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Health Care Freedom

Health Care Freedom " Are We There Yet?

By: Karen Kwiatkowski

Like a long trip we may remember from childhood, Americans are wondering when the federal health care trip we are on will be over.  In terms of rules, regulation, and the centralized government and insurance systems, we are definitely not there yet. 

Formalized health care in America employs over 14 million people, with another two million employed in the insurance industry, and nearly a million employees of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.  More than 100 million Americans have their health care subsidized as a tax-funded government entitlement.   The cost of tax-funded health insurance for active duty and retired military families has nearly tripled in the last decade, rising to $49 Billion a year, nearly 10% of the Pentagon budget.   The latest government attempt to control Americans and funnel more money into the healthcare and health insurance industries seems to have been written by insurance companies and the American Medical Association, and includes a mandate that all Americans purchase private insurance or else pay additional tax and penalties each year that they do not comply. 

HHS proudly proclaims that it processes a billion claims a year, from the 25% of Americans who are on Medicare and Medicaid.  Assuming that fraction is 75 million Americans, that’s over 13 claims a year from each one.  Of course, this includes thousands of fraudulent claims each year, at $60 billion annually, approaching 10% of the overall health care spending in this country.  To this fraud, we must not forget the fraudulent but lucrative maneuverings of the pharmaceutical industry, and the creation and promotion of brand new illnesses to be treated with expensive prescription medication. 

Most of us are already aware of the increasingly militarized government"medical-insurance-pharmaceutical complex.  It’s Uncle Sam, the National Proctologist, and it is frightening.   Tax threats and federal propaganda aside, in fact drugs and vaccines are increasingly mandatory, and more and more personal or familial choices in health care are regulated by government.    Government attention is focused angrily and aggressively on those choosing foods, drugs, therapies and healing practices that fall outside of government medicine, and hence the government-medical-insurance racket.

The federales demand that we buy and ingest big pharma’s subsidized drugs and vaccines without question, but prohibit cancer patients from using privately grown or purchased marijuana in their own homes.  Our dead-broke municipalities are criticized for ending fluoridation, because it is part of a federal government created “market” for an otherwise dangerous industrial by-product.   If a person seeks alternative care or treatments, the government criticizes, and the subsidized and protected health insurance industry recoils.  And forget about raw milk, raw anything, or ever getting access to free-market food that has never been inspected by a government apparatchik.  Even those with religious exemptions to the massive and interwoven rules and regulations are increasingly pressured to conform to the state and its corporate mandates.  In 2011, the first and fourth amendments are dead letters.  The state is our savior, and we own neither our bodies nor our capital. 

This regulated, constrained, government-ordered and government-contaminated system is for us today a modern version of the snake oil salesmen of the nineteenth century frontier.   Of course, this is an insult to the original snake oil salesmen, who only convinced their customers to try their wares.  Unlike Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor, Food Safety Czar, the traveling salesmen of yore never forced their customers to buy, consume or be injected under threat of jail, committal to mental institutions, confiscation of farms, businesses and property.

What of health freedom, then, in this age of America’s second serious experiment with National Socialism?   Like other freedoms we exercise, health freedom starts at home, and in the mind and heart of each individual.   Most of us understand that maintaining our health is indeed an important part of self-ownership " and most believe our physical body is something that we own.  If we are not sure, we might recall to the 13th Amendment, which forbids involuntary servitude unless we are being punished for a crime of which we have been convicted. 

It follows that a starting point for health freedom, and good health in general, must be, “No involuntary servitude.”    If this indeed is our mental model, we would never submit to ailments that have in many cases been dreamed up by pharmaceutical advertisers, and we would apply common sense to the idea that we should visit doctors in order to suggest some medicine we read or heard about.    We should make up our own minds about what might work to solve our real and imagined health problems.  We would own our own minds, and involuntarily serve no one " not the pharmaceutical industry, and not Secretary Sibelius and Mr. Taylor.   This goes for our children and our families as well " they are not government guinea pigs, and shouldn’t be raised to be.

If we own ourselves, and we do, then we have to own our bodies, and that means doing what so many Americans are already doing -- trying to live healthier lives, avoiding addictions, eating foods that promote health, avoiding unhealthy habits or balancing them with health-restoring habits.    In this we find that the government-pharmacological and agricultural axis is sending mixed messages.  The USDA wishes to sell subsidized dairy and grain products, so it tells us we should have plenty of these.  If we didn’t have a USDA to subsidize grains and dairy, to promote food purchase through various food aid programs, and to advise us as to what is “good” to eat, no doubt we’d eat better and be healthier.  To suggest that the government advice on what to eat, and its subsidy of food for the poor has made us less healthy may be seen as sacrilege " until you look at the results of the Great Society programs on steroids today.  Government subsidized food is fattening, and those who buy into the government recommended consumption models quickly become overweight and unhealthy.    If the government printed, promoted it, or pronounced it, we should pretty much run from it.

Clearly, for health freedom, we need to be separate from government in thought and deed " but we should be closely integrated with our families and communities.  The understanding that we have of what works and what doesn’t in maintaining our health, and also our awareness of environmental and dietary concerns, are statistically important not in a rare headline far away, but as it impacts our own family and community.  To be healthy, we ought to listen to our neighbors, and be aware of our environment.  The infamous story of ground water contamination portrayed in the movie Erin Brockovich was a story that we find again and again.  It tells us that our neighbors, our family and our community are the first to know of health hazards " not corporations or government.  Localism and localvore movements can be educational, but for real health freedom we must be aware and connected to our neighbors in a far more fundamental way.  

There are those who would argue that only government is big enough and kind enough to help us when we have a catastrophic injury, health care crisis, or need expensive care at the end of life.   That these conditions are rare, and should be rare, is fundamental.  But government involvement " in other words, health care delivered through a forced collective " means it will be one size must fit all, and behaviors that are rewarded (but not necessarily smart, sensible, or healthy) will increase.  Government interference in health care means warped and counterproductive incentives, and it means false pricing data for investors, providers, patients, the marketplace and scientific communities.  It will inevitably and inherently be unfair.  In the end, those who can go above, underneath, or outside the system, will do so, and those left with the government system will suffer and die prematurely.  This is the problem that Hayek, Orwell and Solzhenitsyn have all described in detail.    Hayek’s closing words in his popular book, The Road to Serfdom, offers a better prescription for American health care.  He writes, “The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this:  a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” 

We are not there yet " but keep in mind we have some rules to live by, and these rules of living will bring health for ourselves, and for millions of others:   1) We, and our children, are not and never will be involuntary servants to the state. This fact legitimizes our actions to buy, promote, and consume the foods and drinks we choose;   2)  We own ourselves, and this means practicing in a myriad of ways, good mental and physical health, and avoiding the slavery of both addictions and self-limiting belief systems;   3)  We should recognize and remember that we live in families and communities and within a living society, not in the abstract concept of a maternal and patriarchic state, and; 4) We must embrace the only truly progressive principle, which is also a healing principle: Freedom! 


 
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