Greenhut Gas: Spreading Socialized Health Care Myths

You’ve gotta love Steven Greenhut. He never misses an opportunity to spread a myth to support his “Libertarian Principles.”  These principles of course include the general premise that any form of collective interaction of the population is socialism and therefore bad. If the “free market” does not create it, it should not exist.  The Libertarian perspective sees no need for regulation of business at all. Laissez faire capitalism is the only societal model of merit and business will regulate itself.

Simply put, everyone should be on his or her own.

Extending the libertarian principle to its logical conclusion related to health care, any form of collective system of health care services is unnecessary and socialist. It is this very principle however that has caused to exponential rise in the cost of health care in the United States. 

True to his beliefs, in a post today on the Orange Punch blog (Obamacare needs to be stopped) Greenhut claims that:

 “President Obama’s health-care reform plan will be a disaster, which will put government further into the health-care business and further turn the system into something that functions with the compassion and efficiency of the Department of Motor Vehicles.” He further claims; “Increasingly, the Canadian system is failing — long waits for services and doctors who are fleeing for other countries.”

First, the current system of health care, run by for profit insurance companies, makes the DMV look like a good model to follow.  In order to get care that you need your doctor needs to call the IPA that contracts with the insurance company to “manage” your care. When they deny that test, service, procedure, or referral, you can then appeal that decision to your insurance provider who will tell you that your employer did not order a particular level of care, so you cannot get it unless you want to pay for it yourself.

Because of this process the United States has the world’s most expensive health care system. Americans get coverage either through private insurance provided by employers or bought by individuals, or through government-run programs for the elderly, poor and others. But millions remain uninsured and the United States lags many other industrialized nations in important health measures such as life expectancy and infant mortality.

In an article published in the Denver Post on June 7, 2009 Rhonda Hackett debunks common Canadian Health Care Myths.

Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.

The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. The provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Think about it. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to decide who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered.

Myth: The Canadian system is significantly more expensive than that of the U.S.

Ten percent of Canada’s GDP is spent on health care for 100 percent of the population. The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP but 15 percent of its population has no coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. In essence, the U.S. system is considerably more expensive than Canada’s. Part of the reason for this is uninsured and underinsured people in the U.S. still get sick and eventually seek care. People who cannot afford care wait until advanced stages of an illness to see a doctor and then do so through emergency rooms, which cost considerably more than primary care services.

For the record, the administrative cost for Medicare (the government program) is around 2%.

healthcareSecond, while the Canadian system may not be perfect, it is not a disaster and it is not failing. Doctors are not fleeing Canada the statement is simply not true.

While a certain amount of cross-border and overseas migration is inevitable in today’s economy, when it comes to (Canadian) physicians, the brain drain is more a trickle than a flood.  Physicians enter and leave the country for a number of reasons. For instance, some Canadian doctors go overseas for medical training then return home to practise. Foreign medical school graduates may arrive with temporary work visas or as landed immigrants, practise in Canada for a while, leave, and even decide to return eventually.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) charts migration patterns for practising physicians. The data exclude interns, residents, and doctors who leave Canada right after graduation without ever working here, but they still provide important information on trends.

According to CIHI data, the number of doctors leaving hit two peaks in the last 35 years: one in the late 1970s, when we lost around 600 doctors a year, and another in the mid-1990s, when we lost around 700 a year. Further analysis of the losses in the mid-1990s shows this represents a loss of only one to one and a half percent of all practising doctors in the country. As well, this trend appears to have slowed in recent years — in 2003, only 320 physicians left Canada, and in 2004, there was actually a brain gain of 55 doctors.

Libertarians like Greenhut would rather demonize efforts to provide health care to all Americans than address the need. Using terms like socialism, and painting images of long lines like at the post office or DMV, and claiming long waits for surgeries are all tools of deception they present to distract people from supporting any change to the status quo out of fear. In Orange County, Freedom Communications refuses to present any alternative point of view. For those who only get their news from the Register, they can only assume that Health Care Reform is unnecessary, unwanted, and too taxing.

So when Greenhut blows off his gas about Obama mishandling the Health Care debate; that his health care ideas are losing popularity; that he is failing at keeping congressional Democrats on the same page and, of course, that his fiscal projections are way off; then of course there is only once conclusion you can reach.

But a conclusion based upon irrational protestations and phony analysis is wrong. Every major industrial economy in the world provides health care to its residents (and in most cases to visitors too). These economies have not collapsed under the weight of ever increasing health care costs. There is no excessive bureaucracy controlling or rationing care. Unlike the United States where there is a insurance company bureaucrat motivated purely by profit looking for any possible way to deny coverage for the care your doctor says you need, there is no government bureaucrat standing between your doctor and your care. There is only basic health care, provided to all, and paid for by all.

Other than the fact that there is no “profit” in it, what’s wrong with that?

  9 comments for “Greenhut Gas: Spreading Socialized Health Care Myths

  1. July 23, 2009 at 11:13 am


    Your mistake is to equate collective action with government action. Free citizens can — and do, all the time — act collectively for mutual benefit without the cattle prod of government coercion in their backs. The liberal conceit is that individuals are too selfish or unenlightened to act together for the common good unless the government forces them to — or to even know what the “common good” is unless government elites tell them.

  2. July 23, 2009 at 11:44 am


    You are making the mistake of calling the actions representative democracy something separate from the collective will of individuals.

    We have the freedom to choose our representatives in our government by the collective action of voting for them. Government is NOT separate from the PEOPLE. Government is of, by and for the people. The problem is that our definition of “people” has been expanded to include corporations and businesses. They are granted the right of personhood and use their profits to influence the legislative process at the expense of public good.

    I love the fact that we had the likes of Tustin Councilman Jerry Amante decrying the raid on local governments to balance the budget, while supporting the principle of a cuts only budget solution.

    Looks like you folks want to keep your cake and eat it too.

  3. rlh
    July 23, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Mr. Cunningham’s response is illuminating, but I fear not in any sense he’d like. The notion that people left to their own self interest will escew the common good isn’t a “liberal conceit” – it’s an established historical and behavioral fact.

    People are by nature myopic – they look out for No. 1, not Nos. 1 through 1,000, inclusive. Our health care non-system is a perfect example of this phenomenon in action – an “I’ve got mine, screw you” mentality that ignores the larger common goods to be had from truly universal care – improvements to public health overall, a lessening of financial catastrophe arising from uninsured illness, greater economic productivity, a decreased percentage of GDP devoted to the area, and on and on. the current system is, for up to a sixth, of our population, a miserable failure, but it’s ok to folks like Mr. Cunningham because “the market” did it. Well, here’s news: markets, like people, fail. The miss things. Not all the time, and not on all things, but on enough things that a blind reliance on them for our salvation (economic or otherwise) is less rational decisionmaking than it is snake oil purchasing.

    And please spare me the notion that “the market” would take care of the currently uninsured if only the government would step back from the regulations already in place – the entire concept of non-coverage for “pre-existing conditions” is alone a sufficient rerfutation of that fantasy.

    Someone has to be the adult in the room, to rein in markets from their inevitable voraciousness, their essential coldbloodedness, and their unfortunate tendency toward cannibalism. Point me to an entity that can do that aside from the dreaded “government,” and I’ll happily look. I suggest, however, that such a thing doesn’t exist, nor could it.

    However much the Right may disparage government, it reamins (conceptually at least) the expressed will of the people – not just their economic desires – and thus can address issues from a perspective that the market not only lacks but by its very nature dismisses as irrelevant.

  4. July 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    “Government is of, by and for the people.”

    True. But that is very different from saying government is the people, which is very clearly is not. It is our servant — and in America, with very strict limits on what is permissible for it — and as such separate and distinct from the people.

    Your formulation that “government is the people” has far more in common with fascism than American republicanism.

  5. July 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm


    I’m sorry your view of humanity is such a pinched, pessimistic one. What is a historical, behavioral fact is the generosity and charity of the American people, who organized collectively annd FREELY every day to help each other out, and do so much more effectively than the government.

    If you are going to argue the government can create wealth and deliver services more effectively and efficiently than the free market, you are so blinded by theory and ideology to the historical record as to be beyond reasoning with.

  6. rlh
    July 23, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Funny, I thought we were talking about large insurance and medical corporations. All of a sudden, I’m dissing the United Way.

  7. Dan Chmielewski
    July 24, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Matt — Liberals stand for Facism? Sound like someone got a new copy of Jonah Goldberg’s very flawed book.

    Here’s a quote from Andrew Sullivan that sums up the facism/liberalism/conservatisim argument pretty well:

    “What American ‘conservatism’ has become fits closely within the definition of fascism: an intensely nationalist movement intent on defining membership in the ‘nation’ on linguistic, religious, and (increasingly) ethnic/racial criteria, accompanied by an unquestioning loyalty to (male) authority, enshrined in family leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, and especially, the leader of the nation, who is seen as embodying the Nation. Loyalty to the Party or Movement and its ideology is of great importance. Violence is the preferred means of accomplishing goals. Diplomacy, compromise, negotiation, are all identified with (feminine) weakness. The rule of law is also despised, because it lacks the immediacy of (violent) action, and its emphasis on balance and its concern with proper procedure is also seen as a sign of (feminine) weakness.

    This is the outcome of the bargain the GOP made with the Devil back when it decided to go for the Wallace voters after the ’68 and ’72 elections. Kevin Phillips has repented a hundred times over for counseling the Southern Strategy, but too late. The GOP has discovered that when you sell your soul to the Devil, the only question is when does the Devil come to collect? Well, he’s come.”

  8. Misha Houser
    July 24, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Well put Dan. I’d only add that the politics of divisiveness was voted out, and as smart as the GOP claims to be (and has been in the past), you’d think they’d get that and move towards a more constructive platform.

    I know that it worked in Clinton’s era, but there are many more energized voters who don’t remember those years. I believe the GOP’s continual slam without solutions is transparent to a much more politically aware this time around.

  9. July 24, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    My definition of a conservative is something I’ve read somewhere (readers help please!), someone with two perfectly good legs who refuses to move forward.

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