Monday, December 15, 2008

Dealing with Canadian Care

I admit to entering the Patriot's 'health care debate' with a predisposition to a system of private health care insurance. I believe that the inefficiencies of current health insurance problems are perfectly explained by cumbersome and counter-intuitive regulatory policies which prevent beneficial competition. I believe that these problems will be carried through to a single-payer, universal system and we should, therefore, avoid them.

That said, however, I was duly impressed by Stony Brook's Dr. David Brown, who was arguing in favor of a universal system. His plea for a fair and equal health insurance system is a hard one to ignore, especially considering the 47 million Americans who go without insurance and the many people who get denied coverage despite having insurance.

However, it's dangerous to allow oneself to fall into Dr. Brown's trap of emotional appeal. From a perspective of the personal, who wouldn't want universal coverage? The government's guarantee of safety; the freedom from worrying about having a bad or no insurance policy, is difficult one to reject. And with good reason, because the current system is certainly a corrupt and broken one.

Before letting emotional appeals cloud sound judgment, we must carefully consider the affect that government socialization of industry has.

To do this we must consider the type of care that one would receive under such a socialized health care system. I asked Dr. Brown, during the Q&A session why my Canadian relatives have to wait months for procedures that would be considered "next-day" in the United States, even despite out 'broken' system. His response, which makes sense only on the surface, is that someone in the system, maybe some government bureaucrat on some doctor's advice, decided to put my grandmother on a wait list because they felt that her condition wasn't in immediate need of a diagnostic procedure. Perhaps this was also true for a Canadian cousin, who had to wait six months to get an MRI, despite the continuous painful headaches, which could have been indicative of serious problems.

Dr. Brown claims that he considers health care to be a universal right, but he is supporting a system that doesn't let people exercise that right very well. For, when you have a single payer system, it also means you have no choices. You couldn't get a better health care coverage even if you wanted to, even if you could afford it. You can't pay extra to get extra services. You have to accept the authority of a government wait list that places your health and well-being below another person's.

In truly a private, competitive system, this would rarely, if ever, be the case. If you get put on a wait list that you don't want to be on, simply find different coverage that gives patients more choices. This plan may be more expensive, but shouldn't people be allowed to decide for themselves how much their health is worth? Shouldn't a person decide for themselves, with the advice of their doctor, that waiting six months for an MRI is unacceptable?

People blame greedy health insurance companies for denying care without realizing that government bureaucrats do the same thing, and on a bigger scale, when there is no competition and no incentive to improve quality. Profits incentivize in an atmosphere where competition is insured; incentives lower cost and improve quality to attract consumers. Government is slow to improve the quality of anything, because it does not have to respond immediately to consumer demands. Americans spend more on health care costs today than any other Western nation, even more so than other 'single-payer' countries because we have a patchwork of private/protected and government care.

The ability to choose between products works to produce the most desirable products. I say that it's time to get the government out of direct insurance and so we can let the free market innovate on health care solutions, as the free market does for anything else. A single-payer system does provide health care for all, but the quality of care should not be ignored.

As Alex Chamessian, editor of the Patriot, said, "Do you really want the people who run the DMV running your health insurance?" Waiting on line at the DMV is an expected annoyance. Waiting on a line to receive desired health care is intolerable.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Broken Prospects: The Making of an Obama Foreign Policy

Barack Obama ran on a campaign of accountability, change, and the reestablishment of America's standing on the international stage. Inside these platitudes were a set of declarations and promises, ranging from the immediate withdrawal from Iraq, the closing of camp X-Ray in Guantanmo Bay, ending missile defense systems, to the application of interrogation rules found in the Army Field Manual to other agencies in the government, such as the CIA, NSA, and other intel services. Obama has also made the intelligent choice by keeping SecDef Robert Gates on for another year.

Strangely enough, these promise are being backed away from, or in some cases, totally broken.

1) Interrogation techniques:

Earlier this month, the WSJ reported that sources affiliated with Obama's transition team informed them that U.S. intelligence policy will stay "largely intact." During the campaign, Barack Obama campaigned to end techniques such as waterboaring, and to end the tactic by applying rules found in the Army Field Manual to groups such as the CIA. It appears he is now backing off of this promise. This is a very good thing, but it makes for a very angry bunch of left-wingers.

2) Guantanamo Bay:

Barack Obama had as a part of his campaign, a position on ending the existence of indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Earlier this month, the New York Times of all papers wrote a piece describing the problems of closing Guantanamo. They wrote about the difficulties in undertaking such a task, therefore attempting to soften the blow to left-wingers when Obama actually doesn't close Guantanamo. In addition, Obama's choice for Attorney General, Eric Holder, is on the record saying the Geneva Convention does NOT apply to terrorist detainees. This is another indication of which way the wind will blow on terrorist incarceration in an Obama administration.

3) Ending the Iraq War:

He campaigned to end the Iraq war immediately. Well, now it is abundantly clear he won't. There really isn't much need to explicate on this issue much further. The left has raged against the machine for years, declaring the war in Iraq as an illegal provocation by an imperialistic Western power. The frustration they are feeling right now must be unbearable. Imagine, getting totally cock-blocked (figuratively) by the very man you elected to office. Fratricide, if you ask me.

Obama also ran against missile defense systems, but it is likely they will continue as well; unimpeded.

Finally, Barack Obama has made the competent and intelligent choice of keeping Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on for at least one more year. Gates is a Bush appointment, and the idea of him having a say in an Obama presidency must chafe the collective crotch of the anti-war left in this country.

Although his presidency will most likely stray hard left on social and economic issues, his foreign policy might actually end up being right of center.

To think, the hope for change among the anti-war community in this country was completely unfounded. To think, there might be a relatively similar foreign policy to the administration of George W. Bush. To think, the anti-war community has no friend in an Obama presidency. To think, all the anti-war movement was mere arm candy for Barack.

Only one word comes to mind:


Painful for them. But oh so sweet for me.

Hope eventually wears off, reality bites, and "change" can be changed itself.

By Conor Harrigan