Socialized medicine or freedom?

Today’s health-care debate previews the fall 2008 election, if today’s presidential front-runners win their respective party nominations.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, are promoting reforms that contrast like midnight and high noon.

As Clinton cheers, Congress moves to reauthorize the State Child Health Insurance Program. Launched modestly in 1997, SCHIP was targeted at kids whose families were too prosperous for Medicaid, but too poor for private coverage. Like nearly every federal scheme, SCHIP is metastasizing. Clinton, her Democratic comrades and some weak-kneed Republican appeasers are widening SCHIP into a self-contradictory contraption, complete with a tax hike and a fiscal blunderbuss.

“It is one of our most important national priorities to cover all Americans, and that should start now with all of our children,” Clinton said July 16.

Of course, it depends on what the meaning of the word “children” is.

Washington already lets 14 states cover 670,000 “boys” and “girls,” up to age 25, some of whom have been drinking legally for four years and voting for seven. Ninety-two percent of Minnesota’s SCHIP budget insures adults.

Clinton’s proposal, like the House Democrats’ bill, would cover children in families up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL), double today’s target. Thus, a family of four making $82,600 could receive federal-government medicine. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation’s Rea Hederman estimates, 70,000 “American families are both poor and high-income — simultaneously.” They qualify for SCHIP and the alternative minimum tax.

Madder still, 77 percent of children between double and triple FPL and 89 percent between 300 and 400 percent of FPL already have private health insurance, notes Cato Institute scholar Michael Cannon. Nonetheless, the Democratic House Wednesday night approved $47 billion for SCHIP through 2012, 88 percent above its current $25 billion, five-year budget.

Senate Democrats would fund this extravaganza via a 156 percent cigarette-tax hike — from 39 cents to $1 per pack. Heritage forecasts that 22 million new smokers would have to light up by 2017 to keep SCHIP afloat.

So, SCHIP promises to improve children’s health while exploiting adult tobacco addiction. And if those smokers never materialize, future Congresses simply will invoice smoke-free taxpayers.

“The left is pretty blatant about this being their vehicle to move to universal coverage,” one health-policy expert told me. “Make kids think you get health insurance from the government, and in less than a generation, you’re there.”

While Democrats and some lily-livered Republicans ceaselessly invoke “the children” to impose government medicine, Giuliani does the reverse. His just-unveiled health plan rejects public entitlements and tax hikes and embraces private property and tax incentives to extend health coverage overall — beyond just kids.

“America’s health-care system is being dragged down by decades of government-imposed mandates and wasteful, unaccountable bureaucracy,” Giuliani told New Hampshire voters Tuesday. “To reform, we must empower all Americans by increasing health-care choices and affordability.”

Giuliani specifically would grant uninsured families $15,000 tax exemptions, and singles $7,500, to help them buy private coverage that they, not their bosses, would own, control and transport throughout their careers — much like car, home and life insurance. Funds remaining after insurance purchases could be deposited tax-free into health-savings accounts for routine medical expenses.

He also would let Americans acquire health plans across state lines, as they now do with non-medical insurance. For instance, unmarried New Yorkers, who now must buy such unneeded mandatory benefits as in-vitro fertilization, would be free to secure no-frills plans from insurers in, say, mandate-light Ohio.

Giuliani also would curb malpractice costs by capping lawsuit damages and requiring frivolous plaintiffs to cover victorious doctors’ legal bills.

“If a person gets injured, he should be compensated, but he shouldn’t get the brass ring or win the lottery,” Giuliani explained.

Unlike President Bush, whose happy talk fuels leftist disdain, Giuliani describes Democrats’ ideas with bracing candor. He calls their health proposals “heavily influenced by Marxism.”

“We’ve got to solve our health-care problems with American principles, not the principles of socialism,” Giuliani says. “I know Democrats will say this is unfair, I know they’ll squeal … But I am a realist. I face reality, which is: If you take more people and have government cover them, it’s called socialized medicine.”

(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)


  1. Electric Bill

    I know you aim for balance but I always wonder which rocks you look under for assholes like Deroy Murdock. He sets his piece up like a child’s horror novel, portraying Hillary Clinton’s “socialistic” health insurance plan as the epitome of evil creeping socialism and then brings in Rudy the Rat Giuliani as knight on a white horse, although I doubt anyone would actually describe the weasel-faced Giuliani as such. Giuliani, Murdock and their ilk have been so shrill and harsh in their rhetoric concerning health insurance in the past twenty years that America is facing an enormous crisis, not just in health care, but in economic competitiveness as well. Because health insurance costs are so exorbitant in this country, it is becoming almost impossible for American corporations to compete in international markets with industries from countries with “gasp” single payer government subsidized, dare we say it, socialized health insurance. The interesting thing about Murdock, Giuliani and others from the radical Republican right is they never address the real underlying factors that have driven health insurance costs up to the point of being untenable. That is the rampant greed in the pharmaceutical and health care industry, not to mention greed and dishonesty among insurers themselves. Of course, why should they since these are also their largest campaign contributors? Private insurance companies, and most of ours are private, actively seek to disqualify claims as often as possible. That is their nod to “efficiency,” to deny Americans the health care they paid for. Many companies automatically reject claims, knowing that older customers and the working poor will often just let it go instead of going through the purposely mind-numbing process of contesting a rejected claim. Republicans seem to have a lemming-like instinct to keep the status quo, even when it is obvious that the status quo is only serving the largest economic interests and the richest among us. That’s class warfare in reverse. If what we have now is the best health care system in the world, as Republicans claim, then give me socialized medicine any day.

  2. JoyfulC

    If the free market system is truly the best route for insurance, then why isn’t it working after having been given every chance to work? Why are there so many uninsured Americans? Why are there so many uninsured children?

    A strict adherence to a free market system has only resulted in huge profits for insurance companies — some of whom headquarter themselves offshore so as to avoid paying some taxes. Profit is a terrific thing and something we all strive for more of — but let’s be honest about this: when the path to profit involves screwing over innocent people, at that point, it’s not free market — it’s profiteering. Would Guiliani or any politician be fighting so hard to protect this if we called it what it is — profiteering — instead of putting a flowery, noble, American-as-apple-pie title on it like “free market”?

  3. SEAL

    Expand Medicare to everyone! He say.

    Having nothing to go on but my own personal obsevations the past couple of years I can see how providing medicare to all would solve the health care problem for americans. Since I contracted incurable but long term treatable cancer I have been around many people with catestrophic illness. Most of them have medicare which tells us that age and these types of ilnesses are synonymous in the majority. Watching the expense of covering these people makes me wonder just how much of a financial impact extending medicare to all would have.

    I am retired military but once I turned 65 my primary insureer became medicare. The first thing I noticed was the reduced amount medicare paid for my health care. I am not billed for anything over and above what medicare pays. Since I am classified totally disabled, my secondary coverage pays any balance plus all prescriptions. I pay nothing. However, I also see that my secondary does not pay the total charged by any hospital, doctor, lab, pharmacy, etc.

    So, I have questions: If my medical care has a standard charge valued by the medical industry, why does my insurer not have to pay that? Has a deal been struck or are medicare and my secondary so powerful that they can dictate what my care is worth? If the second is true, it would logically follow that if medicare were the only insurer the charges by the medical profession/industry could be controlled. Another benefit would be the elimination of the insurance lobbysts. Pharmacuetical companies would still try to influence lawmakers responsible for setting the standards but that should be easy to eliminate by removing that from the hands of legislators running for reelection.

    The overall savings created by the above should make it possible to establish a formula whereby every citizen would pay a certain percentage of their income, probably much less than what they have to pay now for health insurance. I can see how that would cover the cost of “socialized medicine.” I suppose there could be three or four choices of plans with varying copays at different rates. And, from what I have observed, after the initial rush is over, I can’t see where long waits would be the rule anymore than the long waiting lines at all the emergency rooms every day in our hospitals and the quality would certainly improve from the SOP of emergency rooms only stabalizing and sending the poor on their way to nowhere but another trip to the ER when the next crisis occurs due to no follow up. Plus, those crisises could be eliminated with preventive care.

    Maybe I’m just uneducated about all this but it seems fairly simple to me.

  4. Jellicoe

    CHB seeks “balance”? Granted, CHB consistently criticizes Bush/Cheney on foreign policy implementation (but not on the fact that they are merely badly implementing the indefensible bipartisan empire-building consensus that has undergirded US foreign policy since WWII) and is reasonably outraged over WOT-justified tramplings on civil liberties and the Constitution. But, show me the last time that CHB carried a piece on any other topic that is measurably left of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. For instance, when was the last time CHB carried any substantive criticism of any GOP presidential candidate, whereas Clinton, Obama, Edwards, et al are frequent targets of not only substantive criticism, but hard-edged ridicule on decidedly on-substantive issues. CHB and its contributors are quick with the Liberal/leftist type adjectives for Dems, but when was the last time they labeled Guiliani a Nazi, which, by similar standards of debate, he surely is?

  5. kanawah

    As to ‘socialized medicine’ the sooner the better. The present system is “killing” well in excess of 100,000 a year because they receive no care, and by some estimates, as high as 400,000 because of insurance company restrictions and meddling.

    In Canada and the EU, there is a wait for elective procedures, but emergencies are as fast, if not faster that in the US.

    The only ones benefiting form our present system are the insurance companies, the drug companies, and the ‘top dog specialist’.

    Expand Medicare to everyone NOW!