Critics of state medicine have missed the fatal flaw at the heart of public health care. It’s not the quality of the care, the availability, the wait times, or the cost to taxpayers. The core problem with public health care is that doctors instinctively want to curb activities they deem too risky in order to lighten their case loads.
The same goes for health care administrators and the politicians responsible for the health care system. Reducing the risk society is exposed to makes the health care system look good because it has less to do. That, in turn, makes officials look good. The problem with this approach is that all human activity contains an element of risk.
Who, then, is to decide what level of risk on the part of an individual society will find acceptable?
The covid-19 pandemic illustrates this question perfectly. The CBC reported April 7, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health urging people to stay off the roads.
“Dr. Robert Strang said the health-care system is currently stressed, and fewer people out driving means medical workers likely won’t have to deal with as many motor vehicle crashes.”
Note that he isn’t suggesting motorists are likely to add to the pandemic, but that they could, theoretically, add to the number of patients in the hospital; to the patient load. To the good doctor, this additional risk is unacceptable.
The same argument could be used in normal times to keep all motorcycles off the road because motorcycles are twice as dangerous as traveling by car. And it can be used to keep large cars off the road because they disproportionately injure occupants of small cars in accidents. And, as he says, just driving a car opens you to the possibility of a serious accident. Better take the bus.
What about riding a bicycle? You’re relying on the invisible gyroscopic action of wire-laced wheels and a tiny contact patch with the road. Very dodgy. Or take paddling a canoe. Canoes are so inherently dangerous, they would be banned from every lake in the country if it wasn’t for the fact they were invented by Canada’s natives. Sky-diving, scuba diving, rock climbing? Think of an activity you enjoy and figure how much you raise your risk factor by enjoying it. Do you think doctors share your view of whether the risk is acceptable?
Take drinking as another example. Health officials know they can’t shut this down, but don’t they just try their damnedest to do so. And they’re succeeding. The drunk driving laws in this country have damaged every drinking establishment, especially those country pubs we used to know and love. How did we all get home in those days of yesteryear when cars had drum brakes, solid steering posts and no seat belts? It is a wonder.
And smoking. The Health Nazis have just about squeezed out this pleasant recreational drug (essential for paratroopers dropping into Normandy) through the use of onerous taxation. Given its central importance to society for 400 years you would have thought they’d find a safer replacement, but no, their solution was to ban it everywhere, for everyone. Here’s an example of medical argumentation against tobacco:
Using recent health and medical spending surveys, researchers calculated that 8.7 percent of all healthcare spending, or $170 billion a year, is for illness caused by tobacco smoke, and public programs like Medicare and Medicaid paid for most of these costs.
One wonders if these researchers added up the cost of the opioid crisis or illicit drugs; which is where people went when they could no longer go out on the back porch for a smoke. Probably not.
So, you see what I’m getting at. Officials can blame any activity you might be interested in from skiing to swimming, to playing hockey if they decide your risk level is higher than they like. Personal freedom be damned; because we all pay into public health care you are guilty if you use it. If we didn’t have public taxation paying for our health care, we could ignore these risk reduction strategies and keep our freedoms. Let me put that another way. If we weren’t paying for public health care, the politicians wouldn’t have an argument to curb our freedoms and turn us all into serfs.
Covid-19, or the fear of it, besides killing our seniors, is also killing our freedoms and hardly anyone has noticed or seems to care.