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September 06, 2007

He Who Pays is In Control

When you want to buy something, especially a high-ticket item -- let's say a car -- you want to do your research first. You have certain things that are important to you, as well as those things you think would be nifty to have, and balance that with how much your needs and wants are going to cost you. Then, you make your choice, good or bad, and you buy a car. You may buy just what you need, or you may buy more than that, but whatever the price, you are responsible for it. Your neighbor can neither tell you what to buy nor should your neighbor pay for any part of it, even the excess gas if you buy a guzzler. You pay the money, so you control the choice, and the consequences.

But with something more personal, like health insurance, liberals seem to think that experts in their ivory tower should manage the health care spending of us all. The lure is that just pay them a fee and they'll run the whole healthcare system for you. Don't worry about cost. The upside, they tell you, is that you may get more healthcare than you pay for. The downside, they don't tell you, is that any money you don't use you also don't keep. This "forced charity" (oxymoron) is held up as the way to make sure we all get what we need. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. (Great line, wonder who said it.)

But that is just the foot in the door. As with the car, when you pay, you decide how much or little gas mileage you're willing to pay for, how much luxury you want, and what you can do without. You neighbor doesn't have a say because he's not paying for it. In a nationalized health care system, however, whoever is paying now has that power over you, and not just which doctor you go to. Folks in the UK are finding that out.

Failing to follow a healthy lifestyle could lead to free NHS treatment being denied under the Tory plans.

Patients would be handed "NHS Health Miles Cards" allowing them to earn reward points for losing weight, giving up smoking, receiving immunisations or attending regular health screenings.

Like a supermarket loyalty card, the points could be redeemed as discounts on gym membership and fresh fruit and vegetables, or even give priority for other public services - such as jumping the queue for council housing.

But heavy smokers, the obese and binge drinkers who were a drain on the NHS could be denied some routine treatments such as hip replacements until they cleaned up their act.

Those who abused the system - by calling an ambulance when a trip to the GP would be sufficient, or telephoning out of hours with needless queries - could also be penalised.

The report calls for a greater emphasis on the "citizen's responsibility" to be healthy and says no one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles.

Ironically, I heartily agree with the statement that "no one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles". However, because the government is forcing taxpayers to fund their neighbors' poor choices, now the government has to step in and make your lifestyle choices. It's not that I don't think people should be as preventative as they can health-wise, it's just that I don't think the Health Police should be, in effect, roaming the streets making sure you're running your daily 2 miles or doing your 25 situps, and shutting down food stores that don't serve items that are up to government standards. The result is the same, with or without a London bobby walking the beat.

When the government pays, the government calls the shots. All the shots.

Posted by Doug at September 6, 2007 01:51 PM

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