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Pepper on Socialized Medicine

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P.J. O'Rourke: "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free."
I lived through it: The truth about socialized medicine
The Gazette Staff
There are a whole lot of ‘policy wonk' things I could say to you about socialized medicine, that is, government-run healthcare.
I'll get to a couple of those shortly, but first, I'd like to give you a firsthand idea of the nature of the beast called socialized medicine. Here is my own story and what happened to close members of my own family.
When Pierre Trudeau came to power in the late 1960s, replacing the former conservative government, he carried enough members of parliament to ram through a socialized medicine program. He was an admirer of Euro-style socialism. He raised taxes greatly and also decimated the once proud Canadian armed forces. The Canadian army, navy and air force was consolidated and shrunk. It was renamed Force Canada which we promptly dubbed Farce Canada!
I was lucky. I had one instance of serious hospitalization when the socialized system was brand new. I fared well, only because the apparatus already in place, the old private system, had not yet been fully destroyed by the government-run program.
But a few years later, the cracks were very apparent. Hospital workers and administrators were put into government unions. Even nurses were unionized. The top administrators were replaced by bureaucrats in most cases, who were inept. Hospitals staffs went from being polite people, to very rude people. After all, they had the power and you had NONE.
The hospitals became rundown. If it happens here, this is one of the first things you will notice during the first two years. The waiting lists grew for every kind of procedure. But worst of all was the brain drain.
Top specialists were the first to see the writing on the wall. A great many fled to the United States even though that meant they would have to go through a lengthy recertification process. They sold their homes, rented apartments in Boston, or New York, or Kansas City or San Diego, and took lesser jobs while they recertified. I was told, depending on the specialty, this could take from one to three years.
Registered nurses also left in great numbers, heading to the U.S. or abroad. In Canada, the patient lineups began in earnest.
My grandmother, at a very advanced age, became ill in the mid 1980s. My mother was so appalled at the lack of attention and the sheer neglect that she fought to bring grandma home so she could care for her. My grandmother died a few months later, at home, at the age of 95. The powers that be in a socialized system, don't forget, are people who get to decide whether older people are worth saving.
Next it was my sister's turn. She was diagnosed with gall bladder disease. Usually, in most cases, this is not a life-threatening condition. But it can be if there are other digestive complications. She waited seven months for a straightforward gall bladder operation.
My mother broke a hip. The hospital failed to check if she was able to take certain types of painkillers. She had an extremely rare condition that made her very allergic to medications containing barbiturates, and, in fact, most common narcotics. My sister discovered this and panicked. The medication was changed but my mother went through two weeks of drug-induced dementia and almost died of a seizure.
But the worst story involves my father.
I moved from Montreal to New York City in 1979. During my second summer in Manhattan, in July of 1980, my mother called and said my father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I visited them shortly after, and his prospects seemed relatively good, although uncertain, of course.
My mother called a few weeks later and said the cancer had spread to the liver. I flew to Montreal the next day and went directly to the once-venerable Montreal General Hospital. I emerged from the third floor elevator and was astounded to find the corridor lined with gurneys, trolleys and hospital beds as far as I could see.
On these beds were people young and old, men and women, in various stages of agitation. Some simply whimpered. Others were crying, and shaking, some were shrieking. It was a scene straight out of Bedlam.
I found my father's room and even with the door closed behind me, the dreadful cacophony could be easily heard. I finally tracked down a nursing assistant. I asked him what was going on in the corridor.
He said, "Our psychiatric and drug wards are full. This is the overflow. We have to take them and we have no where to put them."
I was due back at my office the next day, so later that evening, I got back on American Airlines to return to New York. Shortly after takeoff, I broke down in tears. The man beside me asked if he could be of help. I told him what I had seen at the Montreal hospital.
He was, like me, a Canadian who was immigrating to the United States. He was an ophthalmologist, in the process of recertifying to practice in the U.S.
My father died five weeks later, thankfully, at home.
Call it socialized medicine, national healthcare, the single-payer system - it doesn't matter. It is run by a bureaucracy that by its very nature is all-powerful and, in time, uncaring.
Columnist Dick Morris has been following this issue very closely. If Obamacare comes in, Morris predicts rationing of health care. What does that mean to you? Morris cites four targets: 1) Cut diagnostic tests such as MRIs and CAT scans. (I personally suspect that, right now, the state of Rhode Island likely has more of these available to patients than the entire Province of Quebec.)
2) A reduction in the use of antibiotics. 3) Fewer Caesarean sections will be performed. 4) Care designed to manage chronic back pain will be cut.
In Britain, there is a rationing board under the acronym N.I.C.E. They do some NOT nice things. Canada also has a "rationing" system. If you are 65 or over and rationing comes in, guess who is most expendable?
Suppose you are 70 years old and in need of a kidney transplant. You have been on the list for quite while. If a 23-year-old comes onto the list, who do you suppose will get the transplant? A bureaucrat will get to say who is expendable - in other words - he/she will have the power of life and death. One report says that in Great Britain, if you are over 65, you cannot get kidney dialysis.
Decisions under Obamacare will not be medical. They will be financial. And you will not be able to bypass the rulings and pay for your care yourself. Private payments won't be permitted. Plus, when the U.S. goes to socialized medicine, there will be no other country to go to.
The battle is just beginning. I'm going to follow it closely. There are many other aspects to be investigated, such as the 46 million uninsured figure that is being bandied about. I'll try to dissect that figure. It will also be interesting to see where the Blue Dog, so-called "conservative Democrats" come out on this issue.
If Obama takes over health care, he will have acquired another 20 percent of our nation's economy, on top of the other sectors he has taken over - banking, insurance, and auto manufacturing.
Last word - if Obamacare comes in, would you like to guess how drastically applications to our medical schools will fall? It's hard to imagine any medical doctor wanting to undergo seven years of expensive and tough training only to labor under the thumb of a faceless bureaucrat.


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