by Steven Hayward
Ronald Reagan had an uncanny way of predicting the future and offering ideas that were way ahead of their time. In the 1960s he proposed privatizing the Tennessee Valley Authority, an idea the Obama Administration now embraces. In the 1970s he discussed private retirement accounts as an alternative to Social Security, a reform idea that has become popular today. And of course he predicted the end of the Soviet Union, which seemed laughable to liberals when he said it in 1982, but came true just a few years later.
Reagan also predicted the disaster of Obamacare, and for the specific reasons we see unfolding right now. But if Reagan’s analysis is correct, the worst is still to come.
In his famous speech for Barry Goldwater in 1964, Reagan observed that “the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can’t socialize the doctors without socializing the patients.”
The second half of this is rapidly coming true, in the form of the millions who are having their health insurance policies canceled despite Obama’s false promise that if you like your health insurance you can keep your health insurance. It is necessary to the redistributionist logic of Obamacare that millions be required to cross-subsidize the health insurance of others. Hence, free choice between consumers and insurers has to be regulated out of existence.
But patients are already finding that they aren’t just losing their current health insurance; many are losing their doctors, too. And predictably Obamacare’s desperate defenders are openly embracing government coercion to solve this problem. In other words, we’re going to socialize the doctors, too. This problem is not brand new. Many doctors and medical practice groups have limited the number of Medicaid and Medicare patients they will treat because low (and slow) government reimbursement rates make them unprofitable. This problem is likely to grow worse under Obamacare.
A Democratic candidate for the Virginia state legislature in this week’s election advocates making it mandatory for doctors and medical practices to accept all Medicare and Medicaid patients, despite what this might do to the financial health of the doctors and their practice groups. This is only a short step from wholesale regulation of the way medicine is practiced, which will also prove necessary to fulfill the redistributionist design of Obamacare.
Reagan was on to this in his famous 1961 recording criticizing the original Medicare scheme:
Today, the relationship between patient and doctor in this country is something to be envied any place. The privacy, the care that is given to a person, the right to choose a doctor, the right to go from one doctor to the other.
But let’s also look from the other side, at the freedom the doctor loses. A doctor would be reluctant to say this. Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf. The doctor begins to lose freedoms; it’s like telling a lie, and one leads to another. First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren’t equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can’t live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go.
One of the reasons Hillarycare collapsed back in 1994 was its proposal to regulate the number, kind, and location of medical specialities throughout the entire country. When people realized that Hillarycare meant that they might not be able to choose their doctor or specialist, public support for Hillrycare, initially very strong, collapsed. This was the reason Obama felt it necessary to offer the promise that we could keep our insurance and doctors if we liked them. But it was never going to work out this way, as Obama’s technocrats knew early on. Even when you begin only by targeting the uninsured, socialized medicine, as Reagan understood, requires “indefinite expansion in every direction until it includes the entire population.”
And as Reagan said in 1961, one lie leads to another. In modern times we’re supposed to be cynical about government deceptions, but Obama’s promise is arguably the greatest single lie in the history of American politics. Reagan also said at the time, “Well, we can’t say we haven’t been warned.”
Courtesy Forbes All Rights Reserved 2013