Friday, July 27, 2012

Losing your fear of universal health care – and getting it back again

The “musings of a young mom” have been making the rounds on the Internet. In an article called “How I lost my fear of Universal Health Care,” a blogger who identifies herself as “Melissa” says, “When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada’s Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted.” But after two pregnancies and “better prenatal care than [she] had ever had in the States,” she “started to feel differently.”

Patients line up on hospital beds outside the crowded emergency room at Montreal's Sacre Coeur Hospital.
Photo source: CBC

I'm happy that Melissa had a good experience, but it's not surprising. In their book Lives at Risk, Goodman, Musgrave, and Herrick document the political pressures on the bureaucrats who make the rationing decisions in single payer systems. Since they are indirectly answerable to the voters, the bureaucrats tend to be generous with services that are routinely used by many people, such as pre-natal care. They're not so generous with the more expensive services needed by the truly sick who represent fewer votes. If you think about the purpose of both universal health care and private insurance – to share the financial risk of a catastrophic illness with other people – this is the exact opposite of how things should be.

Be afraid, Melissa. It’s easy to lose your fear of universal health care – as long as you don’t get too sick.

Check out my novel, Full Asylum, at A story of politics, freedom, and hospital gowns.

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