When America debated Obamacare in 2009, Republicans raised the specter of what Sarah Palin called “death panels.” This was not a fantasy or an exaggeration designed to take normal policy and make Democrats look bad. It was in the bill.
Obamacare included a provision for a panel that would determine what medical procedures the government would pay for. If we are to have socialized healthcare, this is a necessity. There must always be someone to decide what operations should be performed. Under a free market, those decisions are made by the patient and the doctor. When we asked insurance companies to pay for expensive treatments, they got a say in what is included, but as part of a mutual agreement with the patient.
But if we ask the government to pay for our healthcare, the government will decide which procedures are worth paying for, not us or our doctor. This is already bad. Insurance companies deny treatment at times, but we have a say in the matter when we select which insurance plans we want. We have less say in our healthcare when our elected representatives are in charge than when a large, faceless corporation reviews our treatment. But it gets worse.
In a pure free market, you can get whatever treatment a doctor will perform and you can afford. With insurance companies, you can get whatever treatment a doctor will perform and you have prearranged with your insurance company to pay or can afford on your own. Under socialized healthcare, you can get whatever treatment a government bureaucrat decides you should have, regardless of your ability to pay independently or a doctor’s willingness to treat you.
We have seen this in Britain. Last year the British government decided little Charlie Gard, an infant boy with a rare disease, should die before his first birthday. This was not a cold calculation to save taxpayer money; little Charlie’s parents had raised the funds needed to transfer him to America where a doctor had developed a new experimental treatment he believed could have saved Charlie. Charlie’s parents wanted nothing more from the British government than to get out of the way. Instead the government cut off treatment, prevented anyone else from coming to his aid, and watched little Charlie die.
Similarly, Alfie Evans spent over a year in the hospital before the British government decided to cut off treatment last week. Again, this was not about spending taxpayer money in pursuit of futile hope. The Italian government made Alfie an Italian citizen and offered to fly him to Rome for treatment. Italy had a medical transport plane standing by in England ready to bring Alfie to a Vatican hospital. Again, Alfie’s parents just wanted the British government to do nothing. Instead, the government sent extra police to the hospital to ensure no one tried to carry Alfie away to another hospital where he might live.
In an incredibly patronizing decision, a British judge reviewing Alfie’s parents’ request to take him to Italy ruled that his parents had not fully thought through all the inconveniences of an extended stay in a foreign country. You see, Alfie’s parents don’t speak Italian and don’t have family in Italy, so living there could be difficult. Apparently the judge did not consider how difficult they would find learning that their government had condemned their child to death.
This gets at the true cost of socialized healthcare. Yes, it costs more money to have an inefficient bureaucracy run a vast system in place of the free market. But it also costs us freedom and morality. The British government did what it did because it took for itself the power to decide life and death. The government decided it knew better than the parents of Charlie and Alfie what was best for the children. Faceless bureaucrats decided these infants should die not because the British treasury could not afford the treatment, but because they read some notes and decided it was no longer worth trying to save their lives. The tears of their parents could not persuade a disinterested bureaucrat to just do nothing.
It was a cold, calculating decision that the parents ultimately do not have rights. The government rules supreme.
Centuries ago, when Britain was still ruled by the monarchy, the British were freer than their mainland counterparts living under absolute monarchy. The British had a saying that even the King, with all of his soldiers, could not trespass a man’s front door without his permission. Now, some unknown civil servant can condemn their children to death, and claim it is for their own good.
Death panels are real, and so are their costs..