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?

There is some dismaying news coming out of England, that land often held up as a socialized medicine success story.

Falling numbers of state dentists in England has led to some people taking extreme measures, including extracting their own teeth, according to a new study released Monday.

Others have used superglue to stick crowns back on, rather than stumping up for private treatment, said the study. One person spoke of carrying out 14 separate extractions on himself with pliers.

More typically, a lack of publicly-funded dentists means that growing numbers go private: 78 percent of private patients said they were there because they could not find a National Health Service (NHS) dentist, and only 15 percent because of better treatment.

Scarcity is what you get with socialized medicine. When there is no obvious cost to visiting the dentist or doctor, people will seek out medical care for stuff fixed with an aspirin. Miss V has twice complained about her head hurting just before she went to bed. And in both times she said she wanted to visit the doctor. Doctors have the same magical property as bandages. For Miss V, any owie can be made better with a bandage, and just visiting the doctor will make any pain or illness go away better than aspirin. It’s magic! And speaking of flights of fantasy, she has no understanding of the costs of visiting the doctor because she doesn’t pay anything for it. Because she doesn’t pay for it, she’d be willing to visit the doctor for every headache and stomach upset she gets.

And that’s what you get whenever the cost is hidden from the people using the service. If the out-of-pocket cost of visiting the hospital’s emergency room were $100, people would go only when there is an emergency. If the out-of-pocket costs were reduced to zero, people would visit for every sniffle, headache, and skinned knee. The increased use of the emergency room would increase the hospital’s costs of supplying health care to the people. That bill will be passed to the government who turns around and taxes the people. At some point the government will push back to the hospital and refuse to increase funding. The hospital will then turn around and refuse services to the people, commonly in the form of slower processing of patients. That is why we hear of long waiting times for patients in Canada. Are you anxious to have 5+ week waiting times to see your doctor only to spend another 6+ weeks waiting for the specialist? Long lines are what you get with Socialism.

But in addition to the way socialized medicine slows down service to hold down costs, socialized medicine also places a cap on medical salaries. When you limit the pay for a job, you discourage people from entering that field. Why would someone spend the years of medical training to become a dentist or a doctor when there is a limit on the salary people could earn? The end result is “[f]alling numbers of state dentists in England.”

Socialism sucks, and socialized medicine is Socialism. It’s no wonder that socialized medicine sucks.

New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has a vision — a vision of the government controlling an even larger percentage of private enterprise through a state-run health care system: Hillary Care. Contrary to what some film makers may want you to believe, socialized medicine sucks. But liberals don’t care about the failings of socialized medicine when they can sound concerned for the sick and the poor. But more than just wanting to take over health care, Hillary envisions a day when having health insurance is required for getting a job.

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that a mandate requiring every American to purchase health insurance was the only way to achieve universal health care but she rejected the notion of punitive measures to force individuals into the health care system.

“At this point, we don’t have anything punitive that we have proposed,” the presidential candidate said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re providing incentives and tax credits which we think will be very attractive to the vast majority of Americans.”

She said she could envision a day when “you have to show proof to your employer that you’re insured as a part of the job interview like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination,” but said such details would be worked out through negotiations with Congress.

Uh…. what? Most people get their health insurance from their jobs. Why should I get health insurance before getting the job that will give me the health insurance? For someone viewed as being an intelligent woman, she came up with a real stinker of a idea here. On the scale of LAME – LAMER – LLAMA, Hillary’s idea has pegged the needle all the way to LLAMA.

I found the link to Hillary’s hilarious idea on the Drudge Report under the title of “HEALTH INSURANCE PROOF REQUIRED FOR WORK,” and it was that same title that inspired Joe Klein to poo-poo Drudge as a disgrace. Klein quotes the second and third paragraphs as I did, but he missed when she said, “you have to show proof to your employer that you’re insured as a part of the job interview…” Her own words provides the proof for Drudge’s title, contrary to what Klein wants you to believe. Hey, Klein, before you bash Drudge as being shameless and a disgrace, how about you actually read (and understand) the news article he links to?

Socialism sucks. And while I’m on the subject of things that suck, Marxism also sucks, but I repeat myself. There is a simple reason why both socialism and Marxism suck, and it can be described in terms of homeostasis — the automatic processes your body uses to regulate your body temperature, blood sugar, hormones, etc. Here’s what I wrote before about homeostasis and command economies:

The wonder of the body is that necessary processes like the insulin/glucagon battle take place automatically, whether you think about them or not. And it’s a good thing that we don’t have to think about these functions. The chemistry necessary to turn those two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun into the glucose your body needs (minus the icky bits your body doesn’t need) is a chemist’s nightmare. How long would it take you to break normal table sugar (and water) into glucose if you had to do the following chemical reaction manually?

C12H22O11 + H2O —> C6H12O6 + C6H12O6

Now aren’t you glad that your body does this automatically for you? I know I am….

Just as your body is best served to have the blood sugar levels controlled automatically by the pancreas working invisibly inside you (further down and a bit more to the right. Yep, right there), the invisible hand of market forces works best when the force of government is kept out of it. Government intervention is similar to the injections of insulin. While it can be of short-term benefit to the person involved, it is neither as fast nor as efficient as the automatic actions of the pancreas.

People and economies work best when regulated by automatic processes, and socialism is not automatic. It is the heavy hand of government trying to brute-force the kinds of decisions that are best handled by the “invisible hand” of the free market.

“But American health care is broken! We need the government to fix where the market has failed.” I’ve heard several people make that claim whenever the subject of rising health care costs comes up. But why are health care costs rising? Here is a very telling graph that I’ve mentioned before:

Growth of medical costs

Notice that the more the cost of health care is paid by some third party like health insurance, the faster the overall cost goes up. But in cases like Lasik eye surgery, costs have gone from $10,000 per eye to under $500 in a few short years. Since people have to pay for laser eye surgery themselves, they have shopped around and sought out the best service for their money. But the chart shows that when people are not involved in the costs, as happens with insurance payments, costs go spiraling up like, well, health care costs.

Since third-party payments appear to be linked to rising costs, the proffered solution is to create more third-party payments by socializing medicine? Sounds like trying to put out an apartment fire by throwing logs and cans of gas in through the window. Oh, hey! The fire’s getting worse. Toss on more wood and gas!

But feeding the flames of the problem is exactly what socialist champion Michael Moore wants. His newest piece of crap documentary, titled Sicko, is hitting theaters, so expect to hear more people call for single-payer socialized medicine. To prove his point about the problem of American health care, Moore took some people down to Cuba for treatment. I find it ironic that when Fidel Castro needed emergency surgery, even though Cuba is supposedly a nation of doctors, they flew in a Spanish surgeon to work on him. So much for the vaunted socialized medicine of Cuba.

It’s illuminating to read the IMDb comments attached to Sicko. Many commenters claim that America’s love of money is bad, and socialized medicine in Europe and Canada is good. As one commenter put it, “Michael goes to 4 countries with Universal healthcare coverage, including a longtime alleged nemesis Cuba. In all instances he finds that there is great medical coverage, FOR FREE. Ontop [sic] of that, medications are either free, or almost free compared to U.S.A.” But this Canadian commenter is wrong. Medical coverage in such countries is not free. It is paid for by taxation, and governments have to reach into your pocketbook to get the taxes. So in no way do nations with socialized medicine get their health care for free.

Interestingly enough, the plot outline as listed on the IMDb just changed. It was once described as a comedy about 45 million uninsured Americans, but now it says the film is a documentary comparing health care systems. The original outline trotted out the common claim that there are 45 million Americans without health care in the U.S. That’s 15%, or almost one in six people. But Stuart Browning does a great job of showing how that number is inflated in his video. Removing from that equation the people who voluntarily choose not to have insurance, like the young and healthy, and those people who could receive health insurance through programs like Medicaid but who don’t bother to apply, the number of truly uninsured in the U.S. is about 8 million people, or about 2.7% of Americans. Browning sums it up this way in his video:

A small minority of people slip through the cracks through no fault of their own – however in any nation there is a group of people who refuse to participate in society or take responsibility for their own well-being. Even if our government attempted to force them to receive regular health care, many wouldn’t comply.

So, why do we keep hearing about a crisis of 45 million uninsured?

Maybe, it’s because the problem of Americans without health insurance is exaggerated and used as a smokescreen by many reformers who advocate socialized health care financing.

Here’s another dirty little secret, although it’s not so secret any more — hospitals are not allowed to turn away any injured person who goes to the emergency room, whether or not that person can pay for medical services. In the movie, Faye Chao demonstrates this. She makes more than enough money to pay for health insurance, but she chooses to save the money rather than spend it. In one exchange in the movie, she talks about her experience with hospital care:

Faye Chao: I bike everywhere in the city, so I have gotten hit by drivers twice – and one time I ended up in the hospital. No, I didn’t have health insurance, but I was treated – and billed for it later.

Stuart Browning: Umm hmm. How much was the bill for? Do you remember?

Faye Chao: Honestly I don’t because I didn’t bother to pay for it.

Free health care! Just stiff the hospital like Chao did if you want free health care. Or you can do what socialist nations do and pass the bill on to the taxpayers. Do you really want your health care handled by the government? Before you answer, I suggest you first get your driver’s license renewed at the DMV. The cheerful, attentive service you receive at the hands of the DMV should be a fair example of the service you can expect from government-run health care.

Don’t worry about having to wait months for government-run health care services — just keep repeating to yourself, “It’s free.”

And like so many other free things, you’ll get exactly what you pay for.