The infamous Peter (A-Three-Toed-Sloth-Has-More-Rights-Than-Your-Newborn) Singer has been favored by the New York Times with a lengthy Op-Ed today entitled “Why We Must Ration Health Care.” Would that he had written it in 1965, so that our forefathers could have read it before first turning down this broad road leading to socialized medicine (the destination of which is just coming into sight).
As you read Singer's article, I believe you'll soon note that his argument in favor of health care rationing is flawless. The rabbinic philosophy which he cited in the article, he also soundly refuted. Health care absolutely must be rationed.
What Singer has not addressed is the more pertinent and important question: Not whether health care should be rationed, but WHO should do the rationing?
I believe that I should do the rationing. I should be entitled to all of the health care that I'm willing to fund out of my own pockets. I should be entitled to all of the insurance that I can afford and wish to purchase. Beyond my insurance coverage, I should be entitled to all of the health care for which I am willing to write a (non-bouncing) check. Some people will not be able to afford basic health care for themselves, and I should be entitled to decide whether I would like to help them or not. I should be constrained in my decisions by the compassionate example of Christ, which will compel me to give generously to help the infant born with a defective heart, but will likely not lead me to fund a Viagra prescription for anyone.
I support the HealthSaver formula of combining a High Deductible Health Plan with a Health Savings Account (see more about this option here or here). The best thing about this medical option, in my opinion, is the fact that it puts decisions about the rationing of my health care right where they belong—in my hands. My insurance does what insurance exists to do: It protects me from being destroyed financially by a calamity. My HSA money is money that I use either to save for a rainy day or to spend on medical care today. To decide which I'm going to do, I ration my health care. Before I go to the doctor, I ask myself, "Is this really worth spending my money?" Before I fill a prescription, I ask myself, "Maybe I should wait a day or two and see whether I feel better on my own before I spend money on an antibiotic?" Sometimes I spend the money; sometimes I don't. It depends upon how my own rationing decision works out.
And by the way—about that Health Savings Account—my health insurance has given me $2,829.61 in the last three years, all of which is socked away in a Money Market account and a Bond Fund. Furthermore, I haven't spent a penny out-of-pocket for health care in three years (the "pocket" not including my Health Savings Account, which is extra money I wouldn't have under any other plan). Switching to the HealthSaver 2800 was the best financial decision I've made in a long time.
Many of us will want insurance coverage that provides extensive coverage for major unforeseeable injuries and disorders that could affect us or our families. As those in charge of our own health-care rationing, we negotiate with insurers, shop around for coverage, and decide how much we're willing to pay extra for how much extra coverage.
This is not a perfect system, but neither is it the worst possible outcome. I can't think of a system with better appeal, personally. The only area in which the Big Brother system can tout its superiority over the free market is with regard to providing health care for the deserving poor. But the free market system can address that need as well, when it is populated by the compassionate and generous. And apart from the compassion and generosity of individuals, any system is doomed to failure.
That's one reason why I favor free enterprise so much. It cultivates compassion and generosity. In the free enterprise system, people know that those who have fallen down will not be able to get up unless I help them. I am motivated to show compassion and give generously. But if I have fallen for the lie that it is somebody else's job to help—the government's job—then I have delegated away the tasks of compassion and generosity (as well as administering a death-blow to gratitude on the part of the recipient) and can comfortably look the other way. "The government has programs for that."
Certainly I am more comfortable with making my own decisions about health-care rationing than I am with putting those decisions into the hands of the Federal Government or (may God protect us all!) into the hands of Peter Singer. There will be little compassion and generosity in either case. But between the two of them, at least Singer is being honest. Socialized medicine will always involve bureaucratic rationing of health care. We need to read Singer's article and think long and hard before our government steals away from us the ability to make our most critical and private decisions for ourselves.
In summary, I provide three reasons why I, not we, must ration health care:
- Because rationing is ultimately a moral question, and we cannot trust utilitarians like Peter Singer nor the Federal Government to make such moral decisions. If they advise that a severely disabled fetus should be aborted, what rationing decision will they make about extending treatment to such a child if the mother rejects their opinion on moral grounds and bring the baby to term?
- Because the tendency of people toward selfishness—toward over-valuing one's own life—has not been demonstrated historically to pose nearly the problem that has been inflicted upon humanity by the tendency of governments to under-value the lives of people. Strange as it may seem, people often courageously put aside their own needs and value their own comfort below the needs of others. Ask the disabled veteran. Ask the good mother. Ask the first-responders of September 11. Government? Put the needs of others ahead of its own needs? I'll let my good readers cite all of the examples of that phenomenon that they find in history.
- Because the shift of rationing away from the individual and toward the insurance company and the government has contributed greatly to the increase of health care costs that threatens us today so much.
For all of these reasons, and more, let us avoid Peter Singer's solution and ration our own health care.