Jay Reding.com

The Face Of “Universal” Healthcare

Ron Bailey writes that the Walter Reed scandal shows what government-run medicine would be like for the rest of us:

Crappy hospitals, endless waits, mountains of paperwork and, at the end of the day, no real accountability from the people who run the joint. Folks, if the government can’t or won’t take good care of our injured soldiers, what makes you think that it will take good care of little Sally or Uncle Bill?

Health care in the United States is screwed up. This is largely due to bad government policies, e.g., third party payment encouraged through the tax code and multiplying state insurance mandates that unnecessarily boost costs. As the example of Walter Reed is warning us, putting total control of all health care in the hands of those who wrecked it in first place–Congress, states and federal agencies–is the wrong way to go.

The VA system has been broken for a long time — despite massive increases in funding in recent years. And as any vet who has gone through the VA system will tell you, it’s been broken for a very long time. It isn’t that VA doctors are necessarily any worse than anyone else or that the VA doesn’t have enough equipment, it’s that there’s a bureaucratic mentality that adds tons of needless complications to everything.

The Walter Reed scandal will hopefully make things better for America’s injured servicemembers — but it should also serve as a warning to the rest of us. The essential problem with a government-run healthcare system is that it lacks accountability. Eliminate the ability for people to choose another system and the only remaining choice will progressively get worse. The situation at Walter Reed is the result of a military bureaucracy run amok while those who were responsible for providing care had little authority. That isn’t a particularized fault to this instance, but a systemic one to any government-run bureaucracy.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum reminds us that Walter Reed isn’t part of the VA system. He’s quite right, although the larger point remains. Any government bureaucracy, be it the VA or the military medical system experiences the same pressures due to their makeup. The source of both their problems are the same, and the same would happen to the civilian system were it centralized in the same way.

16 responses to “The Face Of “Universal” Healthcare”

  1. Mark says:

    “Ron Bailey writes that the Walter Reed scandal shows what government-run medicine would be like for the rest of us:”

    This is perhaps my favorite government argument. “Government sucks even when we control it….but vote for us anyway.” We heard the same thing after Homeland Security/FEMA screwed up Katrina relief beyond comprehension.

    According to your own logic, the more your team screws up its duties, the more it validates your view of government, thus requiring the electorate to vote for an encore of your recent incompetence.

    Also funny how the party of “personal responsibility” refuses to EVER say “We messed up!” on ANYTHING, whether it’s being wrong about every single prediction made about the war in Iraq or the maltreatment of the soldiers that is uses as pawns to shield themselves from criticism of that war. The first thing that comes to Jay Reding’s mind is how he can blame the Walter Reed scandal on “socialized medicine”. If only he had the nerve to tell the soldiers that he feigningly lionizes when it suits his flag-waving bravado that the military’s commitment to their post-service well-being is tantamount to socialism.

    When it comes down to it, the conservative message to American soldiers the second they climb out of that camouflage uniform is the same message that they give to the single mother who they insist carry her latest pregnancy to term: “Let the bums eat grass!”

  2. Eracus says:

    What?? The VA is a bureaucratic nightmare of socialized medicine?? I thought Paul Wellstone fixed all that. Does John Kerry know about this?? You’d think that considering how much the visionary Democrats care about the little guy, the VA would reflect the glory of the revolutionary Party. But then they would have to support American troops, wouldn’t they? And we can’t have that now, can we????

  3. Mark says:

    Eracus, um, you do realize that George Bush, a Republican, controls the executive branch now right? And for most of the last 12 years (up until two months ago), Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress. Even at the top of your game of unparalleled dementia, you’re gonna have a hard time blaming Paul Wellstone and John Kerry for the current state of affairs with the VA. It sure will be amusing to watch you try though.

  4. Mark says:

    And Jay, isn’t the only logical conclusion from your post that the government should cease-and-desist from delivering promised post-deployment health benefits to veterans, lest their “generosity” metamorphasize into “socialism”?

    In the cowardly fashion typical of the right when their back’s against the wall, you’ve avoided commenting on the questions I raised in the post above. But considering that you sell your armchair militarism by hiding behind “support of the troops” on a near-daily basis here, it’s probably worth clarifying a post in which you not only deflect the abysmal delivery of health benefits to current war veterans, but imply that government is out of its jurisdiction in guaranteeing those promised health benefits to veterans after the camouflage uniform comes off.

    Must be quite sobering for these patriotic soldiers to discover those “defending the cause” the most loudly from halfway across the globe fancy them welfare mamas feeding from the socialist trough once they return home.

  5. Jay Reding says:

    And Jay, isn’t the only logical conclusion from your post that the government should cease-and-desist from delivering promised post-deployment health benefits to veterans, lest their “generosity” metamorphasize into “socialism”?

    Not at all.

    In the cowardly fashion typical of the right when their back’s against the wall, you’ve avoided commenting on the questions I raised in the post above.

    Because, quite frankly, I’ve better things to do with my time.

    But considering that you sell your armchair militarism by hiding behind “support of the troops” on a near-daily basis here, it’s probably worth clarifying a post in which you not only deflect the abysmal delivery of health benefits to current war veterans, but imply that government is out of its jurisdiction in guaranteeing those promised health benefits to veterans after the camouflage uniform comes off.

    Except for the part where that position has nothing to do with that actual position. The government should provide medical care for veterans, but they should either do so in a system that is less bureaucracy or simply do so by providing vouchers for private health care.

    Must be quite sobering for these patriotic soldiers to discover those “defending the cause” the most loudly from halfway across the globe fancy them welfare mamas feeding from the socialist trough once they return home.

    Which of course, is an argument pulled straight from your posterior with absolutely no bearing on the actual argument being made.

    Arguing with your own straw men only demonstrates an unwillingness to broaden your horizons beyond your own prejudices.

  6. Mark says:

    “The government should provide medical care for veterans, but they should either do so in a system that is less bureaucracy or simply do so by providing vouchers for private health care.”

    Vouchers are a form of socialism….and usually the most costly kind. Whether it’s Medicare, Part D (a mess of giveaways to pharmaceutical companies that artificially creates “competition” on the taxpayers’ nickel and is ultimately more expensive than a single-payer entitlement would be) or student financial aid packages to private colleges (where the “vouchers” drive private school tuition rates well in excess of what they’d be able to charge in the marketplace of higher education), there is no government intervention more costly that when it attempts to grow the profits of private interests. If we have a funding problem for the VA now, the problem would at least double if we farmed the problem out to the insurance companies with a blank check from taxpayers.

    “Which of course, is an argument pulled straight from your posterior with absolutely no bearing on the actual argument being made.”

    No it isn’t. If government providing health care for its military veterans is tantamount to socialism, then one can only conclude that the receivers of those services have the same unhealthy dependence on the “welfare state” as anybody else “trapped” in a socialist state.

  7. Jay Reding says:

    Vouchers are a form of socialism

    Except for the part where they’re not even remotely close to socialism. Socialism requires the government making the decision. Vouchers put the control in individual hands.

    That argument is completely wrong on its face.

  8. Mark says:

    In that case, why not have taxpayers provide the capital for every “private” business venture? We’d all be paying 95% tax rates and market forces for the prices of goods and services would be entirely out of whack, but I’m sure profits would never be better for “private enterprise”.

    Bottom line: if the money source for “vouchers” is government, government has ownership over said enterprise. For a guy who claims to be in love with the open market, you sure don’t understand it very well if you believe that any economic system propped up with taxpayer-financed “vouchers” is anything even remotely related to an open market.

  9. Eracus says:

    Gee whiz, Mark, you do realize that the Veterans Administration has been an entrenched bureaucracy and a political football since the Revolutionary War now, don’t you? Of course you do.

    Typical of you not to have any sense of humor though, especially given that the Democrat Party held power in Washington for most of the 20th Century, fought the Big War, Korea, and Vietnam, and yet never did much of anything to help American veterans beyond the G.I. Bill. Instead, mostly all every Democrat congress did was raise taxes and cut defense spending. You do realize, of course, Mark, that the first casualty of decreased defense spending was and always is the Veterans Administration, don’t you? Of course you do.

    That’s what the 60s and 70s were all about, right? Make love not war, remember? Who do you think that hurt the most, Mark? The politicians? Or the veterans? And before that, in the 50s, guess who held the congressional show-trials and demanded and obtained the prosecution and court-martial of repatriated Korean POWs? It sure as hell wasn’t the GOP, Mark. It was your Democrat Party.

    So, golly, Mark, the Democrat Party has been the anti-war, anti-military, and anti-American party ever since Stevenson opposed Eisenhower in 1952. It dominated the U.S. Congress from 1954 to 1994. The Democrat Party hasn’t supported the military for more than 50 years, Mark, does not support it now, and is in fact actively working this very moment to again cut down American soldiers at the knees on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a matter of public record that the first cowards to run away from this fight were the Democrat Party leadership, which immediately thereafter leveraged its political power through the media to accuse and defame our brave fighting men and women of everything from widespread torture to ethnic cleansing, while at the same time attempting to extend and secure constitutional protections for the Islamic enemy trying to kill us all.

    So you see, Mark, it is absolutely laughable and could not be more ridiculous that you would here now suggest that somehow or other the current state of affairs at the VA is George Bush and the Republicans’ fault. It just ain’t so. But then, for you ignorant barking moonbats who think history is just a bunch of old news, if you’re out of milk and eggs it’s George Bush and the Republicans’ fault. So it comes now as no surprise that you would here again present yet just another stupid, idiotic argument further demonstrating beyond any reasonable doubt that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and really couldn’t care less.

  10. Eracus says:

    Unbelievable. This is just priceless:

    “In that case, why not have taxpayers provide the capital for every “private” business venture?”

    Planet Earth to Mark, who else but the taxpayer provides the capital for every private business venture now? That’s what taxpayers do when they are not paying taxes, Mark. Who else is going to do it? The government?? The government has no capital, Mark, all it has is debt.

    This is why you have absolutely no credibility here whatsoever, Mark, you are just a bleating gasbag, man. Anybody who could make a statement like yours above has absolutely no understanding of even the most basic fundamentals of market economics and American free enterprise. You really just don’t have a clue, do you, you poor bastard? Thank a teacher!

    By the way, speaking of vouchers and higher education, where on God’s green earth did you get yours? I’m thinking lawsuit.

    Unbelievable. I think that may well be the most ridiculous thing I have ever read on the internet. Sombody send in the clowns.

  11. Jay Reding says:

    In that case, why not have taxpayers provide the capital for every “private” business venture? We’d all be paying 95% tax rates and market forces for the prices of goods and services would be entirely out of whack, but I’m sure profits would never be better for “private enterprise”.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/r/reductio.htm

    Bottom line: if the money source for “vouchers” is government, government has ownership over said enterprise. For a guy who claims to be in love with the open market, you sure don’t understand it very well if you believe that any economic system propped up with taxpayer-financed “vouchers” is anything even remotely related to an open market.

    Which is no more so than me buying an iPod means I get to sit next to Steve Jobs at the next Apple board meeting. Vouchers are the antithesis of socialism because they deliberately devolve power from government back to the individual. Furthermore, we’re only talking about benefits for soldiers, which is a narrow economic case.

  12. Mark says:

    Eracus:

    “The Democrat Party hasn’t supported the military for more than 50 years, Mark, does not support it now, and is in fact actively working this very moment to again cut down American soldiers at the knees on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    Democrats don’t support the military? If it wasn’t for future Democratic politicians, there wouldn’t have even been a military capable of fighting all the wars that current politicians support. From George McGovern to Tom Daschle to John Kerry, one after another “unpatriotic liberal” served his country in actual battle while conservative heroes pursued “other priorities” (like, for instance, cocaine). The tradition continues with Iraq war veterans returning home in droves to run for elected office….almost exclusively as Democrats. I’m sure Patrick Murphy and Paul Hackett would be amused to hear Eracus from Bemidji, who fancies himself a persecuted “minority” despite his biggest worry being that the top tax rate has fallen by only 70% instead of 80% in the last half century, bemuse how he has the military’s best interest at heart while they are trying to sell the nation over the “Islamofascists!!!”.

    Jay:

    “Vouchers are the antithesis of socialism”

    Vouchers are the antithesis of capitalism. Capitalism involves PRIVATE investors pooling resources (or taking on the investment single-handedly) to provide goods or services to consumers. In what possible way can you defend government intervention via “vouchers” into this process? And if taxpayer-financed “vouchers” are an acceptable means to prop up profit margins for health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and private colleges, where do we draw the line to where spending taxpayer money on vouchers is not best practice? Should government provide vouchers for Denny’s on the basis that “breakfast is the healthiest meal of the day”? Should government provide vouchers for Jack Daniels purchases on the basis that “a drink a day is good for your heart”?

    The fact that you can even be arguing proves your lack of seriousness regarding allegiance to principled orthodoxy to the free market. At one level, you bemoan crushing taxes and the largesse of government. At the next, you want to subvert market forces by introducing “vouchers” into private enterprise knowing full well that it will lead to ruinous artificial inflation of the subsidized services just as it has with prescription drugs and private college tuition.

    There is a difference between a principled disciple of free-market capitalism and being an ethically flexible corporate whore. Guess which one you are?

  13. Jay Reding says:

    Vouchers are the antithesis of capitalism.

    No, they are not. Even F.A. Hayek endorsed the concept in “The Constitution of Liberty” — and nobody can justifiably accuse him of being a socialist.

    Capitalism involves PRIVATE investors pooling resources (or taking on the investment single-handedly) to provide goods or services to consumers.

    No, a capitalist system allows for public investment as well. Again, even Hayek supported certain state subsidies (such as for the Vienna opera). Your version of capitalism is a straw man version of the concept.

    In what possible way can you defend government intervention via “vouchers” into this process? And if taxpayer-financed “vouchers” are an acceptable means to prop up profit margins for health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and private colleges, where do we draw the line to where spending taxpayer money on vouchers is not best practice? Should government provide vouchers for Denny’s on the basis that “breakfast is the healthiest meal of the day”? Should government provide vouchers for Jack Daniels purchases on the basis that “a drink a day is good for your heart”?

    Another reductio argument.

    The US has decided that it is in the interest of our veterans to provide them with healthcare in exchange for their service. That is a perfectly legitimate function for the government to do. Now, either the government can run their own system for veterans healthcare (the VA) or they can provide for private vouchers (as the DoD does for its employees).

    The consequence of your argument is that the government provides no healthcare for veterans, which is an extremely harsh position — especially given the fact that many veteran’s health concerns are related directly for their service.

    The fact that you can even be arguing proves your lack of seriousness regarding allegiance to principled orthodoxy to the free market. At one level, you bemoan crushing taxes and the largesse of government. At the next, you want to subvert market forces by introducing “vouchers” into private enterprise knowing full well that it will lead to ruinous artificial inflation of the subsidized services just as it has with prescription drugs and private college tuition.

    Except neither of those things are true. The price of prescription drugs isn’t effected by Medicare Part D and there’s no evidence that program is leading to artificial price inflation. It’s a bad program, but not for that reason. Secondly, public university education is also seeing a massive increase in tuition costs as well — it’s not just private schools.

    In other words, you’re bashing another one of your silly little strawmen. It’s intellectual masturbation. There’s nothing wrong with free-market capitalism and public investment — and if you knew a thing about what free-market capitalism really is you’d understand that. Why don’t you go to the library, pick up a few books by Hayek, and then come back when you’re ready to comment at an intellectually rigorous level.

  14. Eracus says:

    Wow.

    “Should government provide vouchers for Denny’s on the basis that “breakfast is the healthiest meal of the day”?”

    Your government already does, Mark. Breakfast at Denny’s may be an oversimplification, but what do you think food stamps and rent subsidies are? What you should be asking yourself is why is it okay for Democrats to use vouchers to house and feed poor people in inner city ghettoes but it’s not okay to use vouchers to educate their underprivileged children? Do you think it’s because they don’t want to subvert the forces of the free market? Since when has the Democrat Party championed the free market?

    Jay is exactly right, Mark. You are not even in the arena for this discussion. You’re not completely unintelligent, but you are clearly outside the realm of informed opinion.

    And no, Mark, Democrats do not support the military. They haven’t for more than 50 years, quite the contrary. Like John Kerry, the politicians you mentioned are just using their military patronage to advance their political ambitions. That is why they are not career soldiers. Again, Mark, pound your shoe all you want, but it is completely transparent that you are just making stuff up as you go along and have no credibility whatsoever and even less of an education.

    And this being the United States of America, that’s all on you, pal.

  15. Mark says:

    “The US has decided that it is in the interest of our veterans to provide them with healthcare in exchange for their service. That is a perfectly legitimate function for the government to do. Now, either the government can run their own system for veterans healthcare (the VA) or they can provide for private vouchers (as the DoD does for its employees).”

    Uh, yeah. This is what I was saying from the get-go. It was you who attempted to equate health care services for veterans with “socialism” (and while we’re on the subject of “socialism”, isn’t it interesting how Germany’s economic growth rate in 2006 was higher than the United States).

    “The consequence of your argument is that the government provides no healthcare for veterans, which is an extremely harsh position — especially given the fact that many veteran’s health concerns are related directly for their service.”

    Let’s can the bait-and-switches. I advocate government paying for the health services of its veterans. You don’t….or at least you didn’t in your original post in this thread. The consequence of your argument (that government can’t handle anything right, and thus outsourcing its duties to private enterprise via vouchers is always preferable) raises the following conundrum: If government can’t be trusted to provide health care services for its veterans without lavishing corporate welfare upon private health providers through vouchers, then perhaps government can’t be trusted to provide defense services for the soldiers before they become veterans. Why don’t we outsource national security to the lowest bidder in the private sector with their own vouchers? Again, it’s the only natural conclusion that can be drawn from your worldview.

    Ah, the twisted webs we weave….

    “The price of prescription drugs isn’t effected by Medicare Part D”

    Oh, of course it is, Jay! Would Bristol-Myers be able to charge $11 per Lamosil pill if not for the subsidy that government indirectly provides them through no-strings vouchers to consumers? The fact that nations where government controls prescription drug programs directly have lower costs than does America just goes to prove the inherent dysfunction of the quasi-socialist corporate welfare state you celebrate in America, where vouchers to private enterprise impedes market forces and raises costs. It’s the worst of all worlds unless you happen to be a pharmaceutical baron being showered with taxpayer dollars.

    “Secondly, public university education is also seeing a massive increase in tuition costs as well — it’s not just private schools.”

    True enough…..and both are pricing themselves out of existence long-term as the public is gonna grow impatient with subsidizing institutions of higher learning at rates of double-digit inflation every year as resources grow more limited. The difference is that “private schools” should be just that…private. They should be competing with public universities by aiming for competitive tuition rates, not feeding from the same trough. For government to inject tuition subsidies to private colleges assures education inflation at an unsustainable pace.

    Ditto for subsidies to private high schools and elementary schools. They are competitive with public schools now because they operate within the educational marketplace. Add taxpayer-funded vouchers into the mix and all you’ll end up with is a variation of what’s going with colleges. The vouchers will allow “private schools” to raise tuition rates to the extent the educational marketplace is thrown completely out of whack. They will no longer be accountable for performance and taxpayers’ contribution to education funding will double.

  16. Eracus says:

    Yes, Mark. Thank you for your incipient, ignorant gibberish. Next question?