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'Let’s adopt the national health care of dying countries', by Craig Cantoni

By Craig J. Cantoni
Jan. 19, 2010
Several industrialized countries have mortality rates that exceed birth rates.  Unless they change their social welfare policies and immigration laws to encourage higher birthrates and population growth, they will cease to exist in their current form in a few decades.  This is especially true for European countries that have a large and largely illiberal Muslim population, which, because of higher birthrates, will eventually outnumber the non-Muslim population.   Even if these countries somehow survive as liberal democracies, their social welfare costs will become unsustainable, especially if the United States stops subsidizing their national defense.
T. R. Reid glosses over this in The Healing of America.  An advocate for national health care for the United States, he instead uses misleading statistics and communitarian views of rights from such statist organizations as the United Nations to make the case that Americans should adopt the health care systems of other industrialized nations, including the dying ones.  Like so many advocates of national health care, he looks at the issue in a vacuum and not in the larger context of what a smothering welfare-state security blanket does to the psyche, values, industriousness, and survivability of a nation.
To his credit, Reid presents a balanced overview of the history and workings of national health care, including the many warts, such as long waiting times for treatment, bare-boned facilities, rationing, unsustainable cost increases, and, in his words, the “shafting” of physicians and other health care providers.  For this reason alone, the book should be read and kept as a reference by those who have an interest in the health care debate. 
Unfortunately, Reid either ignores an important reason why the United States appears to spend more on health care and get less in return than other industrialized nations.  
For example, although he correctly details the dysfunctions, inefficiencies, sub-par health outcomes, and coverage gaps with American health insurance/care, Reid gives no explanation of the primary cause of these problems, other than to incorrectly imply that the cause is the profit motive.  As readers of these pages know, the primary cause is the destruction of a true consumer market in health insurance/care at the hands of the government.  Seven decades of misguided tax, labor, and welfare policies have created a Rube Goldberg contraption of cost shifting, third-party payments, hidden prices, red tape, malpractice litigation, and rent-seeking corporations that use their political clout to stifle competition.  At the same time, there has been a crowding out of private charity, personal responsibility, and saving for the infirmities of old age.
If, as Reid suggests, the profit motive is bad for health care, then wouldn’t it also be bad for other necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing?  Shouldn’t profits be replaced by socialism and a single-payer system across all life-sustaining industries?  Reid doesn’t address these questions.  However, he does address the philosophical issue of health care as a right.
Reid praises the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which, among other invented “rights,” grants the right to health care, or to be more accurate, free health care.  Tellingly, he makes no distinction between positive and negative rights and thus is not concerned that government coercion is used against some citizens for the benefit of other citizens in order to fund national health care and limit costs.  Nor is he concerned that national health care violates the right of self-ownership by giving the state control over the bodies of patients and the labor of physicians.  As a result, he doesn’t ponder whether American health care can be improved without coercion or at least with far less coercion than that exercised by other nations.
The book has the additional flaw of comparing U.S. health care costs and outcomes to Germany, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan.  These nations are markedly different from the U.S. in racial make-up, levels of immigration, diets, size, and history.  For example, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Taiwan are mostly racially homogenous (France doesn’t publish racial statistics).  Switzerland, with a population of only eight million, finds it much easier to maintain solidarity and enact reforms than a multiracial nation of 310 million.  Japan has low a low rate of heart disease and diabetes due to genetics and diet.  It also has restrictive immigration laws that maintain racial purity and keep out people with AIDS and other diseases.  And none of the countries has absorbed as many unskilled and uneducated immigrants in poor health as the United States.  
On the last point, Reid holds up the other countries as paragons of fairness and justice because of their national health care, although the United States has admitted a larger number of poor immigrants to its shores than all of them combined.  Coupled with its economic freedom and class mobility, the U.S. has given tens of millions of transplants the opportunity to rise above the poverty, ignorance, and substandard health care of their homelands.  But this attribute has lowered the U.S. in international rankings of health care and in the eyes of Reid and the United Nations.  Apparently, the U.S. would have more international esteem if it were to have the immigration laws of Japan.
Yes, the American health care system should be reformed, but American values and individual liberty shouldn’t be sacrificed in the process.  For sure, contrary to the advice of The Healing of America, the U.S. shouldn’t emulate dying countries.
Mr. Cantoni is an author, a former business executive in charge of employee benefit plans, and a longtime advocate of health care reform and critic of employer-provided health insurance.