The return of Hillarycare

What exactly is the dirty secret behind the flowing phrase, “universal health care”? Actually, there are many, and Thomas Sowell lays them out neatly in this devastating column. This is one of the ones to print out and hand to friends when they start extolling the virtues of government-run health care.



  1. James

    Scott: Being in the UK myself, I’d have to point out that’s probably one of the NHS’s BETTER features; we regularly have corpses stacked in unrefrigerated side rooms (morgue full), people bleeding out after waiting 10 or so hours to have a minor injury treated, people waiting multiple years for basic surgical procedures…
    On the other hand, a little money gets you past most of the delays. My mother has an infected root canal; by paying, she’s going to have it treated in early June, rather than waiting a year or two for that wonderful “free” treatment the uninformed seem to envy. Meanwhile, most Brits don’t have access to an NHS dentist and have to pay directly – a much better system, although the government involvement still inflates prices dramatically.

  2. ChrisV

    I’m agnostic on the question of government health care myself, but I have to say that I think that article was a bit crap. The argument that it is cheaper to run private hospitals is a gigantic straw man; as far as I know nobody is claiming that governments can provide the same amount of medical service more cheaply. The argument, whether explicit or tacit, is for wealth redistribution.
    So after a bunch of irrelevancy about private health care being more efficient, Sowell smugly promises us “facts” rather than “political rhetoric”. What we get instead is a couple of half-baked anecdotes about British hospitals being covered in vomit, or something?
    The argument of those sympathetic to government health care and education, like myself, is that those things are an enabler, rather than a commodity. You can’t work while sick and it’s difficult to get a decent job without education. Or, to put it in purely economic terms, having people of working age not working because they are ill, or training rich but incapable people rather than poor but capable people for jobs such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and so forth, is bad for the economy as a whole. I think some amount of wealth redistribution and merit-based allocation is good in these areas. I would like to see the hospitals and schools themselves being run by private enterprise, however, and the government simply an agency of wealth redistribution. An example is the school “voucher system” beloved of most conservatives.

  3. James

    Chris: The trouble is, the US (at least in some states, I haven’t checked all of them) already HAS precisely this system: state “health pools”, whereby you can get private health insurance capped at a certain price regardless of medical status, then welfare payments can make up the difference. There’s no need for some massive federal government bureaucracy – indeed, there’s no need for any change to the healthcare side!

  4. Stewart Kelly

    Couple of points:
    1) Universal health care does not necessarily mean everyone is forced to use the same system. Australias (my home) healthcare system is universal in the sense that everyone has access to it if they need it, and everyone contributes to it from taxes. But you still have the option of private treatment if you wish and can afford it.
    2) Universal healthcare systems are often cheaper because of the ability to negotiate drug prices down.
    3) Thomas seems to be applying a very generalised view of government (inefficient) to a specific case. Not necessarily incorrect, but he makes no argument as too why it should apply in this case.
    4) Average length of life is generally higher in countries with universal health systems. This is assuming other factors similar, such as the wealth of the countries. The ability to visit a doctor with no, or low, out of pocket costs, results in people being more likely to visit. The result: a generally healthier nation.

  5. Stewart Kelly

    The current set of US state systems varies in quality and extent of coverage. So the set of state systems as a whole doesn’t add upto universal coverage in the sense that everyone has access to affordable health care as needed.
    Plus fifty odd state health bureaucracies are less efficient than one federal one.