The Problems with Government-Run Healthcare

Deal W. Hudson
September 3, 2009

As the White House backs away from the so-called public option in health-care reform, Catholic experts are hopeful that the proposed government control of the nation’s medical care will be put aside. They argue that rejecting the public option will better serve a culture of life, maintain the present high quality of health care, serve economic sustainability, and respect the Catholic teaching on subsidiarity.

Though the bishops have spoken out collectively against abortion coverage, only a handful have issued specific warnings against government-run medical services. Two of those are Bishop Robert W. Finn and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, who wrote recently, “The right of every individual to access health care does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it.” Bishop R. Walter Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, stated, “The Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care.”

The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) is on record arguing that, while health-care reform is needed, it should be “achieved by legislation that empowers people to own their health insurance policies (as contrasted with government, or employer-controlled healthcare insurance) and using targeted measures to help people who cannot afford the entire cost of their insurance premium.”

Dr. Steven White, a former president of the CMA, currently has a private practice in pulmonary medicine and is the medical director of respiratory care and pulmonary rehabilitation services at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. He applauds the bishops for their outspoken defense of human dignity in health care, but said, “Informed members of the laity need to help devise a system based upon Catholic moral principles and apply them in the marketplace.”

“The last thing we want in health care,” White told me, “is for the government to impose a single ethic on us because they hold the purse strings – we have to separate Catholic moral guidelines for health care from the question of financing it.”

Dr. Donald P. Condit is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has written extensively on health-care reform for the Acton Institute. Condit agrees that health-care reform is needed to achieve a better allocation of service, but added, “Reform needs to occur at the level of the doctor-patient relationship rather than introducing a third party, especially the federal government.”

“Medical care is a scarce commodity that has to be allocated,” Condit went on, “but why would you take that allocation away from the doctor-patient and hand it over to government committees, when the government does not respect human life?”

When I asked him how the cost of the present system could be reduced, Condit explained that the cost of private insurance coverage would come down if there were more competition. “There is very little competition between insurance companies,” Condit explained, “which would be changed if companies could sell coverage across state lines.”

Both Dr. White and Dr. Condit were certain that the quality of U.S. healthcare would suffer under government control. White said, “Socialist systems do not put their resources into treating serious illness – for example, our cancer survival rates are significantly higher.” Condit explained that the World Health Organization ratings are biased against the United States because of our lack of universal care. “If you look at the disease-specific statistics, the U.S. is at or near the top, which is why wealthy people come here from all over the world when they face serious illness.” (Their concerns are corroborated by today’s news that, under the UK’s National Health Service, terminally ill patients are being allowed to die prematurely.)

Jim Cabretta, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served for three years as the Bush administration’s top budget official for health care. Cabretta claims that the present health legislation is not economically sustainable. “The plan as it stands,” Cabretta concludes, “is not really a trillion-dollar bill; it really adds up to 1.5 trillion.”

He explained the reason why the health-care bills are under-budgeted. “The legislation requires anyone who has job-based insurance ‘has to stay there and not take the government-subsidized program.’ In addition, anyone who has not bought into their workplace insurance will be required to purchase it, ‘even if they cannot afford it.”‘

Anyone not presently covered will be able to get into the subsidized program, creating what Cabretta calls “horizontal inequity.” In other words, everyone covered by employers will be paying significantly more for health care than those on the government plan.

“What will happen next is inevitable,” says Cabretta. “People will complain about the inequality, and Congress will eventually allow everyone to purchase the lower-cost, government-subsidized programs. The overall cost of the nationalized plan will rise by 50 percent.”

The United States is just too big for a centralized health-care system, according to Cabretta. Other industrialized countries are not as big: “We are 300 million; that’s too many people to manage by central planning, a fact which underlies the public angst.” He prefers a subsidiarity approach, a market system mixing health savings accounts with a primary wellness system, costing about $60 to $70 per month, all with government oversight.

Cabretta also agreed with White and Condit that the quality of care would suffer. “In countries with nationalized systems, they tend to invest in things that 90 percent of the people use, but if you have cancer or need brain surgery they are underinvested in hospitals and complex treatment programs.”

The Obama White House is saying that the public option does not have to be part of health-care reform; powerful leaders in Congress disagree, along with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. While the prospect of government-run health care is still a live option, these Catholic experts are hopeful that Congress will consider their suggestions in keeping medical care private – in the hands of doctors, patients, and private insurance companies.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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