The team at work went out to eat the other day as part of a going-away celebration for the summer intern. After we were seated, we all ordered the drink and dish that we wanted. Well, mostly what we wanted. The two guys who wanted Long Island iced teas just got plain iced teas instead. Being drunk at work, while very funny, isn’t actually all that productive. After it was all done, I started thinking about how going out to eat works in many ways as a metaphor for health care.

Imagine a group of people going out to eat, and each person is paying for himself. Each person is free to juggle personal preferences in food with price and available funds. If the diner has both funds and the desire, he can order the Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce garnished with truffle pate, brandy, and a fried egg on top and spam. But most of us aren’t rich, so we bypass the really expensive steak and lobster dish for a less expensive dish that would still be tasty. Or we could choose to spend the money because we do love the lobster so. Doing that would mean not being able to spend the money on something else, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to splurge.

In a truly free-market health care situation, there would be mixture of options available to people. Do you want a quick tetanus booster-shot or a confirmation that your bronchitis is bacterial in origin and get some antibiotics? Or do you want to splurge on a full-body MRI scan to make sure that there aren’t any strange lumps lurking about? Yes, in a situation like this, the poor would have far fewer options due to their lack of cash, but isn’t that also the case with food? As a society, we have determined not to let people starve to death just because they don’t have money. There are private food banks, soup kitchens and religious organizations that will feed people, often for free. But does the fact that some people are poor and can’t afford Lobster Thermidor mean we should prevent the rich from eating it if they so choose?

OK, now imagine a different dining experience, patterned after the single-payer health care plan that exists in the U.K. and Canada. Every time you buy something in town, an extra fee is charged on top of the cost. Every time you walk by the restaurant, a fee is deducted from your bank account, whether you go in and eat or not. Heck, just living in the town causes a fee to be levied against your account. Yes, it means you have less to spend on other things, and what you do buy is more expensive, but there is a positive side — when you go to the restaurant, you don’t have to pay the check. It’s free! Isn’t that great?!? We’ll ignore the fact that you have been charged again and again and again to pay for this “free” food. It’s free! So go order yourself a lovely Lobster Thermidor and enjoy.

Well, not so quick. See, this is a one-size-fits-all program, and that means there aren’t a mixture of high-end, la-di-da restaurants mixed in with the cheap burger joints. If you want to go out to eat, it’s at the government diner, and you can only order what’s on the menu. Today’s special is beef stew, so enjoy.

You’re vegetarian? That’s not a problem. Just don’t eat the beef chunks. There are still plenty of vegetables in there. Well, there are three varieties of beans in the stew, but beans are vegetables, right? OK, so there’s just one type of bean in the stew, but the chef has two magic markers that she uses to make it look like three. Then again, you don’t have to worry about the beef. It was too expensive, so she only tells people there’s beef in it. Best eat up because there’s no seconds. She only has the one pot of stew on the stove, and there are people waiting in the rain to be seated on your stool. Besides, it’s almost 5 pm, and time for her to close up.

Do you really want a one-size-fits-all single-payer dining experience? I won’t call it “free dining” since everyone pays for it with every value-added tax, income tax, and payroll tax government levies. And you are paying for it every time the dinner choice isn’t what you wanted, or the quality you wanted, or you have to wait for a while before you can be seated and order.

I wouldn’t accept a government diner, so why are people calling for single-payer, one-size-fits-all government health care? But are the people really calling for it? Most people don’t want it, as reported by Rasmussen:

Forty-three percent (43%) now Strongly Oppose the legislation while 23% Strongly Favor it. Those figures, too, are similar to results from earlier in August.

While supporters of the reform effort say it is needed to help reduce the cost of health care, 52% of voters believe it will have the opposite effect and lead to higher costs. Just 17% believe the plans now in Congress will reduce costs. This is a critical point at a time when voters see deficit reduction as more important than health care reform.

Additionally, by a 50% to 23% margin, voters believe the proposed reforms would make the quality of care worse rather than better.

But liberals in and out of government are anxious to get this implemented. Why? Every attempt to socialize health care has resulted in higher taxes with worse service, and this plan would be no different. So it can’t be about improving health care. Every attempt to socialize heath care has resulted in huge bureaucracies with all the loving care that comes with them, which is why people thrill at the idea of waiting for hours at the DMV.

Socialized health care is all about control — control over people’s lives, people’s money, and people’s businesses. Do you really want the stern governmental lunch lady looming over you with a heavy ladle in her hand, telling you to hurry up and eat the cold and mushy canned peas? Is that the dining experience you long for?

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