Michael Moore's SiCKO is opening in Britain this week, but the British are not amused. Anyone can extol the virtues of universal government-furnished health care, they say, when they have never had to use it. Writes Minette Marrin in the London Times:
You would never guess from Sicko that the NHS [National Health Service] is in deep trouble, mired in scandal and incompetence, despite the injection of billions of pounds of taxpayers' money.
Not to worry, writes Peter Huber in "Cherry Garcia and the End of Socialized Medicine" in City Journal. The new age of "molecular medicine," of designer drugs for specific genetic defects, is going to break up the current system of government universal health care that Michael Moore so loves.
It all goes back to 1987 when Ben and Jerry's introduced the Cherry Garcia, a monument to unhealthy eating habits. But, writes Huber,
The Food and Drug Administration struck back three months later when it approved the first of a new family of statin drugs that curb cholesterol production in the human liver.
The new molecular medicine will not just curb nasty things in the human body, he asserts. It will destroy the political consensus for universal health care.
Our current health care system is built upon the extraordinary success of the war against germ-carried disease. Water-borne diseases like cholera and airborne diseases like tuberculosis lend themselves to sweeping governmental action and one-size-fits-all programs. After all, "Cholera killed a duchess as easily as a flower girl." Sweeping programs of sanitation and vaccination became the stock-in-trade of every politician and bureaucrat.
But in the new health order of drugs and gene warfare things are not so simple.
The designer drugs of molecular medicine are specific and individual. They aim to correct specific genetic deficiencies and compensate for unhealthy life habits. Thus, writes Huber:
Disease and its cures now depend on factors too fragmented for conventional insurance pools to contain, too costly for public treasuries to underwrite, and too divisive for public authorities even to discuss, much less manage.
Pretty soon a president will come along and promise to end government health care as we know it.
Maybe she will. But it is likely that first we will test the universal health care system paradigm to destruction.
When things go wrong, political leaders and their leading experts resort first of all to compulsion and prohibition rather than letting markets and the consumer decide. Right now they have fatties in their sights.
Morbidly obese people in their fifties are costing the government a ton of money by coming into government hospitals to get bariatric surgery and hip and knee transplants. The obvious thing to do is to stop restaurants and food stores from selling them the evil fatty foods that have fueled their enormity.
That's why nanny Mayor Bloomberg has forced restaurants to remove "trans-fat" from their menus in New York City. Reports Tom Elliott:
Bloomberg believes "Public-information campaigns are insufficient. In the realm of public health, law really does the work."
He means that the government wants to force you to be healthy.
No doubt the only sensible course is to privatize health care and allow the market to perform its miracles, as Peter Huber suggests.
But Michael Moore and his slacker-liberal army would fight to the last mockumentary to stop that. They have a right to free and unlimited health care and they know it.
You might wonder why they make such a fuss. After all, Huber writes,
Three-dollar statins in New York in 1996 get 30-cent statins to London in 2006 and three-cent statins to Kuala Lumpur a few years later.
But that's not good enough for our progressive friends. They want three-cent statins now. Anything less is a triumph of greed over human need.
Most Americans are not slacker liberals. But they don't see why they should pay as much in monthly payments for drugs as they do for the family SUV.
They are moderates. That means that they will vote for a moderate amount of compulsion and expropriation to solve the next crisis in health care. It's a practical thing. When they or their loved ones need an expensive procedure or designer drug, they know that cost should be not be a factor, at least not for them.
That's why it would be prudent not to place any bets on the end of socialized medicine any time soon.
Instead, we should expect it to lurch from one disaster to the next.
It's encouraging to think that Hillary Clinton is uniquely qualified, by education, temperament, experience, and plain dumb luck to be the US leader fated to test universal health insurance to destruction.
After she and her wrecking crew have finished then we can start to build a health care system that really works.