Colorado medical socialism
by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on February 15, 2007.
The Colorado Medical Society (CMS) advocates socialized medicine, at least according to the claims of some of the group's leaders. They just don't want to call it that. No, no, no -- it's not "socialized medicine" -- it is merely "mandatory," "universal" medicine that's "overseen by a governing body." Nothing socialistic about that!
However, one member of CMS has already publicly issued a second opinion. We'll get to that.
The Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform -- see http://www.colorado.gov/208commission/ -- was created "to study and establish health-care reform models for expanding coverage, especially for the underinsured and uninsured, and to decrease health-care costs for Colorado residents."
In a letter dated Jan. 25, 2007, Lynn Parry, president of CMS, wrote to the Commissioner "[o]n behalf of my colleagues and the Colorado Medical Society." Parry states that "as a medical society we have long advocated for comprehensive public health and system-wide reform."
Parry also mentions CMS's Physicians' Congress for Health Care Reform. That body's "Guiding Principles," "attached" to Parry's letter for "reference" and quoted above, is available through cms.org. Parry states, "We are currently vetting operational approaches for these principles with our colleagues and will continue to refine them."
CMS's presumption that "the entire system needs to be reformed" is false. We already have pretty good medical care. Doctors retain a significant measure of independence from political force. Most people have ready access to the finest medical treatment in the world, as well as to medical insurance.
True, several problems persist within American medicine. Often insurance is tied to employment and (largely because of that) it often covers routine care rather than just emergencies. This leads to use with little regard for cost. Many doctors and hospitals are drowned in red tape and paperwork. Some people have all their expenses paid by taxpayers, while others struggle to pay their own consequently higher medical costs.
The source of all such problems is the same: government meddling in medicine. The federal government drove insurance to an employer-pay system with continuing tax distortions and previous wage controls. Then the federal government socialized a huge chunk of American medicine with Medicare and Medicaid. Add to this a myriad of federal and state controls on medical provision and insurance. Such interventions have led to skyrocketing costs, a damaged insurance market and bureaucratic control. The only legitimate reforms consist of ending such forcible intervention.
The proper role of government in medicine, as in all fields, is to protect individual rights. People have the right to control their own income. People have the right to voluntarily enter in contractual relationships, including for medical treatment and insurance coverage.
People do not have a right to force others to pay for their medical treatment, to force doctors to treat them or to force insurers to cover them. The use of force to transfer wealth or acquire medical services violates rights, and it is the source of modern medical maladies.
We suffer from a deficiency of liberty. Yet CMS's approach is the political equivalent of treating anemia with bloodletting. CMS wishes to sacrifice what liberty remains in medicine by subjecting the "entire system" to "a governing body."
According to CMS's "principles," it would be illegal not to have "medical coverage," as defined by the "governing body." The meaning of the term "mandatory" is forced. As in, ultimately men with guns will come and make you do it. The meaning of the term "universal" is that everyone who cannot afford medical coverage -- as determined by the "governing body" -- can force other people to pay for such coverage. This will result in more people going to the doctor for every minor ache and throat scratch, thereby driving up costs for the rest of us. And people will have an incentive to actively place themselves in a position to get "universal" medical care, funded by others.
A second meaning of the term "universal" is that doctors must be forced -- again, ultimately by men with guns -- to treat patients, regardless of the doctors' judgment and on the terms dictated by the "governing body."
Another consequence of "universal," "mandatory" medical care is rationing. CMS's "principles" state, "Health care coverage... should emphasize personal responsibility, as well as societal obligations, due to the limited nature of resources available for health care."
Translation: The "governing body" must force individuals to behave "responsibly" and not consume more medical resources than "societal obligations" allow.
After reading CMS's "principles," Dr. Paul Hsieh wrote a brief response that he asked be read for the Commission. He stated:
"The CMS statement does not express my views, nor does it express the views of other physicians I've spoken with. I'm in the process of composing a more detailed dissenting response to the CMS and to the Blue Ribbon Commission, but I wanted to go on record now as saying that the CMS statement was issued 'not in my name.'
"I am opposed to any form of socialized medicine, regardless of whether it's called 'single payer,' 'universal mandatory coverage' or some other euphemism. Such a system would significantly compromise my ability to practice good quality medicine and would be harmful both to me as a practitioner and to my patients. Thank you."