The Redistribution of Health

by | Nov 6, 2011 | Economics, Healthcare, Taxation

In her famous novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand identified the absurdity of placing one’s life in the hands of doctors whose lives had been throttled by socialized medicine. Socialized medicine, because of the government monopoly it imposes on both doctors and patients, is the equivalent of holding a gun to a doctor’s head and saying, […]

In her famous novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand identified the absurdity of placing one’s life in the hands of doctors whose lives had been throttled by socialized medicine.

Socialized medicine, because of the government monopoly it imposes on both doctors and patients, is the equivalent of holding a gun to a doctor’s head and saying, “Cure me. Save my life, on my terms— or else.”

So what is it about a doctor who’s prepared to have a gun held to his own head? In fact, he not only holds the gun to his own head, but also to the heads of every medical professional in the land. That doctor is none other than Donald Berwick, M.D., the physician appointed last year by Obama (without any Congressional hearings) to head up the Center for Medicare Services. This is the government agency which will ultimately implement the ObamaCare law–unless it is eventually repealed.

Berwick has been characterized as a “one-man death panel” and it’s not difficult to see why, from some things he has said. For example: “Any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional. Britain, you chose well.”

Another example: “We can make a sensible social decision and say, ‘Well, at this point, to have access to a particular additional benefit (new drug or medical intervention) is so expensive that our taxpayers have better use for those funds.”

This man personifies pure evil. And I’ll explain why, simply by identifying his unstated, yet glaring, premises:

Unstated premise #1: Health, like wealth, is a commodity to redistribute as the government sees fit. Individuals are not free, and should not be free, to make individual arrangements with doctors of their own choosing to maintain or restore health. This is a decision to be made by other people—not voluntarily through a competitive, for-profit insurance system, but through the monopolistic force of government. Government decides who should enjoy what degree of health, and under what circumstance. The idea here is not that government merely redistribute health care—but actually redistribute health.

Unstated premise #2: Individual decisions, literally about life-or-death matters, can and will be made by government officials. Government officials, not individuals, have the right and responsibility to make these decisions.

We will call these “social decisions.” Social decisions are “morally superior” to individual decisions, and from now on will be the absolute law of the land.

Unstated premise #3: Health care is a public commodity. This means that it belongs to government authorities. Every hour of effort put into medical school by a physician entitles the government to take control of that physician’s life and rights, once he has completed that training and precisely because he has that training. The skills and expertise of a doctor do not belong to the doctor himself. Those skills are not his to keep or give away as he sees fit. These decisions are totally the domain of the government.

Unstated premise #4: Patients are not in charge of their own bodies. They might be self-determining in the context of the sexual partners they choose, or the choice to have an abortion or not. But in all other areas involving the condition of their bodies, all determinations are to be made by the government. The Department of Health & Human Services, at their offices in Washington DC, will determine who receives what surgery, what medical treatment, what procedure, when and why. Government decisions are by their nature valid, rational and right. They are also the first, final and only word. There will be no competing authorities, no competing third party payers, no fee-for-service between doctor and patient.

Remember: Britain has the right system. America’s system will be Britain’s.

Unstated premise #5: Britain has an “excellent” quality of health care, morally and medically superior to that of the United States. Its well-documented waiting lines, inferior quality of care and higher death rates from illnesses such as cancer and heart disease (often caused by waits) are irrelevant.

What matters is that in Britain, government makes all medical decisions, while in the United States (up to now) these decisions have more often been made by doctor and patient. Government monopoly is the standard of excellence, not quality of care.

Actually, I call these “unstated premises,” but Dr. Berwick is different from advocates of socialized medicine we have seen in the past. He engages in no pretense. He doesn’t try to slip in the assumptions of socialized medicine while preserving the façade of fee-for-service, private enterprise or the private practice of medicine. He openly states his view that the government is the moral and political authority when it comes to the lives, the fortunes and the very health of individuals.

Incredibly, he openly states that health itself is something to be redistributed by the government. Your health—your very well-being—belongs to him, and a small number like him who manage to seize power.

It’s remarkable to think back to the days, about fifteen years ago, when “managed care” was taking over the heavily regulated private health insurance industry in the United States. Americans everywhere were outraged at the idea of profit-making third parties making determinations about whether or when to have surgery or other kinds of medical treatment. Managed care gradually went by the wayside, less because of political edict and more because people rejected it in the marketplace.

It defies comprehension that so many Americans, based on support for preserving and expanding Medicare and Medicaid if not for ObamaCare itself, are prepared to accept the edicts of a government bureaucrat in determining the course of all their medical treatment.

Of course, ObamaCare will be gradually phased-in over the next 3 or 4 years, and that has generated much confusion. Also, ObamaCare does not overtly and immediately shut down all private practice in medicine. But the taxes and regulations in the law are so onerous that nobody expects private insurance companies to long survive. Private health insurance premiums are already rising, and when the process is complete nobody will be able to afford any insurance except the government kind.

Dr. Berwick stands ready to control and command from his throne in Washington DC. If this isn’t a basis for revolution—for an overthrow not of the American system originally created, but of the American government as we now know it—then I don’t know what is. Without health, there is no freedom. Once government has monopolistic control over your body, you can expect that control over the mind—i.e., freedom of speech and ideas—cannot be far behind. That is, unless and until Americans rise up with the powers still available to them and say …STOP!

Everybody seems to want freedom in medicine, but nobody seems to want a free market in medicine. It’s going to be really interesting, to say the least, to watch Americans as they begin to experience less freedom in medicine than ever before—in fact, no real freedom at all. Maybe then, and only then, will they yearn for the control and practice and, yes, the pricing of medicine to be handed over to doctors and patients in the marketplace. The “marketplace” simply means the doctors’ and patients’ freedom to communicate with one another through a competitive pricing system which naturally evolves over time, as in other industries such as automobiles and computers.

That pricing structure is now being replaced with people who work in government offices in Washington DC, and—worse still—their corrupt political bosses in the White House and Congress. Socialized medicine has arrived. It will take a year or two to implement, but it’s descending on us like a cloak of death and destruction. Other nations, such as Canada and Britain, have not yet thrown it off. Will America?

For reference, see Investor’s Business Daily, “The President’s One-Man Death Panel,” 7/8/10

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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