October 19, 2009
Flu Season Prelude to Healthcare Reform
This flu season looks to provide us an inkling of the real dangers inherent in large scale health care reform, most especially a full blown national health care option. You see, the U.S. Government has purchased all the current swine flu stocks. They (and states) have also obtained a significant share of seasonal flu vaccinations. Distribution is to be made following a strict public health protocol. This should be easy. After all we’ve been doing it for more than a century, right? Sadly, it is only when you confront the human face of it– even one filled with so many PhDs and MDs – that the inability of a large bureaucracy to get it right becomes obvious. Personal examples of this work best.
I have a kindergartner at home, who is healthy and active in all respects save asthma that becomes dangerous when he’s exposed to respiratory illnesses. He is among the very first who should receive seasonal and swine flu vaccinations. My wife has made more than a half dozen calls to our primary care physician for the flu shot. All have been met with the same response – we have no vaccinations available.
Alas, a sickness induced asthma attack last week brought us to the office. There, our Doctor gave him the vaccine, which had actually been in stock for weeks. Because my child was not on Medicaid, the stocks the government purchased could not be diverted to him. This story is being repeated across the nation, and is a chilling example of how a bureaucracy strangles the decisions of doctors and patients.
Sadly, that’s not the exasperating part. You see, I am a disabled veteran, and can enter any Veteran’s Administration facility and get a seasonal flu shot. The VA is so flush with the vaccine that they even hold raffles to encourage more of us to get the shot. The acronym for this is FUBAR.
Any system that favors a low risk adult over a high risk child is damnably broken. It really doesn’t matter if the fault lies with the epidemiological researchers at the CDC, the state Department of Health or the physician’s office. The system cannot work -- precisely because it is a government, not doctors and patients, that makes the choices of who gets the shot.
We live in an imperfect world, with scarcity and want. Right now we have insufficient flu vaccine and struggle with a method of allocating these resources. There is no need to have this struggle. Like most Americans I am happy to pay the market price and pay taxes to provide vouchers to the poor (as we currently do with food). And for my friends who mistrust markets I ask: wouldn’t it be far better for local physicians to make the decisions?
This bungling of healthcare highlights a simple fact: no government, however well meaning, or well educated can pull off a national healthcare plan well. Let us hope that righteous indignation towards a legislative catastrophe is the only discomfort we feel this flu season.
About the Author
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