California's Socialized Medicine Rising

This month, in a 73-page position paper, California’s insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, proposed a government takeover of medicine. That the bureaucrat who would be governor prescribed more government intervention is not surprising. But, because the culture is steeped in the wrong morality of health care and most people do not grasp that government intervention is the cause of the crisis in health insurance, they are liable to fall for it and it is likely to spread across state lines.

Garamendi has no power to activate the plan, which amounts to another liberal trial balloon, but, since Republicans want Big Government, too, there is no real dissent—not from the state’s medical association, not from the Governor and not from the White House, which did not even bother to defend Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Garamendi opposes HSAs because they offer too much choice, an idea no bureaucrat can stand. With his political ambitions, a left-wing legislature and with GOP consent, the Garamendi plan is practically unopposed.

The government already runs much of the medical profession, by Garamendi’s own admission. According to the paper, 40 percent of births and 75 percent of nursing home care in California are funded by state subsidies. These are huge numbers. While Garamendi admits that people come from all over the world to receive what he describes as high quality health care in California, he concludes that too many Californians pay too much for the best health care in the world. But the opposite is true: too many Californians do not pay enough for health care—which is why the rest of us are forced to pay more. Add Medicare, kiddie care and Republican-sponsored drug subsidies and you have incalculable price hikes coming.

Garamendi's plan puts government in control of payment and treatment. It imposes massive regulations which force hospitals to spend huge sums trying to obey arbitrary rules rather than save lives. Doctors who do not conform to government standards, he warns, will be forced to comply, though he fails to disclose how doctors will be penalized. Supplies are to be seized from city hospitals and redistributed to rural regions, with medical decisions rationed through rigid controls.

It gets worse, especially for doctors. Physicians, it is written—in code for the threat of brute force—must cooperate. Other provisions include expanding Medi-Cal, nursing subsidies, and restrictions on pharmaceutical firms, including a ban on advertising. Businesses must surrender proprietary software and follow statewide medical treatment edicts which will be governed by a committee.

What do you, the patient, receive for losing the freedom to choose a doctor and hospital? You get to suffer under bureaucratic rules, which regard the individual’s medical record as a “complex legal” issue. In short, do not expect to send an X-Ray for a second opinion without signing a stack of papers, waiting long hours, or going to court. Garamendi’s government medicine includes regulation of everything from children to grocery stores, which will be forced to provide fresh fruits and vegetables. There’s also a new program to force Californians to adopt a “healthy lifestyle” as defined by a state agency. This is Garamendi’s plan.

Today’s culture is sick with the notion that health care is a right. When one of his press conference participants proclaimed: “you need to take care of us,” she captured the philosophical root of Garamendi’s plan: altruism, the idea that doctors have a moral duty to serve others, by force if necessary. This is to be your doctor’s reward for dedicating his life to the practice of medicine.

California’s proposal puts into practice what Insurance Commissioner Garamendi has long preached: health care dictatorship, revoking the rights of those who produce medicine—the doctor, the pharmaceutical business, the hospital, the insurance company—and leaving every Californian to fight the state for their lives. Every doctor will be forced to submit or go on strike, which is why Californians—doctors, pharmacists, insurance agents, and those of us who consume what they produce—must reject Garamendi’s socialist philosophy and its cause, the notion that health care is a right, and insist on freedom in medicine.

This 2005 essay was published by the non-profit charitable organization Americans for Free Choice in Medicine (AFCM). Mr. Holleran has served as editorial adviser since 1994.

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