Left-Wing Activists' Phony Health-Care 'Crime Scene'

You may not know it — in fact, unless you’re a liberal, you almost certainly don’t — but a crime wave is sweeping the land.

Not in the traditional sense of murders, robberies, or assaults — some good old-fashioned law enforcement has served to reduce these acts.

No, this is a stealthier, more insidious kind of "crime": that of not having in America the kind of universal health care system that’s proven such an abject failure just about everywhere it’s been tried.

OK, here’s the punch-line.

A group of left-wing activists calling themselves the “Jobs with Justice Coalition” recently held a day of news conferences across the country characterizing our current health-care system as a “crime scene.”

To buttress their assertions, they’ve trundled out a claim that around 18,000 Americans die every year from causes that could have been prevented if they had health insurance.

But before getting hysterical, let’s look at the fine print.

The argument is that if patients had received early treatment they might have lived.

However, this assumes an awful lot.

First, that the patients would have gone to the doctor even absent any noticeable symptoms, and that their conditions would have been detected by a routine examination.

Second, that a government-administered system would have allowed patients to receive timely treatment for their ailments. Of course, this is precisely the major shortcoming of these alleged utopias.

In fact, the waiting periods in such systems to see a specialist or get an operation is several times longer than in America, a circumstance that itself has been known to result in unnecessary death when an operable condition becomes inoperable.

But the biggest reason this argument fails is that it promotes the misconception — fully abetted by liberals and their media lapdogs — that there are an unconscionable number of people in America who can’t get health insurance.

Judging from the dispatches of our self-appointed guardians of half-truth, the ranks of the phantom uninsured have now swelled to 47 million.

This figure would be absolutely scandalous except for the minor point that it’s totally misleading.

A particularly compelling Congressional Budget Office report pointed out in 2003 — you’d think this would have sunk in by now — that the number of Americans who are uninsured for an entire year (as opposed to only a brief period while they changed jobs or graduated from college) is really only about half the 47 million figure.

One might protest that that’s still way too many.

Agreed — though anyone would surely acknowledge that 20-30 million is not as bad as 47 million.

But that’s not all by a long shot.

The Cato Institute further pointed out that the CBO’s figures were likely way too high because it still includes millions of Americans who are Medicaid-eligible, and therefore enjoy access to medical care.

(Failing to distinguish between "health care" and "health insurance" has always been the major shortcoming of the willfully obtuse on this issue.)

Next, it was pointed out that the majority of the so-called persistently uninsured (that is, without coverage for an entire year) are young and healthy, and simply choose not to purchase health insurance.

Then too, many of the "uninsured" are eligible for various government programs but for one reason or another neglect to sign up for them.

(By the way, prominent among those reasons is that a number of people in this category happen to be illegal immigrants. Not to worry, though — amnesty may be coming.)

In the final analysis, the actual number of uninsured is somewhere around a couple of million, for whom the government can — and should — provide.

The reality is that even the late, lionized Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan acknowledged this — at the time the Clintons were trying to nationalize American health care.

In David Broder and Haynes Johnson’s book, "The System," Moynihan was quoted as stating that the Americans who don’t have health insurance “are not deprived. They are cared for, you know. We do have universal health care in this country, actually.”

Coming from a Democrat, that candid admission ranks right up there with Zell Miller’s unmasking of John Kerry’s military malfeasance prior to the 2004 election.

(Yet that doesn’t stop the rest of them from baying about the "crime" of the uninsured.)

A stark illustration of Moynihan’s statement in "The System" was the story of an illegal immigrant family the husband of which needed an emergency appendectomy to the tune of around $20,000, and were allowed to settle the bill by paying a mere $10 a month.

Of course, it would take several lifetimes to pay for the procedure at that rate, so the balance was simply carried on the hospital’s books as a loss, and the costs — surprise, surprise — were passed on to other patients in the form of higher bills.

(Lest anyone think that Broder and Johnson merely told this story as part of the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’ it should be noted that they stated that the necessity of making this nominal monthly payment “wrecked” the (illegal) immigrants’ prospects for a good life!)

All of this is standard procedure thanks to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act that requires every emergency room to treat every patient coming in regardless of ability to pay — or residency status, for that matter.

So if we can please retire the shibboleth that 47 million (and counting) are somehow being denied health care, perhaps we can move on to some common-sense measures that would actually reduce the skyrocketing costs of that care.

One of the best proposals is to extend the same tax deductability to those buying private insurance that is currently allowed for employer-provided policies.

This would give powerful incentive for people to switch from more expensive and elaborate coverage through their group plans to cheaper ones with higher deductibles and co-pays.

This, in turn, would result in higher real wages as the money now being deducted to pay for health insurance would become take-home pay.

The Rand Corporation has stated that this would dramatically cut health-care spending with nary a benefit reduction for anyone.

Following that up with measures relieving doctors of having to protect themselves from frivolous malpractice claims through "defensive medicine," allowing small businesses to pool their resources to get the same discounts as large companies in purchasing employer health care, and expanding Medical Savings Accounts would bring down costs even more — perhaps even approaching sane levels yet in our lifetime.

Well, perhaps we shouldn’t get overly ambitious. After all, the Democrats’ torpedoing of desperately-needed Social Security reform shows just how tough it is to get anything substantive accomplished. That’s why lawmakers with backbone who don’t head for the high ground every time some left-wing loudmouth spouts off are so essential.

However, the crucial first step is to change the terms of the debate from the alleged "crisis" of the uninsured to the real issue of exorbitant costs.

But as regards universal health coverage, one of the myriad Canadian doctors who fled that purported "paradise" to practice in the U.S. once pointed out that any health system can have two out of three things — high quality, affordability, or accessibility — but never all three.

And in this case, two out of three is very bad.