House Democrats held a hearing Tuesday examining a move to single-payer socialized health care. While the Left talked about all the supposed benefits of their government-centric approach, the proceedings in the House Oversight Committee appeared more notable for what most of the witnesses didn’t discuss.
For instance, one witness who suffers from several chronic conditions observed that “being able to access health care is not enough—it’s being able to afford it too.” It’s a fair point, and one that Congress should keep in mind, as it works to get the incentives properly aligned within our health system to make care affordable for Americans.
But think about the other side of the equation, where people cannot access care because their government will not pay for it. For instance, while single-payer systems like those in Canada and Great Britain don’t require people to fund government-provided care out of pocket, millions of Canadians and Britons still “pay” for their care. They wait months, and in some cases years, to get care the government deems non-critical—delays that can cause patients excruciating and torturous pain as they wait, and wait, for treatments like hip and knee replacements. (And of course, taxpayers in countries with socialized medicine still pay for their healthcare bureaucracies with their tax dollars as well.)
Consider too that single-payer systems often deny patients access to treatments deemed too expensive and “not worth it.” As the mother to a child with a disability, I know how these rationing systems devalue people like my daughter—setting the value of an extra year of life for patients with disabilities as less than those in “normal” health.
Tuesday’s hearing also contained frequent references to the progressive mantra that health care should be a right. But no one explained why the single-payer legislation proposed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) would make private health coverage “unlawful.” If health care is the “right” that the Left always claims, shouldn’t Americans have the ability to purchase that care in the manner they see fit? Moreover, if single payer will lead to the utopia that progressives promise, why would they feel the need to rely on brute force by banning other forms of insurance coverage?
The answer to that last question came in the form of compelling testimony by Chris Briggs, one of the few voices of reason among the witnesses. Briggs told a heartbreaking story of how his insurance plan got canceled because of ObamaCare—and then, just one year later, his 2 ½ year old daughter got diagnosed with leukemia. Because many insurers don’t offer individual ObamaCare plans in his state, and because the plans insurers do offer don’t cover the specialized doctors and treatments his daughter needs, Briggs noted that “ObamaCare has made us into medical serfs—tied to the land, unable to leave it, even to save a little girl battling cancer.”
Briggs noted that, when it comes to people like his daughter—who developed a chronic medical condition after the law went into effect—ObamaCare has created millions of permanently uninsurable people with pre-existing conditions. And he added that his daughter’s situation soon will become the norm: “Scarcity doesn’t go away under ‘universal coverage’ or single payer….We are the canary in the coal mine. Scarcity under authoritarian medicine becomes policy” in places like Canada and Great Britain.
Put aside for a moment the economic effects of single payer—the massively higher taxes, lower economic growth, and lost jobs that will result. Chris Briggs’ testimony shows the human and moral side of a government in control of your health care—bureaucrats quite literally with your life in their hands. It provides a compelling argument to move away from more statism in health care, one that the leftist witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing did not, and cannot, readily rebut.