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Free medical care - too high at half the price (10/21/2007)
By John Edstrom

A story of major interest last week was Congress' inability to override President Bush's veto of the bill to renew and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. SCHIP was originally supposed to provide health insurance coverage to families that did not qualify for Medicaid, but couldn't afford health insurance of their own.

However, under the present bill, states could extend eligibility to households with incomes as high as $61,950, according to George Will's recent editorial. He points out that the median U.S. income is $48,201. Our own U.S. congresswoman, Michelle Bachman, warns that the eligibility limit could be even higher, $83,000, and that the bill would make it easier for illegal immigrants to qualify for SCHIP funds.

Whatever the exact details, it is clear that the new program would create a handout to the middle class, quite unnecessary in terms of meeting any crushing need, and provide a convenient way station on the track to a single payer system, better described as socialized medicine. Under this regime, you may be sure that if you are happy with your present health care, it will be taken from you, thoroughly degraded, and given to someone else.

Our current system's worst faults are the result of the government's jiggering of the tax code back in WWII which made health insurance deductible as a business expense to the employer but taxable if the consumer purchased it directly, making the best and most economical choices for himself. This is the main reason that health care costs have risen so dramatically along, of course, with the usual plethora of government mandates to insurance companies. Also, of course, the effectiveness of medicines and treatment have increased enormously, and that is not without cost.

Socialized medicine will address only that last category of increase, by wielding its only real cost-cutting weapons " rationing and price controls. Thus cost savings will come through a decrease in quality of care and treatment. The rest that government will give us will be a stultifying, inhuman bureaucracy which will gradually make matters worse by allocating an ever greater proportion of its resources to itself, requiring constant funding increases while producing ever shoddier results.

But there is worse news, as illustrated by another of last week's banner headlines regarding the "Maine middle school birth-control furor." Apparently the state of Maine (or at least Portland) has received such an influx of new citizens from Massachusetts, that school officials there have unveiled a plan to provide birth-control pills " without parental consent or knowledge " to scholars as young as 11 years of age. Says the principal of the King Middle School: "I think it makes people nervous to think middle school students are having sex...But there's a small population out there that needs protection."

Ah, that inexhaustible well of compassion among politicians and public servants for the dear children! Some parents, burdened with old-fashioned bourgeois notions of morality, might be bothered by the message sent to the population of middle schoolers at large: Whatever your parents might think, we approve of you kiddies having a full rich sex life and here are the goods to prove it. And we are the relevant authority.

If government can arrogate such power and authority for providing "free" education, what will it presume when it provides "free" medical care? It might be nice, in the short run, for Uncle Sugar to hand out freebie medical care, baby-sitting, and all sorts of other services to relieve families of their responsibilities. But the price tag is the loss of control over the rearing of our own children, and ultimately, the running of our own lives as free men and women - way too high.




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