Dan Popp
"Rationing? What rationing?!?"
By Dan Popp
June 22, 2009

No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be? — George Orwell, Animal Farm

My favorite soon-to-be-ex-Senator, Chris Dodd, was on TV the other day expressing shock that anyone would associate his socialized medicine scheme with "rationing." I think he dismissed it as a "scare tactic," but I was screaming, and may not have heard him clearly.

He wasn't Bidenizing — this is the official implausible denial. Director of the White House Office for Management and Budget, Peter Orszag stated recently, "No one here is talking about rationing."

Anyone who says something that moronic should not be allowed anywhere near a position of power — much less the power of life and death over you.

All economic systems ration. That is their function. Rationing happens.


In a free-market economy rationing is done by prices. When supply is low, price is high and people buy less. Maybe we wouldn't call it "rationing," but "voluntary conservation." The point is, it serves to optimize the allocation of resources. Another thing that happens when prices are high: more suppliers step in get some of those profits, easing the scarcity — and soon lowering the price. This common-sense approach to buying and selling has worked for mankind for all kinds of goods and services for thousands of years. We're supposed to believe that, for some unexplained reason, it wouldn't work for health care (even though it has in the past).

In a socialist economy rationing is done by people like Pete who don't know anything about medicine, business, or economics. Nor, apparently, is history their strong suit: rationing by government decree has happened in Britain, Canada, Sweden — everywhere Animal Farm-style medicine has been imposed. France's vaunted health care system is bankrupt. But this won't happen here. Oh, no. After all, we're the good guys! We would never ration your health care! Why, those are just scare tactics!

There is no perfect system. Price-coordinated economies leave some people with less health care than we would like them to have. But it does put pressure on providers to keep prices low, and pressure on patients to prioritize their needs, rather than running up someone else's tab with a trip to the Emergency Room for every headache.

Socialist economies also leave some people with less health care than we would like them to have. A lot more of them, in fact. Since it hides prices, consumers use more services than they would otherwise. Limiting profits provides disincentives for doctors and other professionals to enter the field. The disassociation of demand, reward and supply leads to shortages, which lead to longer wait-times. And rationing.

Laughter is better medicine than this

Read closely the comments of Director Orszag immediately following his "No one here is talking about rationing" line. With no apparent sense of irony he stutters, "What we are talking about, look at the source of that 30 percent or so in potential efficiency gains in the health system for unnecessary procedures, unnecessary days in hospital, unnecessary applications of technology and what have you."

In the same breath that he denies any possibility of rationing, he — an unelected bureaucrat — declares that some procedures are "unnecessary." Well, sure; but which ones? Comrade Pete will decide that for us.

A lot of the unnecessary treatments provided today fall under the banner of "defensive medicine" — doctors heading off potential career-ending malpractice lawsuits. Is there anything in the Obama plan to address this root problem — say, a "loser pays" tort reform provision?

That's a rhetorical question.

Here's another one: on what planet does the government know anything about "efficiency?" Oy vey. Physician wannabe, heal thyself.

The question is not whether rationing will occur. The question is, who will do the rationing — the market, including you...

Or Pete?

Click here to discuss this article.

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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