Needed: Health Care for Debilitated Reasoning


The local newspaper reprinted a column from the New York Times, with which it is in ideological lockstep. It appeared in the editorial section of the paper, which I would not ordinarily give a second glance. The headline is what got me: All Children Should Be Covered From Birth. Was this an editorial about blankets for babies?

What the author meant by "covered" is "insured." While the idea of increased government funding for medical care (for that is what was meant, of course) is not new, I found the article interesting as a good example of the statist approach to society.

I was about to write "the statist approach to the problems of society," when I realized that, to the dedicated statist, problems abound, but even if they don’t, they can be, and are, invented. Is the lack of government health insurance for children a problem? Only two cases are cited, and one of them was a child with cancer. The author assures us that two cases cited are among "millions of youngsters" who, presumably, suffer as a result of the lack of government health insurance for kids. We’ll have to take his word for it.

I recall when Medicare went into effect, in 1965, about a year after I’d opened my medical practice. Was there a problem that Medicare addressed? I hadn’t been aware of one. People could obtain medical care at little or no cost at various institutions throughout the city. Indeed, like many of my colleagues, I volunteered some time each week at free clinics operated by local hospitals. If Medicare filled some need in society back then, it was only because a "need" was created and exaggerated by those who were determined that we should have Medicare, necessary or not.

The same thing seems to be happening with Medicare for children. I was impressed by the slick way this "need" was simply assumed, as though any contrary view was simply too preposterous to countenance. For example, the headline: All Children Should Be Covered From Birth. Sure, why not. All children should be healthy. They should be educated (more money for schools?). They should be loved (or killed in utero if they might not be?). They should be warm in winter, cool in summer, well dressed, well fed (aid to dependent children?).

But let’s not stop there. How about this one: when they are old enough to earn a living, all (former!) children should be able to keep what they earn! Whoops! Now that’s going too far! It’s all perfectly fine to talk about a right to health care, education, housing, etc., but a right to one’s property is reactionary, anti-social, and selfish.

In the two cases given as examples, the mothers of the sick boys (No fathers are mentioned. Shouldn’t all children have fathers?) were described as being unable to get medical coverage for their children, although, in the first case, some sort of state aid was provided, until the bureaucrats "fouled up," suggesting that bureaucratic failure, not cancer, killed the boy. This is because "the U.S. has no coherent system of health coverage for children." That’s odd, isn’t it? Here in St. Louis, we have three hospitals dedicated entirely to pediatric patients. I don’t know if that makes the care provided "coherent" or not, because I don’t know how coherence relates to medical care. Throughout the country, there are many pediatric hospitals. If this abundance of available pediatric care is not "coherent," would the use of force to compel Americans to provide health care for some American children add coherence? Would it be improper to note that Americans SHOULD be free?

After forty-two years of Medicare, can it be shown that older Americans are healthier than they were before Medicare was thrust upon them? If so, are they spending less for medical care? Has their improved health resulted in less spending for drugs? For nursing homes? For walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs?

To paraphrase Field of Dreams: if you provide it, they will use it. Expanding Medicare to include children might benefit some children, but the biggest beneficiary, by far, will be Uncle Sam, with additional bureaucrats, new offices and officers, a few new under-Secretaries of Health, and a wonderful excuse to spend, spend, spend.

The surest way to see that people get what they SHOULD have would be to place Uncle where he SHOULD be: out to pasture.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.