing the VA system, where some 307,000 of America’s finest died while their applications for care were processed. Exact numbers are not known because of shoddy record keeping. One vet who died in 1988 still had a pending application in the system in 2014.
Less known to Americans is the abomination known as the Indian Health Service. Its Fiscal Year 2017 budget was $6.6 billion, an increase of 53 percent since 2008.
The joke mentioned above refers to the Catastrophic Health Emergency Fund, which has a budget of $53 million. Historically, it has been depleted by June every year, though federal officials said increased allocations keep the fund solvent until about August.
American Indians also joke that if you need quality health care, then commit a crime because prison health care is better than that provided by the Indian Health Service.
The VA and the Indian Health Service suffer from the same problems of any government-run health care system the world over. Funding will always be hostage to politics.
Take the British system.
A study a couple of years ago found that some 750 patients died each month in government hospitals because of poor care. The man in charge of Britain’s health care system, Jeremy Hunt, has suggested parents should go online to diagnose their children’s rashes rather than burden the government health care system.
British dental care is so bad that charities that work in the developing world are stepping in to provide dental care to the Brits because more than 60,000 people are hospitalized each year with tooth decay. Dentists, once they reach their yearly quota of patients, stop working because there is no incentive for them to take more patients.
This is what happens when government seize the health industry: Funding shortages, higher costs, inefficiencies, quotas, waiting lists, rationing, death panels, substandard care, unnecessary deaths, labor shortages, etc.
This is not a theoretical debate. All one has to do to see the problems with government-run health care is look around. One doesn’t have to look far as there are two failing government-run systems right here in the United States.
Three, really, if you recognize that health care in the United States is largely government run already.
Each new reform of health care during the last 100 years has been simply to fix the previous reform of health care by taking another step down the path of socialized medicine.
And here we are doing it again. We are debating health care reform to reform previous health care reform.
Unfortunately, one thing has become clear in the last few months of the national debate on health care: The people have already lost. The Republicans and Democrats essentially want the same thing, a government-run health care system. They are simply arguing over the specifics.
It takes a special mind to believe government can successfully run a health care system for 326 million Americans when it can’t even run a system for 2 million American Indians.
What is ignored in the debate is that even if government-run health care could provide excellent care — a notion disproved with the examples above as well as by common sense and the laws of economics — the ends do not justify the means. One cannot care for the individual while supporting a collectivist notion such as socialized medicine that essentially forces people to be slaves to the state.
Any system that forces people to do something is morally wanting and antithetical to a free people.
Proponents of government-run health care argue, nonsensically, that the rest of the world is doing it.
The United States should be a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world. That means we should not steal money at the point of a government gun from those who earned it and give it to those who didn’t, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.
The only real reform that can save the American health care system is one based on liberty and the free market. This is not theoretical. Examples proving it are readily available to those who want to see.
Unfortunately, big government statists are notoriously blind.
Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is an attorney with the Hearn Law Office in Wapakoneta (419-738-8171) and night editor of The Lima News. Reach him by telephone at 567-242-0398, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ThomasLucente.