Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Physicians As Slaves …

May 16, 2011
There was a bit of a dust-up recently involving Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY), they were debating whether or not healthcare was justly considered a human-right, and what that means.
[Quick aside: Rand Paul might more correctly be called a libertarian, but I understand why he had to choose a major party, in order to get on a ballot and have a real chance. The more interesting part is that Bernie Sanders calls himself an "independent." Sanders is rather clearly a socialist, perhaps it might be more honest to call him a "Super-Democrat?"  :-) ]
Anyway, back to the story. I think it’s a good discussion and the original question deserves some thought. There are two parties that might be considered “slaves” in this scenario.
First up, taxpayers forced at gunpoint (that’s what ultimately enforces compliance) to pay taxes to support others. Now technically, taxpayers in this narrative are not slaves in the the 18th century Southern plantation sense. But as I think it was Dr. Walter Williams who said that the difference between this and slavery (again, in the 18th century Southern plantation sense) is one of degree rather than kind.
Second, let’s consider doctors themselves. No, at the moment doctors are not in the position of slavery. But there is one trend that has me concerned. Many on Medicaid and Medicare are having trouble finding doctors. More and more doctors are simply refusing to take Medicare and/or Medicaid patients (see here, here, and here). Many doctors are not finding the low reimbursement rates and hassle worth it. How long before we see the Feds decree that physicians MUST accept all potential patients, and at a rate less than they would voluntary choose to agree to? What would we call that scenario?
And if healthcare is a human-right as some claim, let’s use a little reductio ad absurdum to see where this leads. Consider the scenario in which no one freely chooses to become a physician; no one wants enter the medical field as a primary care physician. In the “healthcare as a human-right” world, by definition at this point everyone is having their human-rights violated. Would the federal government force some people to become doctors? How would we describe that outcome? Or perhaps only slightly-less disconcerting, would the government be willing to tax people more in order to pay bonuses or bounties to some people to convince them to become physicians?
Just some food for thought. And definitely do read the healthcare as a human-right post. And check out the additional links below.
I believe that Rand Paul is absolutely correct in this exchange. See this post on healthcare as a human-right.
Paul, an ophthalmologist, took exception to Sanders’ remark that health care was a right for everyone, saying that was akin to putting physicians into slavery. ‘Having a right to health care implies that you have the right to conscript me and you can enslave me, the janitor at my hospital or the person who cleans my office or the nurse,’ Paul said.
If Health Care Is A Right, Does That Make Doctors Slaves? : Health Blog : NPR: “‘Do you feel like a slave?’ That’s a question Dana Kraus, a Vermont family doctor, probably didn’t expect at a Senate subcommittee hearing today on the issue of how to reduce the unnecessary use of hospital emergency rooms.
But that’s what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked her as the hearing turned into a philosophical debate between the socialist Sanders and conservative Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY) over whether health care is a right for all Americans.”

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