Individualism is the Foundation for Medical Care

It is very understandable when citizens resist government force that compels them to violate their religious principles. If the teachings of, say, Zoroaster, are incompatible with Obamacare, we shouldn’t have to reassess our views of Zoroastrianism in order to maintain our health or our principles.

But that misses the point. We have reached a very sorry state in America if the basis for preventing government intrusion in our decisions about our own health care is an appeal to religion.

The writers of the United States and Bill of Rights did not expect or want Americans to share the same religious view. Based on the American experience, they expected the exact opposite, or there would have been no need to protect the practice of any religion — conventional or not. They required the government to stay out of decisions about religion and views on any subject expressed by speech or in the press.

The value on which all of this was based is individualism. Our defense of freedom, religious or otherwise, must be based on this fundamental value.

Individualism remains the best tool to deny government the power to force us to buy health insurance in general or forbid the purchase of the kind of health-care plan we prefer. Individualism is the basis on which to resist any government decree about the medical services or medications we must accept or those that must be forbidden.

Individualism is the basis on which to deny state insurance commissioners the ability to forbid purchase of health insurance approved by insurance commissions in other states. (None of the state insurance commissioners trust the other commissioners, although the rest of us are forced to abide by the one in our state.) Individualism requires us to deny the power of those commissioners or Obamacare bureaucrats who require us to buy only policies with a long list of coverage requirements inserted by providers who have successfully lobbied politicians to force everyone to pay for their services.

When government violates the principle of individualism, it harms everyone, including the religious. But when people defend their rights only on the basis of their religious views, they become targets for those who would otherwise leave them alone. Freedom of religion (or freedom of anything) enrages the collectivist, intellectual, political and journalist elites if it stands in the way of their control over every detail of our daily lives. That makes religion itself the target of this rage for reasons having nothing to do with the merits or faults of any particular religion, resulting in vicious attacks on the religious for political reasons. It distracts the public and media from the real issue, which is not whether particular religious ideas are true or false, wise or absurd, but the matter of who has the right to make such evaluations.

Defending our rights on the basis of individualism forces these intellectual thugs to attack all of us who want to make our own decisions and manage our own lives — and exposes them for doing exactly that.

All Americans can unite on the importance of the freedom of us all to make our own decisions about insurance and medical care, and of the freedom of all physicians to make medical decisions based on their own best judgment, without government intervention.

Why Illness Has Become a Crime

Recently, Arizona governor Jan Brewer received a lot of media attention when she proposed fines and other financial punishment for overweight citizens and smokers on Medicaid. Others targeted by such programs include diabetics who fail to follow instructions from their physicians on treatment of their diseases. Other states are headed in the same direction.

I remember a few years ago a network news anchor reading a story on the cost of obesity and the controls that must be imposed on those who inflict our medical system by being overweight. With a tone of scathing moral superiority, he declared that “the rest of us will have to pay for it.” A few weeks later, a diagnosis of lung cancer unfortunately forced him permanently off the air after decades of smoking. But he had voiced one of the two key propaganda tools by which the government destroys our individual rights in health care.

The first tool is guilt. Patients must be morally disarmed by convincing them — not of their own responsibility for their health — but of their guilt. You may not make your own decisions because you eat too much, or too many trans-fats, or too much salt or too many sodas. You recklessly smoke, or drink alcohol or coffee or use drugs. You don’t exercise enough or drive safely. Therefore you must accept your guilt and do what you are told.

That is the opposite of taking individual responsibility and facing consequences.

The second tool is to disable your judgment and your mind. Neither you nor your physicians are capable of making correct medical decisions. Only the government knows the effective treatment and hence the drugs and medical equipment to permit. Who are you to know what is best? Politicians, not physicians, have become the ultimate source of wisdom in health care.

The clear implication of such decrees is that physicians must become enforcers who turn in their patients to the government for failure to follow medical instructions.

It must be said that there is considerable financial pressure on the states due to soaring Medicaid costs. Obamacare will push tens of millions of additional people into Medicaid — with the states forced to match spending (one of the more deceptive accounting tricks used to disguise the total cost of the legislation.) But that does not excuse the unleashing of the health-care police on American citizens.

Those who accept that they have a “right” to health care which the government forces others to provide will gradually discover that they lose all freedom to decide what treatment they will actually receive. They will have surrendered their judgment and moral self respect to politicians. They will have to accept government punishment for not buying insurance, punishment for smoking, punishment for eating too much, punishment for drinking and punishment for deciding how they want to live their own lives. Physicians who follow their own best judgment instead of government protocols will be financially punished.

A government that pays for the health care of our bodies will decide that it owns our bodies. Illness will be judged a result of our criminally irresponsible negligence.

The only remaining choice will be to restore freedom to the practice of American medicine.

The War on the Constitution

Challenges in court to the constitutionality of Obamacare have exposed the broader agenda of those who are committed to the permanent expansion of government power which that legislation represents.

The specific legal issues are almost irrelevant because Obamacare is so clearly outside the scope of limited, constitutional government.

This has made it necessary for the advocates of unrestrained government power to either attack the Constitution itself or the very concept of constitutional limits on the tyranny of the majority or of a ruthless minority elite.

Some try to sidestep the attack on the Constitution by substituting a war on English. They claim to support the Constitution, but deny that words have any objective meaning. Supposedly we do not know and cannot know what the writers of the Constitution, or even of recent amendments, intended to say. Everything is a matter of interpretation and the words mean whatever anyone wants them to mean.

Of course, that is arbitrary. Unless we abandon reason and reality completely, the Constitution cannot mean thousands of mutually exclusive things.

Therefore, in practice, the words mean whatever those in power decree that they mean, destroying any limits on their power.

Those who are less nihilistic attack the Constitution as evil or at least irrelevant. One way of doing this is to attack the intellect or character of those who wrote it. Their Constitution was just their opinion, so we should submit ourselves to the intellectual and moral giants in office today.

Another method is to take statements in the Constitution out of the context of the rest of the document. The most frequent example of this is the use of a goal in the preamble: to promote the general welfare.

Politicians have used this to maintain that any idea which they claim promotes the general welfare is constitutional even if it exceeds the enumerated powers of the Constitution.

Of course, even if the preamble did trump the entire Constitution, it still would be subject to the amendments, which began with the Bill of Rights.

But the Bill of Rights is dispensed with when someone claims to discover a new right which the Constitution does not mention. Thus an invented “right to health care” is used to destroy the right to free speech and press, because expressed opposition to such an absurdity or to any government policy is labeled “hate speech” or “terrorism” that should be banned. And those who do not buy insurance face a penalty without trial or a tax on nothing.

The Interstate Commerce Clause, which intended only to prevent trade barriers and taxes between states, is ignored when states forbid the purchase of insurance across state lines but used by the federal government to control noneconomic activity and even nonactivity.

Some claim technological change means we should ignore the Constitution. Because it did not anticipate television, computers and airplanes, we should throw it out. But change existed in the eighteenth century too, which is a reason the writers provided for a deliberate and considered amendment process.

Some say that parts of the Constitution are immoral, invalidating all of it. One example is that the writers needed to take into account the reality of slavery when the document was written. This ignores the fact that the document led to the creation of a society and economy in which slavery could not and did not long survive. Improvements to the Constitution resulted — by the constitutional means the writers provided.

Thus we see why, if Obamacare stays, the Constitution must go. That is why those committed to maximum government wage war on it with such contempt.

The Government Boot on Your Doctor’s Neck

We live in an age when the Secretary of the Interior and the White House Press Secretary proudly and publicly proclaim that they will keep their “boot on the neck” of an oil company. This new manifestation of “hope” and “change” is ominous at a time when the government is rapidly escalating its involvement and control of all aspects of American society. That is especially true in the health-care arena, but anyone with a neck should be concerned.

If you have been wondering how the health-care legislation enacted this year will work out in practice, there has been a strong early indicator from Idaho. Eric Holder’s Justice Department has used the Antitrust Division’s civil action and criminal prosecution powers to force orthopedists to accept government reimbursement rates for their services. Accepting anything other than the government rate is considered a criminal conspiracy against market pricing.

How is that? The Department of Justice declares that “government prices are market prices.” The Idaho Orthopedic Society is guilty of criminal conspiracy to fix prices if its members charge anything other than the price fixed by the government.

By the way, these physicians have also been told that they must accept rates paid by Blue Cross and set by the Idaho Industrial Commission for workers’ compensation claims.

In the Orwellian world of the Justice Department, if physicians decide on a price, they are engaged in a criminal conspiracy, and if the government forces a price on everyone, that is a “market price.” When the clear meaning of words is replaced with government fiat in this way, all limits on arbitrary government power and its use of force are destroyed.

For two generations the American government has reimbursed physicians and hospitals for less than the cost of treatment for Medicare and Medicaid patients. In addition, physicians who treat Medicare patients are forbidden from charging them for any service not covered by Medicare. These inequities result in the shifting of costs to other patients and private insurance companies.

While providers who decline to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients have not been charged with criminal penalties (so far), the threat to further reduce reimbursements serves as a powerful weapon for politicians to rake in funds. They effectively turn organizations like the American Medical Association into public employee unions focused on getting their share from the government.

The ground was laid some time ago for this mistreatment of physicians. Last year, during the debate on health-care legislation, a New York Times editorial viciously attacked physicians because they “have been complicit in driving up health-care costs.” The editorial said that physicians are guilty of this because they “largely decide what medicine or surgical treatments are needed,” which makes many of them “unabashed profiteers.”

What President Obama calls health care “reform” will, over the next few years, make it quite clear who will decide which medicine or surgical treatments you need. It will not be your physician.

As the government becomes the exclusive authority over the cost of health care, it will inevitably become the exclusive authority over the treatments permitted in health care. Physicians or anyone else who stand in the way will become “enemies of the people.”

There are times when political rhetoric must not be ignored. There are some things that must not be allowed to just go by. Rhetoric can become government action. When a member of the cabinet or of the White House staff threatens to keep their “boot” on anyone’s neck, when physicians are made criminals because they do not accept a government payment that does not cover their costs, “boot” is not a metaphor but the Justice Department on our necks.

Redeeming Reform

Does American history move in only one direction — toward government domination of every detail of our daily lives? Did we reach a high water mark of government power when Obamacare was signed into law? Or was that just the crest of a wave that will sweep away the few remaining decisions we can still make about the things that are most important to us? The answer may begin to take form this year.

Do we want our physicians to be able to use their own best judgment about our care? Or shall we watch them suspend that judgment knowing their insurance reimbursements will be cut if they do not follow government protocols and “best practices”? Should we just sit back and watch the last of our freedoms waste away, or should we do something?

Our first step must be to redeem the concept of reform. In the last century, those who have advocated reform have usually defined it as more government employees, more regulations, more agencies, more spending, more taxes, more special payoffs to the clients of political spoils systems, and more powers for government. Failures resulting from such “reform” have always been followed by calls for more government authority, spending and power.

The Federal Reserve Bank was created nearly a century ago to end recessions, depressions, unemployment and inflation. As it has failed in all if these tasks, its authority and power have grown. Now we have calls for more financial “reform” to increase its powers and those of a host of other agencies. Government creations like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac destroyed the home mortgage market and are encouraged to intervene more. Meanwhile, the rapidly diminishing remnants of a free market take the blame.

Medicare and Medicaid have an astonishingly consistent track record of wildly exceeding spending projections and failing to fund tens of trillions of dollars in liabilities. Fraud is uncontrolled. Yet the president and Congress have successfully used this disaster as the basis for assuming control of the remainder of private insurance. (Whatever you think of your insurance company, it has to find the income to pay medical bills. Congress can only pretend to do that by borrowing or printing the money.)

That destructive course will only continue unless we transform the meaning of reform from what the government can do to what it must stop doing. We are being overcome by a towering wave of government that corrupts citizens and politicians alike, as surely as bread and circuses destroyed the Roman Republic. Before it is too late, we must reverse the tide. We must not submit to politicians who promise to take care of us if we surrender our freedom to them — we must throw them out of office.

Americans must decide whether or not they will continue to surrender their personal choices about everything — health care, the education of their children, the energy and food they need to live, and the financial system so beautifully managed by the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd.

The era of ever diminishing freedom and ever increasing government must be brought to an end. We must start afresh and build a new Empire of Liberty. We must fight to take America back, and that battle can start with health care — in the courts and at the ballot box. It will be a long battle, but we must begin it now and fight one step at a time, for as long as it takes, if our lives and freedoms are to survive.

Profits Are for People

Those who advocate for government controls in medicine cry, “People, not profits.” They say profits are unacceptable in medicine because our health is so important. But it is precisely because our health is so important that profits must be vigorously defended. If quality health care disappears for Americans, it will have been killed by the perverse morality of those who want to destroy profits and replace them with government force. All free enterprise is considered an enemy of the people because it is based on the pursuit of individual happiness.

If profits disappear from medicine, they will eventually be forced out of all aspects of the economy. For example, the President of the American Jewish World Service recently wrote in The New York Times to advocate for government control of world food production and distribution: “Food is a human right, yet we allow those in power to treat it as a commodity to be bought and sold by profiteers, interested in a quick buck.” Our model for abundant food must therefore be North Korea or Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture. This has always resulted in mass starvation, but power elites feel morally superior because they have eliminated profits.

Such horrors are possible because the political and journalistic “conventional wisdom” is that profits are evil for everyone (except, of course, for law firms, lobbyists and Hollywood producers). Unprofitable firms are condemned and bailed out. Profitable firms are just condemned.

Acceptance of an anti-profit morality will have the same devastating effects on medical care as it has on the diet of North Koreans. Life-saving new drugs and medical equipment will be forbidden if anyone is allowed a return on investments in them. Allowing patients to die while on waiting lists becomes morally superior to making a profit by saving a life. After all, wanting to save your own life or health is the ultimate “selfish” act.

More opportunities for profits will bring down the cost of health care. Unlike government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, free-market enterprises, in their need for profits, ultimately reduce fraud and waste. As Wal-Mart and its competitors have shown by reducing drug prices and providing affordable walk-in clinics, better and more affordable health care rests on it being profitable. Competition — when the government does not forbid it — promotes better and more responsive care of patients, and the need for profits encourages savings.

Can the government do better? The Department of Motor Vehicles and the United States Postal Service are not examples that suggest government will provide more comforting health services.

A Gallup poll on ethics in November 2009 indicated that Americans trust members of Congress less than they trust car sales people. A CNN poll this year indicated that 86 percent of Americans think that government is broken. While Americans might think health care is broken — although many like their own care — do they think a broken government can fix health care?

A front-page story in USA Today in December 2009 reported that fast-food chains have better food safety standards than school lunchrooms. Restaurants more vigorously test for and cook out bacteria and pathogens in beef and chicken than do public schools. Of course, school lunchrooms do not need to make a profit. Can government really be expected to do a better job with health care?

Profits are an important American value without which life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are impossible. Forbidding profit in medical care replaces life with death, liberty with force, and the pursuit of happiness with self-sacrifice. Let’s not kill health care and our freedom at the same time.

The Summit of Fantasy

The president’s summit on health care revealed major schisms between public policy and reality. Those who feel that they must keep repeating to Americans that their health care is “broken” overlook a more fundamental problem.

Most Americans, based on a lifetime of experience, don’t think the medicine practiced by their own physician is broken. So they don’t believe surveys conducted by the United Nations claiming health care is better in other countries. But more importantly, most Americans — 86 percent, in a recent CNN survey — indicate that they think government is broken. So whatever they think of their medical care, they are unlikely to think that a broken government can fix it.

Yet, at the summit, the president and majority leaders behaved as if medical care would be best improved by a hundred or so new government agencies, boards and commissions to micro-manage most health-care decisions — from requiring physicians to administer patient treatments dictated by government protocols to requiring medical equipment manufacturers to pay fees for daring to invent new technologies.

Additionally, prior to the summit the president had to propose the creation of a new “Health Insurance Rate Authority” to tell insurance companies what premiums they can charge after fifty states already tell them the same thing. (No thought was given to how eliminating some agencies would improve costs.)

Not since Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged has anyone thought up more wasteful and destructive government agencies to control every aspect of the economy and our daily lives. At least Atlas Shrugged was fiction. Or in 1957 it was.

Fiscal fantasy from the Senate, House of Representatives, and now from the White House, is evident with the claim that spending one or two trillion dollars (depending on how you don’t count it) will reduce the deficit. Of course the only way that this largest increase ever in the size and cost of government could reduce the deficit is by the largest tax increase in history. Americans don’t think that huge increases in the size of government are the best way to reduce deficits.

The most amusing departure from reality was the idea that the president can proceed (and risk the political consequences) without bipartisan support. That assertion is nothing new — nothing has been bipartisan in Congress in the past year, not the bills passed by the Senate and House, nor the president’s recent proposals. That bipartisan ship sailed long ago. But the reality is that the president has not been able to proceed with Democratic support, which is more precarious than ever in the House of Representatives. When you have a large majority in the House — which requires only a simple majority to pass any bill — you cannot blame the Republicans if you fail. But they hope to force everything through, ignoring the meaning of recent elections as well as the next one.

This failure to recognize realities has two major causes, both of which eliminate real and appropriate reform of health care. The first is ideological. Many in the majority cannot conceal their contempt for insurances companies, physicians as “profiteers,” drug companies (whose profits pay for new medications), for all business activity as such. Better no medical care than medical care fueled by a return on investment.

The second cause is feeding the spoils systems of politicians who push for growth in government as the primary objective, for which health care is only the excuse. More government is good, but more specific pay-offs to your own political clients is better.

The president’s summit was a perfect case of form without substance. But it did cast light on the root of our problems in health care.