Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Like Lunch, There is No Free Health Care

The Democrats are puzzled as to why Americans aren’t flocking to grab a piece of the “free health care” that their generous and compassionate party is trying to arrange for us. Paul Krugman attributes this insanity to the “zombie” ideas of the Reagan years which, though dead, continue to live among us ("All the President's Zombies" NYT, Aug. 23, 2009).

But Guy Sorman explains in this short City Journal essay ("Paying for Le Treatment," Aug. 24, 2009) that, as it is with lunch, there is NO FREE HEALTH CARE. He uses the recently celebrated French system as an example.

In a New York Times Magazine essay ("Le Treatment"), Sara Paretsky, a novelist travelling in France with her husband (ah, the privileges of wealth) explained how impressed she was by the quality and speed of the care that her husband received when he went to the hospital with chest pains. This care would have been free if they had been French citizens. Instead, the system billed them, but for only $220. She recommends this paradise which can be ours if we would just follow the President into the happyland of hope and change that he promised us and is now trying to deliver.

Wealthy liberals believe this sort of fantasy because they are used to having things just handed to them. They turn on the tap of life, and out flows whatever abundance they desire. They put bad things at the foot of their driveway, and the next day it has magically disappeared. Surely the government--especially the Obama government--can institute a national health care system than mandates low prices from wicked price gougers and top quality care from health care professionals who, as government employees, will become public spirited instead of narrowly selfish in their service to patients.

What a wonderful world. But it exists only in the dreams and delusions of political liberals. The rest of us look at the post office and the IRS, and dread the thought of our health care in the hands of the similarly callous and inefficient.

Sorman ends his brief lesson in the economics of "free" government goodies with this warning:

"In the end, who paid for Paretsky’s husband’s nearly free ride in a French hospital? French workers and taxpayers; American patients; and the young, unqualified, and out-of-work French unable to find jobs because of the unemployment that national health insurance engenders. There is no such thing, anywhere, as a perfect health-insurance system. It’s always a trade-off among competing goods, and the choices to be made are ultimately political ones. Americans commenting on health-care reform should try to make the costs and consequences of these choices transparent, rather than resorting to misleading morality plays."

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