State-run health care advocates try again

Orange County Register (CA), March 16, 2009
Porterville Recorder (Porterville, CA), March 16, 2009
Desert Dispatch (Barstow, CA), March 16, 2009
Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA) March 16, 2009

Arnold rightly vetoed similar plan last year. This year, who knows?

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto is all that saved Californians from suffering government-run universal health care. He properly complained it looked too much like socialized medicine. A similar proposal has been introduced again in the Legislature. If it passes, would the governor still disapprove? Or will health care be the next free-market principle Mr. Schwarzenegger sheds on his steady march leftward?

“Well, socialization is not an ugly word in Washington, D.C., these days,” joked the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. He said that to fix what he calls a “health care crisis,” his bill would eliminate insurance “middlemen,” who he says waste money.

Leno’s Senate Bill 810 would impose a single-payer, government-run system to “make all California residents eligible for specified health care benefits.” A new bureaucracy would set fees for services and pay claims. Government policy-makers, planners and quality controllers would be given broad new powers. The system would “prohibit health care service plan contracts or health insurance policies from being issued for services covered” by the government system.

“Like all utopian promises, the idea of free health care for all sounds wonderful,” writes Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute in her book, “The Top 10 Myths of American Health Care.” But a government-run health care system would be an enormous mistake. “It’s an empty promise built upon a foundation of myths.”

Nevertheless, the myth persists for Mr. Leno and 43 co-sponsors of his bill. It might be instructive for Mr. Leno to look at his city before imposing on California a system like the one failing there. San Francisco’s so-called universal health care system for residents is facing $100 million in cuts because, despite a desire “to provide care for everybody,” public health chief Mitch Katz concedes, “We can’t provide a Cadillac for a small number of people.”

That’s the inherent problem facing public commissioners, planners and overseers. Not everyone can be provided everything. When that point is reached, as it has been in San Francisco, government, rather than consumers, determines who receives treatment and how much.

Government is a poor final arbiter of service, quality and costs. “Would you want to eat government-made food?” Ms. Pipes asks. “Would you want to live in public housing?” Why, then, should Californians hand over vital health care to government?

Some claim the U.S. system is inferior to Europe’s government-run systems. Ms. Pipes counters: “Americans have a better survival rate for 13 of the 16 most common cancers. Among men, an American has nearly a 20-percent better chance of living for five years after being diagnosed with cancer than his European counterpart. American women stand a 7.2-percent better chance of living for five years after a cancer diagnosis than their European counterparts. Perhaps that’s one reason why tens of thousands of foreigners come to the U.S. every year for medical treatment. They’re usually seeking advanced and sophisticated procedures that are simply unavailable – or rationed – in their home countries.”

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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