The Looming Battle Over Health Care Rationing

The health care battle is heating up. Last week Obama and the Democrats announced that they think a health care reform bill can be passed by July 31st. Now the Republicans have introduced their ideas. What kind of reform will we get? Many expect a government run system, which could be bad news for private health care companies. Today in my AIP column I discuss what we can expect from a government run system and why it could spell disaster:

So what would a government run health care system look like? Probably much like Medicare. That’s a chilling prospect since that system is now in serious financial trouble and facing a $34 trillion unfunded liability. That means it is going to have to find ways to make serious cuts in costs. How is that going to happen? The same way other countries with universal health care systems find cost savings: through rationing, waiting lists, and decreased quality of care.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Medicare is already rationing services. Just recently Medicare Trustees announced the system would not cover virtual colonoscopies, a new procedure that is faster, more comfortable, and much cheaper than the traditional colonoscopy. A CT scan of the abdomen, the virtual colonoscopy is a noninvasive procedure, so it could increase screenings, catch colon cancer much earlier, and save lives. Medicare’s objection to coverage is if a virtual scan detects a cancerous lesion, a traditional colonoscopy would be required anyway, so instead of paying for a duplicate procedure, Medicare will only pay for the invasive procedure. Unfortunately, one procedure does not fit all. The traditional colonoscopy can create medical complications for the elderly, and it deters people from getting scanned at all because it’s so uncomfortable. That could lead to significantly increased costs later on and possibly higher death rates.

If the Democrats pass a government-funded health care system, we can expect many such cost cutting measures like Medicare’s virtual colonoscopy decision in order to pay for health care services. In fact, the rationing of health care services will much be like the rationing that occurs regularly in Canada and the United Kingdom. If you are seriously ill or have a chronic disease or disorder in Canada or the UK, you will encounter waiting lists, rationed services, and possibly outright denials of coverage.

Please read the rest. Later in the article, I discuss the Netherlands, which instituted reforms after decades of heavy government control over their health care system. The Dutch have since completely restructured and now rely primarily on free markets and competition instead of government control.

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