My Experience of the National Health Service

I lived in England for twenty five years and lived with the National Health Service. The argument for the National Health Service was simple: through taxes the state provides basic health care for the whole population. I hear my right wing American friends grumbling about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision and raising their voices about the coming wave of socialism, but I’m not sure everyone has thought it through.

All of us already pay taxes and receive certain services for the whole community which we take advantage of when we need them. Nobody bleats about socialism when they pay taxes to pay for the police, the national guard, the armed forces, the judicial system, the prisons, and fire fighters. Nobody complains too much that we pay taxes and receive education for our children, libraries, museums and city, state and national parks to enjoy. I don’t hear people complaining when they get their social security check in old age or their elderly parents get medicaid and medicare. I don’t see people campaigning to close the food welfare banks or calling for all welfare payments to cease.

The fact of the matter is that we already live in a mixed economy in the US. Our system is part socialistic and part capitalistic. In my opinion this is actually a healthy and civilized solution. Complete and consistent capitalism does not have adequate systems to put in place and maintain proper public services. Complete and consistent socialism quashes enterprise, hard work, initiative and proper reward.

The question therefore is not, “Shall we have government services paid for by taxes?” but “Shall we add a national health service to the existing services the government provides?” My experience of a national health service in Britain was both good and bad. Everybody paid a tax which was called “National Insurance”. Because everyone paid the National Insurance contribution, individual contributions were generally lower than what we pay for health insurance here. Like all insurance plans, because we were healthy we paid more than we used. It’s the same with all insurance plans and taxes. I pay for the fire department, but they’ve never come to my house. It’s part of living in society.

When we needed the National Health Service in England it was there, and although there were grumbles, in my experience the whole thing worked pretty well. The advantages were that everyone had a huge burden of concern lifted from them. Basic health care was available for all. Taxes seemed much higher than in the US, but if an American added his health insurance payments to his tax bill it would be roughly the same.

The problems with the National Health Service, however, are the same problems of Health Care here. The health services are full of dedicated, hard working, honest, caring and giving people. However, the health and insurance industry is also full of corrupt, venal, greedy and lazy people. The National Health Service in Britain is a notoriously over blown and expensive industry. The British NHS is the world’s third largest employer after the Red Army and the Indian National Railway. The bureaucracy is huge. There is a huge amount of waste, graft, kickbacks and inefficiency. Because there is no competition there are insufficient checks and balances in regards to costs and salaries. Critics say it is one huge gravy train.

Furthermore, in my limited personal experience of health care in the USA–for all the bragging we do about how excellent it is, I have found it to be hugely expensive, health insurance to be expensive and getting worse, and the actual care provided to often be poor and at times scandalously poor. My fellow Americans may not like to hear me say it, but on balance I think the National Health Service has the edge.

If I were in charge what would I do? I am personally in favor of a government provided health service just like I’m in favor of other tax funded services which benefit the whole community–rich and poor alike. However, to avoid the overblown bureaucracy why couldn’t we have a health insurance tax which operates on the local level like school districts? Hospitals could still be self governing, but health insurance would be handled through the local government structure.  If the health insurance was provided on a local level there would be more local oversight by elected officials who could lose their job if there were corruption and inefficiency. Local officials would be responsible to local voters.

This solution has the advantage of keeping power and responsibility at a local level. It also has the advantage of built in competition–which helps keep costs down and efficiency levels up. So, for example, my local health insurance district would pay for my treatment, but I still get to choose what doctor or hospital I go to. This also has the advantage of taking health insurance out of the hands of the big insurance companies–who are out to make a profit–and put it into the hands of local, elected authorities who are providing a service–not running a business.

With power in the hands of local people they could also decide the important subsidiary issues. The local voters will decide if their health insurance district pays for abortions, sterilizations etc. The local voters would elect officials who would decide whether or not certain treatments would be covered. Local hospitals would also have the freedom to provide certain controversial procedures and policies and let market forces decide whether they do or not.

So write me in for president whydontcha?




  • Greg Cook

    A simple, heart-felt thank you for sharing your perspective on this.

  • Tom S.

    Thanks, Father, for your perspective. And thanks for the attempt top calm everyone down. It seems the vocal advocates – on both sides – get way too much attention, and those of us who are just trying to work it all out in the middle are left out and ignored. This legislation is not the end of the world, nor is it the road to paradise.

  • rebecca

    can anyone say “subsidiarity”? good post, Father.

  • MarylandBill

    I have to agree, while I am not necessarily a fan of socialized medicine (not entirely convinced it is the best way to keeping health care costs reasonable), I know it saves lives. My brother has lived in England for a number of years, and during a period of very limited means, when he noticed a lump, he was able to get it biopsied and when it turned out to be cancerous treated without sinking him financially.

    What I do object to is the emphasis that is placed in the current health care law on contraceptives and abortifacients.

  • Gorgasal

    Localizing health care would have two other consequences:

    a) Poor counties (or whatever other geography one would assign this responsibility to) would have trouble making ends meet. See the US school system for what follows. Rich/successful people would “vote with their feet” – they are already moving where the schools are good for their kids; how much more would they move somewhere the health care is good? Of course, this could be addressed by transfers, but transfers would come with strings attached, and there goes local responsibility. A national transfer scheme would probably have rules like not subsidizing counties that do not include abortion in their coverage.

    b) Like it or not, health insurance is not simple. Just like a lot of other things are not simple. Assigning this to counties would mean that each and every county would require one or more experts in this. This may be less of a concern than point a) above.

    That said, I think the massive expensiveness of the US system has other reasons. E.g., that no income tax is owed on health insurance. This has good reasons, of course – but it creates the incentive on employers to gold-plate its insurance plan. And so on…

  • Matthew the Wayfarer

    Now that I’m retired, collecting my SSI, about to sign up for my Medicare Plan through Secure Horizons, as well as having my VA coverage I am feeling pretty good about my future. How things change when you get to this point. In my younger days I said I would never participate in this ponzie scheme (still not convinced it isn’t one!) but here I am.

  • Ann

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on this. Very interesting and honest. I’ve heard similar things from my family in Canada.

  • James Locke

    While I do respect your position, I do think that we invite things that are morally wrong whenever we give over to government the power and responsibility for things like this. Abortion, universally free contraception, sterilization, and even in the Netherlands, euthanasia.

    As a Catholic, I think that we need to be much more generous with our money and our willingness to voerlook the faults of others when they are not severe. Tort reform is a large part of the equation that has never been implemented. Tort costs account for a tremendous rise is health care costs in this country.
    For example, back in the old days, if you twisted your ankle, you went to see a doctor and he would tell you to stay off of it for a while and then give you crutches and send you home. But now, he sends you to get an xray and then an MRI. Then he tells you to stay off of it, gives you crutches and pain medication and sends you home.

    Why the extra stuff? Because he is terrified of a lawsuit in case he makes a mistake.
    Did you know that well over 50% of all tort cases come from the same 1% or 2% of doctors.
    If instead, we got those doctors out of the health system, via a three strikes rule or something, then maybe we might just be able to lower costs while maintaining a relatively high degree of medical care.

    • Bill

      Father, interesting insight. My question, like James Locke points out, why didn’t you address the added requirements that make us pay for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients. Also, I read that there is a fee charged to everyone that requires a dollar be put into a fund for abortions. I am interested to know your views on theses.
      I appreciate all your work.
      God Bless, Bill

    • bobbie

      That’s not what happened to my father, tho. When HE twisted his ankle playing baseball in the 1950′s, the doctor told him to stay off it for a week and take aspirin for the pain. Unfortunately, he’s been hobbling ever since. My brother twisted his ankle playing tennis last summer, and his doctor sent him for an MRI and they found a partially torn tendon. 6 weeks in a cast and some therapy, and he’s playing great tennis this summer. Turns out that a smart doctor does a thorough investigation. to find out what the real problem is. If every doctor followed Jame Locke’s advise, we’d have many more unhealed patients.

  • Susan

    I, too, like the NHS. We had good experiences there, with two children born under the NHS and my husband having an emergency appendectomy. I’m back in the US and pregnant again and find myself annoyed with the lack of communication between doctors, lack of cooperation, and just general waste in the system. What annoys me with Obamacare, really, is continuing to use the bloated insurance system that really doesn’t work as efficiently as it should, in my opinion. The high malpractice insurance also limits care (example: ACOG says women should have the choice of VBAC, but the malpractice insurance is high, so few doctors will actually attend a VBAC). Various antenatal practices in the US seem to be designed just so the doc doesn’t get sued, thus restricting the doctor and limiting patient choices. All in all, I’ll take the NHS any day.

    • Michael Seaman

      Did you have a baby in Great Britain? Can you state that the hospital room in the UK was as nice as what most people can pick here when having a baby? Was there an anesthesiologist on call all the time, even on weekends? In other European countries with national health care systems, you share your room and bathroom with other women. Doctors, who are not as well trained or educated, go home on weekends often leaving sick people (as I was) to wait until Monday for care (always in rooms full of other sick people). There are no anesthesiologists on call except during “working hours.” Hospitals are dark, dreary, un-tech places and long lines and wait-lists everywhere. You can not be serious in stating that this kind of system is better that what we currently have. I have seen it and I have used it extensively and the quality of care is far, far worse. By the way, my wife had a successful VBAC in the USA for our sixth child–there was no hesitation on the part of the doctors in her group to give it to her. It sounds like you stated that you’ll take the UK’s national system over ours because of waste in our system. Again, if the costs are high in the USA, is THIS the best way to solve that problem–turn it over to the government? Not a chance.

  • Karen

    Thank you! I especially appreciate the statement about adding health insurance costs to our taxes. I pay $400/ month in income taxes, $500 / month in property taxes, bit $850 / month in health insurance premiums for me and my two very healthy sons, plus a $200/ month contribution to a flexible spending account. (a savings account for health car expenses taken out before taxes, like a 401K). I can’t imagine I would do worse under the National Health, and I would be in a world where everyone had the same security I enjoy.

  • JamesR

    It is my understanding that in addition to its other immense faults (corrupt, bloated, etc.), the British NHS model is going broke and getting even worse, due to the changing demographics.

    Too many people fall into the “if you don’t like Obamacare you must think the current system is fine” trap. It is not an either/or proposition. I don’t think there is anyone that will argue that our current health insurance system is broken and needs major revisions. That does not mean our alternative has to be single payer. Why on earth would we want to follow a European model right at the time that the Euro model is starting a slow motion implosion?

    There are all sorts of creative ways (remove interstate barriers to competition, tort reform to get malpractice premiums under control, health care savings accounts, portability regs, etc.) to address our health coverage woes. The Father’s ideas have merit too — why not discuss that sort of approach

    Of course, then you have the alternative — which was rammed down our throats by the most pro-choice president in history, and which contains something like 1500 references to “the Secretary shall”…. and which requires, not as a bug but a feature, the hiring of 4000 more IRS agents, etc., — but no matter, if 2008 is repeated, he will once again coast to victory with 53+ percent of the Catholic vote, and we’ll have healthcare “with all the efficiency of the DMV combined with the compassion of the IRS.”

    • Fr Eric

      You make valid points. The present offer from the newly created omniscient and omnipotent Pres and Sec of HHS should scare us all. The present state of health ins. is a vicious circle. There is no doubt that when I hire someone who has his/her health ins. somewhere else it is a real savings for my parish. Financially, the country cannot handle national health care, yet, individually, private health care is grossly prohibitive.
      What Fr. Longenecker did not note was that total control of medicine will be unionized medicine in the pocket of the present administration. If choosing doctors and other decisions are localized then how shall that be controlled? What if out of 10 doctors, most of the community chooses 1-6 and ignores 7-10 for whatever reason? Should 1-6 be paid more? Merit pay for doctors? Just look at public education and tell me it works. We spend less than 4K to educate a child, and public schools spend 11K. My concern is the lust for power to control and dictate who gets what. Unilateral and unyielding power in the Sec of HHS should sober everyone up.

  • Vincent L.

    Early in life I knew more than a couple folks from Canada who would come to the US for treatment as it took to long in Canada to see a doctor or get scheduled for surgeries etc. This led me to oppose a national healthcare on the grounds that you can’t see a doctor as often.

    I aged and my opinion of the medical industry changed some. I started to see the blatant drug sales -vs- interest in health etc.

    Finally I looked into life expectancy and found that the socialized medicine countries, where you can’t get treatment as fast or see a doctor as often, live longer than we do here in the USA. Then I understood. Apparently the more the government can keep the doctors away from you the longer you live.

    Suddenly it all made sense.

  • mike cliffson

    Golly, what an openended topic, FR !( BTW: no writein vote for you_ nothing personal as might get me kicked off your combox, you could have my write in vote were I American, but I aint.)
    A few points:Stateside or elsewhere,always and everywhere, on material issues given very few years , Catholics priests and religious snafu everything. some branches of the church specialize in creating relative scandal, even, Catholic laity do worse, Baptized noncatholics worse still, but 100times or more better than Deists, westearn secularists etc. God DOES bless christian efforts! Atheistic Socialists and the like commit massmurder, usually quite fast.
    When the British NHS started, amongst other things ( one of your points father, it nationalized existing structures, which did mean each family doctor working with rather than for the NHS, independantly, local hospitals, understaffed local health boards -susidiarity by default)A massive contingent of Irish nurses staffed hospitals, massive numbers of Anglicans were things like District nurses.A stereotype, but s ometimes stereotypes are broadly true.
    Abortion put the kyebosh on that.How could it not? Add the Labour party getting mrxist all over, agendas and what have you…
    Nearly 200.000/year on the liverpool pathway, which includes murder, God know how many murdered babies : why should anything whatever just not get slowly worse, year by year?
    If I were American, in the present atheistic culture of death, I would nt trust THEM, as in Beltway, with so much as disposing of a single dirty nappy aka diaper . What you cousins can do Im not sure, but have ideas, but if The lord dont build the house the most perfect system ,as a system, still gonna produce monsters.

  • Joe

    Decentralization is definitely a fair way to minimize bureauocratic BS…our founders would have agreed :)

  • Martial Artist

    Fr. Longenecker,

    With all due respect there are just a few mischaracterizations in your post:

    (1) “Nobody bleats about socialism when they pay taxes to pay for the police, the national guard, the armed forces, the judicial system, the prisons, and fire fighters.” Actually, some of us do consider (and complain about) paying taxes for:
    • “ the national guard and armed forces.” Albeit the complaint is about the uses to which the armed forces are put (nation building by force of arms) and;
    • hugely wasteful procurement.

    (2)the prisons.” The complaint here is that when A robs B, the State charges B for the capture, trial and incarceration of A for the 5, 10, or 50 years of his sentence, rather than imprisoning A and providing him with mandatory labor, some meaningful part of the earnings from which are paid to B by way of restitution for the harm caused.

    (3)that we pay taxes and receive education for our children.” Considering the steadily declining standard of public education in the U.S. just in the 50 years since I graduated from high school, we complain, not so much about paying taxes to the State for universal primary and secondary education, but for the fact that the only choice is State operated schools, who have, in general, led the advance to the rear in educational accomplishment. The alternative to this would be to collect the taxes at the necessary rate for public education and issue a voucher to parents for each child redeemable at any (public or private) school of their choice. It might be called market competition in education.

    (4)when they get their social security check in old age or their elderly parents get medicaid and medicare.” My social security check and Medicare benefits are “given” to me now in puported recompense for all of the 48+ years of work during which I and my various employers were forced, under ultimate threat of the use of deadly force, by the State to surrender a percentage of my earnings over and above income tax (Social Security and Medicare Tax and Payroll Tax, respectively) to be doled out to the “beneficiaries of those systems” ahead of me.

    (5)Complete and consistent capitalism does not have adequate systems to put in place and maintain proper public services.” This is so solely because it has not been allowed even to try. This country has had an increasingly mixed economy since the latter part of the 19th century. Up until about 1913, there was no consistent inflation in this country, nor in your original home Great Britain. Since about 1913 the United States and Great Britain have currencies that have each lost more than 97% of their purchasing power through inflation. The U.S. is on the verge of an economic collapse likely to rival the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the UK, even though outside the Eurozone, is facing a similar fate.

    The reason you are apparently unaware of the above is likely that the economic facts do not conform to the “party line” promulgated by the hegemons whom we continually reelect whose spokesmen are the chattering classes of the MSM. A healthy dose of subsidiarity, p.r.n. would probably do the industrialized social democracies and the U.S. a great deal of good in the long run.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

    • Fr Eric

      Valid points, all!
      Yet, how do we deal with pharmaceutical companies controlling medicine so as to make money? Still, I have no trust whatsoever of a radically secularized govt that does not hold to any principal of natural law, views the Constitutions as waste paper, and our leader who and lieutenants who think a child “accidentally” born alive should be left for dead so as to fulfill a contract.

    • Raymond Suda

      Brilliantly stated, Mr. Topfer. Thanks for taking the time to enlighten Father.

  • Luke

    You appear to have ignored the enormous subsidy that the UK government pays into the National Health Service, and an amount in always increasing. The dead hand of government is why the present system does not work well and why ObamaCare would be worse. Some free-market innovations in the United States would be welcome. There is no reason why the free market can’t reduce costs and improve the delivery of services in the health care arena as it does for every thing else, and there is every reason to believe the government control (to a greater extent than we have now) would lead to fewer services, more expense, and rationing. Sarah Palin was not wrong when she predicted that Obamacare would lead to death panels. It will, without doubt, and anyone who says otherwise is naive.

  • Gina

    “…The local voters will decide if their health insurance district pays for abortions, sterilizations etc. The local voters would elect officials who would decide whether or not certain treatments would be covered. Local hospitals would also have the freedom to provide certain controversial procedures and policies and let market forces decide whether they do or not.”

    If health care becomes a right as instituted by the government, then all procedures are rights, and no matter who is voted in at any level, Catholic hospitals will have to perform everything from abortions to sex changes courtesy of the devout Catholic tax payer. (And maybe coming soon to an Archdiocese near you.) As it is now, the Church is fighting for its Constitutional right to not be forced to pay for such things. I don’t believe there are such protections in the U.K.

    • Skittle

      Why would all procedures be rights? There’s constant debate in the UK over which procedures should be offered free on the NHS, as opposed to for a price at a private hospital, as well as which drugs are effective enough (given their price) to be worth providing on the NHS. At the moment, that means abortions are generally provided on the NHS, within the law, because that is sadly what the voters support. Cosmetic surgery is generally not provided, unless there is a serious reason (so, facial reconstruction after an accident: yes; breast enlargement because you want D cups: no). There was a lot of debate over the last decade or so about IVF and fertility treatments on the NHS: you might want to trawl through old news coverage of that.

      I don’t always agree with the priorities and reasoning of the voters when it comes to this stuff, but it is certainly not the case that all procedures are rights under the NHS. Given your own system would be less socialised, and it would be American voters that decided which procedures were included, which procedures were included would be different.

  • Wills

    I do complain about the schools. Government run schools area a shambles. Not a good analogy, Father.

  • Tracy

    Remember when the gov’t broke up Ma Bell and everyone was worried that the phone system was going to go kaput? Instead we have a competitive system of businesses which have pushed communications to a level no one would have believed possible. Here in ND we have only one healthcare company permitted in the state (as I understand–and I haven’t found otherwise). Imagine what could happen to healthcare in the U.S. if companies could sell in all states?

    The only thing I think the gov’t should be insisting upon is that every insurance company be required to take on a certain number of un-insurable people. An insurance agent told me that years ago. He felt that alone would solve a lot of the uninsured issue.

  • Will

    This new system is not a national health system. To me, that is a problem because it probably does not do enough to control costs. It is a start. Too many want to kill it instead of tweaking as needed as we move on.

  • Robert

    I had a good experience of National Health in the UK but have also enjoyed “universal health coverage” in Belgium and Switzerland (the Swiss have an excellent private health insurance/health care system but with universal coverage at a reasonable cost for all). I now live in the USA and believe we should have MEDICARE FOR ALL. I work part-time with no employer-provided health insurance. My premiums cost about 1/3 of my earned income (with a $10,000 deductible). I look forward to being on Medicare. This is an important public policy issue for all people of faith. I find it disturbing so many oppose universal coverage.

  • David G.

    So what is going to happen to us new doctors with a quarter-million dollars in school loans to pay back? Does socialized medicine mean a pay cut? If so, I would like the government to forgive my loans now – the whole thing – because otherwise I will have to find a better paying job to get out of debt. I’m not alone either. My debt load of $250K is less than most of my colleagues.

  • AnneG

    Just a few facts, Father. The US population is 5 to 6 times the size of England and Wales with a much more diverse population spread over an area about 100 times greater than England which has a different NHS than Scotland. The distances and diverse needs alone make governing and policies difficult. In most of the US we used to have a public system, county hospitals. These were done away with by Medicaid.
    If you want costs to go down, encourage more variety in payment such as fee for service and catastrophic plans. Then get your representatives to do away with law suits.
    Also, you can have cheap medical care if you do not access the latest technology and drugs. It’s cheaper if somebody else pays for it, like we do in the US for the rest of the world.
    Finally, medical care costs exploded in the US with introduction of Medicare. Not enough space to explain the reasons, but medicine became a place to make a lot of money, rather than a profession and art. Now, the way to make a boatload of money is to be a lawyer and sue deep pockets.

  • Robert Hartley

    Socialism is not good. It can’t run health care any better than it runs Social Security (essentially broke) or Medicare (essentially broke). Do the words “ponzy scheme” ring a bell. The government has promised much that it can’t deliver and now the socialists (Obama and supporters) want to take over our health care. My experience with health care is that it is good and used to be excellent before insurance took over more and more of it. What we need is true competition and freedom to grow the industry to meet the increasing demands of an aging population. Oh, btw, no one has been denied health care in this country for decades, so don’t pretend we need a government take over for poor people to have access to health care.

  • Chris

    Dear Fr. Dwight,
    Thank you for your post. It brings a different solution that I never stopped to think about before. I wonder though, how can we pay into a single payer system that uses our money for services in which we are ethically opposed to e.g. abortion, contraception, stem-cell research, unjust wars? As of late, I am wondering if I can be a conscientious objector for such use of my own tax dollars. In other words, if .025% of my family’s tax goes to fund such services, can I refuse to pay that on my tax bill? What would the church teach on that?
    Blessings, Chris

  • Wills

    For ordinary care, NHS is fine. But for other things–cancer care, cardiac bypass surgery, management of crippling arthritis in the elderly, renal dialysis–things that we as Americans have come to expect and that drive up costs–not so good. NHS care on these levels would be considered malpractice here.

    • flyingvic

      Wills, this statement is as true and as false as any other swingeing generalisation – and is therefore better not made.
      The NHS, brilliant in its conception, has been undermined by the rapid advances in diagnostic and medical technology, in surgical techniques and in drug regimes that are so often extremely expensive. To this day, if your diagnosis and required treatment are staightforward, the NHS is still brilliant. The complicated stuff varies from region to region; the care of the elderly – who so often have different and conflicting ailments – is a particular problem in a service run by accountants, whose mantra is “admit sick, treat well, discharge cured.” Wherever that does not prove to be possible the service begins to break down.

      • Michael Seaman

        Your use of the word “brilliant” to indicate “great” would indicate that you are a British subject. It is clear you have had experience with the NHS, but may I ask you whether you have had any personal experience with the American health care system? If you have not, I would argue that it is difficult for you to make an accurate comparison. It is a well known fact that people from foreign lands, the UK included, very often come to the USA for treatments of complicated health problems and it is a well known fact that the USA is the place they come for this service because we have the world’s best health care. Period. But let’s throw it all away and adopt the UK’s system because costs are too high.

        • flyingvic

          Michael, I use the word ‘brilliant’ to indicate ‘brilliant’. The NHS was set up in the austerity years just after WWII to deliver the best possible health care free at the point of contact to every person in the country regardless of any ability to pay. I think that deserves the adjective ‘brilliant’.

          I do have direct experience of the NHS and no experience whatsoever of the American system – which is why I made a comment rather than a comparison. Perhaps the US does indeed have the world’s best health care; but do I understand that it is not ‘free at the point of contact to every person in the country regardless of any ability to pay’? That would rather take the gilt off the gingerbread, wouldn’t it?

  • Jim Moore

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Father. But here’s the experience of a dear friend of my wife’s (a gentleman who is a professor at Maryvale Institute, the only Vatican-declared Ecclesiastical Institue in the English-speaking world…appropos of nothing, I suppose, other than that I want people to know I’m talking about a man of great value to the promulgation of our Catholic faith).

    He had a heart attack on a Friday afternoon, at the age of 43, and was not seen by a doctor until Monday. He was simply sedated. Since then, he has had to wait months for appointments following up on his condition. That, to me, is unconscionable and the sign of a grossly inefficient system.

  • Dana Whtite

    To extrapolate from your 5 years in the UK as a young man with few if any health problems and conclude that socialized medicine works and will work in the United States is just absurd. When I was 26 I lived in France and had one opportunity to use their socialized health care system. But like the vast majority of young people, what I needed was akin to first aid and required no after care of follow up. I too can say it was great! I was in and out in an hour and it cost me nothing. But let think a little bit here and look harder at the issues.

    Our Federal government is essentially bankrupt. The debt at some $17,000,000,000,000 is greater than the gross national product. And that does not include unfunded liabilities like social security and medicare. Estimates for the total unfunded liability of these programs is as much as $ 100 Trillion. There is not enough money in the world to pay for them. The actuaries of both Medicare and Social Security have called them “unsustainable.”

    And because the government has done such a swell job with these programs you want to turn the rest of the health care system over to them. Obamacare is a giant scam. Obama wants to suck 30 million more Americans who don’t have health insurance system to redistribute wealth. Most of these 30 million are young people who don’t use the health care system at all, but Obama wants their money.

    As far as your ideas on local hospitals making decisions, how does that solve any of the above problems? Also, look at other Federal programs, how many decisions are made locally as opposed to in Washington D.C. I’ll give you the number: ZERO! Do you really think Washington politicians are going to let localities opt out of their decisions?

    Look at the fight over the HHS mandate for Catholic institutions. If Obamacare is not repealed in a Romney administration, you ain’t seen nothing yet! We will all be paying for abortions, sterilizations, euthanasia and any other damned thing the government tells us to.

    This kind of economic ignorance has gone on for far too long in the Catholic church. The Catholic Bishops constantly militate for more and more socialism and then are surprised one their socialist friends turn on them. Let me tell you something, to radical leftist ideologues like Obama, Catholics are nothing more than useful idiots. He thinks religion is a joke and that people are stupid to believe in it.

    If you are willing to read it, I will buy you a copy of F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

    • flyingvic

      To extrapolate upon your non-experience of the NHS and say that it wouldn’t work in the US might be considered equally absurd . . .

  • Mr. Patton

    I find if very courageous of you to be honest on this issue and express it publicly. Thank you for your candor during this difficult political atmosphere that is to come.

  • hershal

    Your argument is just ok, Fr. Are we to think there is lesser greed and corruption at local and state levels? Your idea about voting them out works or doesn’t work in Washington as well as the state house. Yes, we are a combination of socialism and capitalism, but I don’t hear a lot of noise on my side saying let’s do away with all govt programs. Most of us are reasonable about medicare and social security (by the way how about having the same govt that controls social security govern our health care. That’s comforting). Life is largely drawing lines. Sometimes you say this far and no more. In fact we all draw lines. This is one. Giving up one-sixth of the economy to faceless beaurocrats is just possibly not a good thing. Yes we deal with with bean counters with our insurance, but at least we have some control to pick and choose our bean counters. If the problem is many millions ( they say 10 to 16 million) who are without let’s fix that. I think most on my side would agree to help those who truly need it. I know I’m all over the place with this — sort of stream of conscience almost — but what about Canadians coming here for health care? What about the death panels (don’t squirm, call them a nicer name if you must, but with a one-payer system, which the prez is on record promoting, we will eventually die when we’re told, and have no recourse). The govt will, by necessity and design, come between you and your doctor. Lets just not be naive about these things by following the late, great Rodney King and just all get along. You choose your battles and I don’t want Nancy Pelosi within a thousand miles of my rights and freedom regarding my health care. If we are serious lets reform tort stuff and open up insurance availability across state lines to foster more competition — I guess. I’m not real smart meand I don’t have all the answers. I’m not supposed to, I’m just a guy. I’ll end by just saying “hey, come on.”

  • Ella

    I think a nationwide program is a mistake. State run (with a conscience clause) might work better. I know how military healthcare works and I wouldn’t have my family anywhere near it.

  • djc

    I’m a longtime reader but this is a first time comment.

    In my opinion this is your best column. My wife is a Type I Diabetic who is totally dependent on 5 insulin shots a day and up to seven blood tests daily. She’s had diabetes for approximately 3o years. Type I Diabetes is genetic in nature and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. Through extreme diligence and a strong self will she is complication free. For those who are against some type of health care protection/plan my question is this–What is your solution for Type I Diabetics if they lose their employer based coverage? First bankruptcy and then death?

  • Ben the Atheist

    Very interesting and I largely agree width this post! I don’t have any experience with the British system but I have some with the Swiss healthcare system, which incidentally is the one most similar to what the healthcare law is attempting to set up. There is a mandate for everyone to buy basic coverage, with subsidies in part or whole for those who cannot afford it and the elderly. However, you are free to purchase any amount of extra “gold plated” insurance if you so desire.

    The problem with localities running their own health service (San Francisco actually already does this) is that they do not have the massive purchasing power to drive down costs like the feds do. I think mandated state-level single payer systems are a good compromise, with some limited federal subsidies.

    Those that talk about rationing need to realize we already ration care as it is–but by money instead of by need.

    With respect to abortion, in countries where abortion is covered under national healthcare the abortion laws are much, much more strict, especially in continental Europe. It is strange that America has some of the loosest, most permissive abortion laws in the world while “secular Europe” has strict ones, but there you go.

  • Ben the Atheist

    Let me also add that I find it odd so many American Catholics seem to have right wing economic beliefs while almost everywhere else in the world Catholics tend to be socially and morally conservative but pretty strongly in favor of the social safety net. Think of the various Christian Democratic parties and their predecessor, the Catholic Centre Party in Germany. They are and never were in favor of laissez-faire.

  • Mike

    Letr’s not forget this law covers major covert abortion funding. Evil wrapped in supposed good, is always evil! Let’s get rid the law and start anew. The law did not have to have this abortion funding, but it does.

  • Jill K

    Hi Father,

    Thanks for your honesty. I have to say that I completely disagree! I grew up on the Canadian border and heard the countless horror stories about Canadian health care. I have friends that work in the medical field that analyze different medical systems all over the world—and they will tell you that the best is in the US–and they are not all American. There are ways to improve our current system, people like Marco Rubio have been suggesting these for a while:
    1) Tort Reform
    2) Open up insurance policies across state lines—we are truly not as free as we need to be with our insurance choices.
    These two changes will do a lot for our established medical system.
    We do not want socialized medicine in this country. We will lose all of our innovation and technological development as well as the needed work ethic. NOBAMA 2012
    Although not every doctor, nurse, specialist, or hospital is the best–and we all have had bad experiences, MOST OF US HAVE CHOICES! If I don’t like a certain doctor or specialist, I can find another one. Some people have some restrictions based on their medical plan (again, we don’t have as much freedom to shop as we should) but most people have some flexibility. Flexibility in a plan like Canada’s means extra $$$ out of your pocket—with no guarantees of anything. Almost every Canadian that I know comes across the border if they ever have a real medical issue. Doctors in Canada send their family members to the US for medical care. Father—–this is not what we need.

  • http://newadvent colleen

    Father, isn’t it our duty as Catholics to look beyond our own experience when evaluating such a huge issue? The fact that you had a good experience with socialized medicine is just not a responsible way to measure things. I could say the same about our children’s brief experience in the public schools here in the U.S. but it would be callous in light of how inner city children suffer in public schools.

    There is an amazing naivete in our church leadership regarding the use of government for solving problems. Good grief, what does it take? They bankrupted Social Security, the government run healthcare, in the form of Medicare, Medicaid, the V.A. and so forth, is a disgrace. Need I go on? They lied about abortion coverage in Obamacare, lied straight to our faces, and stuck their finger in the eye of the Catholic church. Do I sound expasperated? Well, I am. We have been out here trying to fight this encroachment for years without much support from our church leaders. This government, which is growing blatantly antagonistic to our Christian values, should be entrusted with the bare minimum in power over our lives. If you don’t understand that, I am at a loss as to how to make it any clearer to you. Perhaps this article about the British healthcare system will help you to look beyond your own experience with regards to socialized medicine.

  • Michael Seaman

    I have had experience with a national health care system–that of Italy. I have been seen by their doctors and been cared for in their hospitals. Without getting into details, I can assure the readers here that the health care in the USA does not only have the “edge” but is far, far superior. You must be putting too much weight on the high costs of American health care in your equation. If you compare services and quality of care, I bet there is no comparison. So we need THIS to bring costs down? I spend a lot of time in Italy and have been a resident in both the USA and Italy and I can state with no hesitation that even the small county hospitals in the USA are better than most major city hospitals in Italy. I have seen the end result and government is definitely not the answer.

  • Jarrad Faulk

    Keith Topfer’s post says almost everything I was going to say. Bravo Keith!

  • tz

    Of course the Knights of Columbus could provide insurance on health care along with others, but leviathan is always better, at least in theory. What happens when the local single payer (e.g. Vermont) dwmands payjng for contraception and abortion? Will they be local taxes for the local health care, or federal/ Like Medicare. When Medicare provides euthanasia, will you tell everyone to refuse to pay during a homily?

    That said, emergency services and chronic conditions aren’t subject to market forces. How do you get bids from trauma centers when unconscious? If it is dialysis or death, what is the marginal utilitynif not infinite?

  • Theresa

    I think we can see that the more money we dump into the school system the worse it gets. The same would be true for a local healthcare system. The problem is: there is no limit to the federal government. The constitution has been burned. Why wouldn’t the feds want all the money funneled into DC just like they did with schools? I know it sounds good to the bishops, but government control of anything makes it coercive and there is no room for freedom. We have lost the sense of responsibility and therefor must lose our freedoms. It comes down to the fact that once Americans started contracepting and aborting their children, we have no priests or doctors to do in charity what once was done. Now we are left with the consequences. We want a mixed economy, but the fact is: it will always become tyrannical because of the nature of man. If we remain ignorant of the nature of man and basic economics, we will keep making the same mistakes.

  • Sharron

    Sorry, I just don’t trust politicians on any side of “the aisle”. Jesus did not have much to do with government and when he did it didn’t work out very well for him. To endorse anyone to depend on any government does not make sense to me. When did you ever hear this President use the word “Liberty” The struggle for individual freedom has always been against as much government power as possible. Yes, I have paid taxes when necessary, yes I receive Social Security only because it is the law, yes I have financial resources independent of any government payout and I intend to keep it that way. What will people do when the country becomes communist as that is the goal of “progressives” ???

  • Pete McNesbitt

    Father, it is hard for a lot of people to equate HHS with the potential of Obama Care. The working poor hear the word affordable insurance, the tea party crowd hears socialized medicine and “death panels”. Why nobody could understand that the”death panels” were nothing more than A Living Will, is anybodies guess. Probably not sensational enough to think people can actually have an Advanced Directive, without trying to get around the dying process. i think the Right thinks of Advanced Directives as a way around expensive end of life heroics that benefit insurance companies and doctors more than families.

  • ann

    I have lived long enough to have experienced the difference between pay for service, regular health insurance run by non-profit companies, HMOS (God save us) and now Medicare. The problem with all of the above after non-profits is the interference in the doctor patient relatioonship, the boggin down of the system with codes and paperwork and continually changing regulations which in themselves raises costs.

    Most of your comments Father do not take into account the very special nature of the doctor patient relationship it seems. It does not seem like you have experienced a difficult and drawn out medical condition that brings home the wisdom of the principle of subsidiarity and the Church’s admonitions about the welfare state which robs us all of our God given rights.

    I worry about the fact that as Catholics we have the duty to take ordinary care of our health and the right to seek extraordinary care at times. Obamacare will ration. I promise you that because I am already seeing it in Medicare and it has worsened in just the last year. What about our right to exercise our faith in the ordinary care area?

  • Kathy

    Very well said Father! I moved here from Canada in my thirties when I married an American. The conservative American Catholic way of thinking has been an endless source of frustration to me over the last 12 years! This is yet another case. Yes, the whole contraception/abortion issue is very important and distressing (and should be addressed!), but so is the fact that 10′s of millions of Americans don’t have insurance. The pope has plainly stated that basic healthcare should be an inalienable right for all, but somehow that doesn’t seem to register with many conservative Catholic Americans. It seems like what the Republican Party says is more important! I think American Catholics would be very well served by reading what is actually taught by the Church and also what kind of healthcare other developed countries have (not all are purely “socialized” – it actually varies quite a bit). Hearing a few biased anecdotes about people coming to the US to get medical treatment is so unfair! Granted, there are problems in Canada’s healthcare system and I’m sure in European countries too, but if it’s that bad, why does the overwhelming majority of the population (at least in Canada) want to stick with it? They want to fix what’s not working, but certainly not get rid of the system! It pains me to hear how heartless people (especially Catholics!) sound, when they don’t seem to care about the uninsured and seem to be more concerned about having to pay more taxes. Individualism is very well rooted here, and it’s often not something to be very proud of, I think.

  • Kyle

    It is so hard sometime to discern what are Catholic objections to all of this and what are the conservative or liberal objections.

  • Gary

    The U.K. has to ration healthcare for the seriously ill and the elderly in order to help those who can recover. I recommend a search on Liverpool care pathways.

    • Skittle

      And if you’d rather pay for private care, you can do so. Most people cannot afford private health care, in either country.

      That there is occasionally a scandal from poorly-run hospitals or frankly evil doctors, doesn’t tell you anything about rationing or public policy decisions. If I find that child sexual abuse is rampant in some American public schools, does that mean that the US government is rationing education? Or has a deliberate policy of abusing children?

      I would never take my view of something like this from the Daily Mail: I would always check to see what other newspapers said, or look up the sources, because the Daily Mail invents and twists facts for the sole purpose of supporting the basic editorial principle “The country’s going to the dogs”.

  • Gary

    The government takes care of those who can help the government. The elderly and seriously ill are neglected and sometimes even encouraged to die for the good of their family and those who haven’t yet fully lived their lives. The Church is the answer, not the government.

  • J. F. O’Neill

    The problem I see is that healthcare is seen as a right, rather than the expensive specialty field that it is. Doctors are heavily restricted, regulated, and controlled. They cannot run their own business as they want because of all the regulations, prices are high, their expenses are high for education and insurance, and there are other issues.

    Demanding expensive treatments is a bit selfish. Doctors are not our slaves and we are all mortal. In terms of “rights”, if anything, we can only demand the right to be alive naturally. Right now, all the governments involved defy this right with the widespread slaughter of the unborn and promotion of the degradation of humanity and the destruction of the family. It would be better to have no healthcare industry than to have one which supports such anti-life practices.

    Right now, the debate is about “right” to what are extraordinary measures while at the same time the lives of others are dismissed because they are inconvenient and the lives of the living are treated as being degraded.

  • Shell

    Father, you obviously have had a very very small experience of the NHS. I worked as a psychi nurse in it’s broken “patients come last” system for 16 years. I had all 6 children under it’s “care” and I have been serously ill for 10 years under the “care” of the NHS. It has been a solid nightmare, especially in more recent years.
    I have had a doctor tell me “People like you shouldn’t be allowed to have children” because I use a wheelchair. I’ve been shoved from pillar to post and waited months on end to see specialists who spend less than 4 minutes dismissing me and refusing to help.
    I can’t get some of the tests I need in this country.
    I saw a woman on a maternity ward give birth on her bed with only the tea lady in attendence.
    I had a midwife panic when I went in to the delivery unit in slow labour because I wasn’t allowed to go into full labour. She said “I’m the only midwife here and I have 9 labouring women! What am I going to do with you?”
    The medic was no calmer as there were no beds and no theatres free for an emergency.
    Thankfully a few days later when things really did go wrong I had an emergency section. However from that I had yet another post C-section infection.
    As a nurse I saw awful things happen, especially to elderly and seriously vulnerable patients.
    I phoned an ambulance for a neighbour who had fallen badly. She was 75 yrs old. The docs at A and E sent her home saying she was fine after an x-ray. TEN DAYS later a consultant called her to admit she had a fracture. She’d spent those ten days in a great deal of pain. She is not the only friend I have who has had a fracture missed by doctors.
    This is a tiny number of examples I could give.
    However bad the American system is, you really don’t want to copy us.

  • Peter Ford

    There is an inaccuracy here. What Roberts did was rule that the Congress has a right to charge a monetary penalty if individuals fail to purchase a health insurance plan in the private sector. He ruled that Congress has this right because the penalty can be construed as a tax. The individual mandate was not, in essence, about whether we have to pay a tax to receive health care services from (subsidized by) the fed gov.
    The problem with Roberts’ ruling is that it introduces a falsehood and confusion into the history of constitutional law precedents, because IN FACT a penalty is not a tax– there has always been a distinction between these. (As you rightly define it, a tax is payment for a service rendered by the government. But in this case, I am being fined/penalized for failure to purchase something in the private sector.) The issue is this: Suppose I live in Montana in the middle of nowhere, all the members of my family are doctors, I have a lot of ready cash with which to pay for medical expenses as they occur, the nearest hospital is hours away, and anyway I don’t want to live forever on life support. I may judge that I don’t need to purchase health insurance because the product would not be useful for me given my circumstances. Can Congress fine me if I don’t buy it? Obamacare says ‘yes’ because the insurance industry functions better if everyone buys it, since that means there’s more money in the kitty of the insurance companies with which to pay for hospital costs.
    THE PROBLEM IS that there is no constitutional grounds for what Roberts did when he defended the fine as a tax. Since a penalty is not the same as a tax, it cannot be justified by the taxing powers of the fed gov. For him to assert that a penalty can be justified as a tax, means that from now on Congress can tell people to buy anything it wants, and monetarily punish them if they don’t. It is a violation of the principle of private property. According to the basic principles of ethics (justice), if I earn money, it’s mine, and the fed gov can’t take it as a tax, except in exchange for a good or service the fed gov provides. Once that basic principle has been violated (as it is by Roberts’ ruling), then the fed gov has arbitrary power to fine me whenever it wants, just by CALLING the fine a ‘tax.’ This is far from what the Founders believed that the fed gov can do. What has made this country great is its governmental system of INDIVIDUAL liberties. This ruling departs from that tradition.
    PS. The fact that it will be the IRS collecting the fine does not in itself make a fine a ‘tax.’ Who the agency collection is, is only accidental to *why* the money is being collected. it is the matter of why, that makes something be a fine rather than a tax.

  • Katherine

    Giving more control over our lives and decisions to the state is not the solution anything related to medical care and medical insurance. The remedy to high prices is more consumer choice, more competition, less government intrusion, and tort reform. As things stand today, people are unaware of the cost of the services they receive, and the choices they make, which interferes with their ability to make informed choices. Why are you not allowed to purchase insurance from outside your state? Why are you not allowed to decide what coverage you want? Why do you have to pay the same premium as someone who makes unhealthy lifestyle choices? Improving choice and competition will put consumers in charge, allowing them to make their own cost benefit analysis when deciding how much coverage to purchase, and where to purchase it, and giving them an economic incentive to make responsible decisions. I, for one, would like to self insure for minor, routine treatment, and insure myself only for catastrophic events. I am not free to do so. When you look into all of the coverage mandated by your state, and the cost of medical malpractice litigation, and the cost of other regulations and taxes imposed on medical care by government, it is clear that more state involvement is the problem, not the solution.

  • Raymond Suda

    Father, there are sins of omision and sins of commission. You failed to point out that with our countries healthcare bill comes sterilization, abortifacient drugs and contraceptives. Also we use a term called subsidiarity and more government doesn’t coincide with this mode of governmental authority. Some of your points I agree with, but at the very least, you should have condemned the errors of this governments over reach.

  • Howard

    Once again, I followed the comment box rules, and my post was deleted.

  • Jan

    No. One can’t compare healthcare to police or schools. Here’s just a few problems I see: it’s not just a case where everyone will be getting the same care. In fact, the folks who have paid for and are used to a high level of care are going to lose it unless they are Hollywood or Government rich. Some drugs that are currently available now are not going to be approved for continuing usage. There WILL be lines – nothing like a free service to make the people take advantage of it. There WILL MOST DEFINITELY BE DEATH PANELS. The government simply will not be able to afford keeping the elderly alive, and the question now becomes…what age is “elderly?” Most important of all — if it’s such a great thing, then why isn’t the congress and the president signing on to it? They will still get the creme-de-la-creme; they will never stand in line; they will never have to go without a drug they need.

    And while we are on that vein, did you ever notice that when the government provides food stamps, the stores are not obligated to charge less for the food? No, the goverment gives you x amount of money and you buy what you can. That’s never been the way it works for health care. Medicare and Medicaid pay only so much for physician services and they have to eat the rest.

    Yes, it needs to be fixed, but this is not the way.

  • Chrysologus

    Thank you, Father, for a well reasoned, common-sense argument for socialized healthcare. I agree with you, and I think it’s especially important to note, as you do, that socialized programs are part-and-parcel of US society, so even if we ultimately decide that we don’t want government-run healthcare, we should at least realize that there is nothing strange or repugnant about the notion itself. Say something is “socialist” is not a criticism, nor necessarily a compliment. It’s just a description, which happens to fit many elements of US society and may one day fit our healthcare (right now we are in some kind of half-way state, it seems to me, with “Obamacare”).

  • Mike

    Major abortion funding is at the center of this bill—remember in November.

  • julia marie

    A woman at our parish has an autoimmune disorder involving her liver. She has special treatments that involving ‘banding’ of blood vessels without which she would bleed to death. The doctors that treat her are part of a liver transplant center. The doctors have told her that because of Obamacare she cannot set foot in the center beginning in 2013 or the center can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. You see, she just turned 70 and is no longer eligible for ‘extraordinary care’. If this is socialized medicine it is inhumane.

  • Deninor

    The problem with socialized medicine is, besides the bureaucracy, which makes those below beholden to those above for promotions, schedules, advancements, etc., the need to come in “at budget or below.” This will, as with the NHS, mean that many will not be provided the services they need. The NHS admits that is lets 130,000 people die annually year because someone makes a decision that each of those persons will not receive the meds, procedures, that he/she needs. Extrapolated to this country it means the bureaucracy will let about 650,000 people die each year based on a matrix set up to compare the future productivity of a person with the medical expense that will be incurred to treat that person.

    Recently an uncle subjected to the Canadian health system went into the hospital on a Friday with kidney failure. The doctor saw him Monday and immediately began a morphine drip “for the pain.” He was dead by Thursday although he never complained of pain. His relatives were unable to get a straight answer from the doctor.

    The formerly Catholic Katherine Sebilius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, told a Congressional committee recently that birth control and abortions will eliminate the need for medical treatment for a large segment of our population. So we kill ‘em or prevent them from being born so we don’t have to treat ‘em.

    I have moral problems with government run health care. Our government(federal and state) corrupted the health insurance business by adding things outside the realm of insurance like mandates( one in our state covers baldness!). We need to let a truly freer market deliver insurance. The price will go down becuase there is true competition. There is no incentive for cost savings in a public system. As someone pointed out elsewhere, and the site eludes me, we see a degradation of service in public systems. Look at the public/government school system. The price increase inversely proportional to the money pumped into it. The worst teacher gets paid the same as the best teacher because there is a disconnect between achievement and reward.

  • Katherine

    Nationalized medicine is not about health care, it is about control. Who can forget Obama’s response to this woman talking about her 100 year old mother who received a pace maker and was then 105? She was wondering how such decisions would be made under Obamacare, and Obama’s response was “Maybe this isn’t going to help, maybe you are better off not having the surgery but taking the pain killer.” The most vulnerable and marginalized people will be treated the worst when the government bureaucrats deem that their lives are not worth living, or that the benefits of the treatment don’t outweigh the cost.

  • Steve

    America is not the UK or Europe. Our unique history is of rejecting rule by an elitist aristocracy. The rest of the world divvies up wealth and power according to Macchiavellian principles. In America it’s done by effort and innovation. Obamacare is tyranny with a smiley face. PS. Judging by the shape that Europe is in, following their lead may not be too smart.

    • Andy

      I am not sure what US you are looking at – wealth in this country is divided not by effort and innovation – it is divided on speculation and disregard for others. We have an elite – Romney is more assuredly a part of that elite and Obama is becoming part of that elite. It is n elite that looks not at people as children of God, but rather as fungible items to be used and sold. The true tyranny in the US is the tyranny of Mammon and its hold on our government.

  • TheInformer

    Sorry Father, but the UK and most of Europe is the Third World. Americans wouldn’t live in such poverty and largely this is because of years of socialism.

    Furthermore, I wish our priests were genuinely encouraging Christian action to take care of our deserving poor in need. Instead you guys seem to want to throw “charity” work to the government. Why should I help the poor “homeless” when the government will do it? And why should I bother trying to help the “homeless” or other “poor” to fix their problems when I don’t need to know anything about them: their name, situation, needs, etc. Just throw government money at them! Of course, there’s no charity in welfare, so I don’t get the benefits of acting charitably.

    I rarely hear anything challenging from the pulpit…..very rarely!

  • Whit

    Fr. Longanecker,
    Regarding your post, I could not disagree with you more. Please go back and read the Declaration of Independence which we celebrate in just a few days. Then re-read our Constitution. No where in either of those documents does it give the government the authority to take over 1/6 of our economy. In fact, the Constitution actually limits what the government can do and in regard to the police powers and postal service, and just a few things, the Federal government has very few actual things it is supposed to be able to do. What, unfortunately, we have been living under is the idea that the Constitution is a “living” document. in other words it doesn’t mean anything. Try to build a house with a living contract w. your builder. How about taking a bus home using a ticket which is actually a contract and have that ticket be a living document. What would your house look like and where do you think you might end up at the end of your bus ride?
    As to Socialism, it just does not work, even a little bit. The Church has an encyclical about it. Read it. And your Maggie Thatcher gave a very good reason why it won’t work. You run out of other people’s money.
    About capitalism. I am sick and tired of Catholic presbyters spouting off about how bad capitalism is because it does not take care of the X, Y or Z. Take your pick. I’m sorry but Capitalism is the only type of economic structure which does take care of X, Y or Z. And w. capitalism we require private property being safeguarded. I know why all the presbyters think that capitalism doesn’t work. It’s because Capitalists don’t brag about wanting to “help the poor, or some other supposed societal good.” The only problem is that the backbone of socialism is the 10th commandment. Coveting my neighbors goods. and the commandment against theft.
    The real problem w. Capitalism is that the presbyters have not carried out their duty to teach and preach morals, virtue and the beatitudes. No one hears about sin today. There is no sin today. Capitalism works just fine in conjunction with morality, virtue and the beatitudes. Socialism is a failure because as I said, it is built on covetousness, envy and theft of others goods. Without having the government forcibly take from others, socialism fails.
    Finally, my father was a general practitioner who died in ’64 with receivables of over a $250,000. That represented primarily free work he did altho’ not by any means all of it. The reason he showed the $250,000 was because back then welfare was looked down on and his patients wanted to be billed just in case they could make a payment of some kind. Most couldn’t and my parents never pushed it. We never collected those receivables. But that wasn’t just my dad. That was the norm. Try that w. the IRS collecting for today’s health care.
    Father, what is happening now is wrong and no where can you find Jesus, God Himself, preaching that our responsibilities should be taken over by the government relieving us as individuals, of our duties towards others. He is shaking His head wondering just what we think we are doing after all He told US to do for ourselves and others. Our government today cares nothing about virtue, morals or the beatitudes. But we are still under God’s responsibility and cannot get away with shoving it off to the government.
    Pax et bonum

    • Jamie

      Whit – exceptional post, I couldn’t agree with you more. Well stated!

    • Jan

      This should be its own post rather than a comment. Brilliant.

  • Mike Branhut

    The basic idea is laudable, but the problem is 2700 pages of rules about what must be covered and how, plus an ever-expanding list of whatever ‘the secreatary shall determine’. My state requires me to have car insurance, which is reasonable, but if it required me to cover every conceivable problem, including oil changes, tires, gas, little air fresheners, minor fender benders, car washes, and every other thing some well-meaning beaurocrat could think of, it would be prohibitively expensive.

  • Jamie

    The solution to these issues are really quite simple. (As most are before bureaucrats get their hands on them). In three steps this can be resolved: First, remove all revenues to the government via income taxes and then apply a retail sales tax of 20% to EVERYTHING we purchase. (If a federal government cannot manage a budget from the revenue of sales taxes from 300 million people, it DOESN’T deserve to be leading the people). The money we save in not paying income taxes should then be applied to a personal health savings account. (If you are UNWISE to SAVE your money in an HSA, then learn some MATERIAL MODESTY and consider your health first before that NEW FLAT-SCREEN TV!).

    Second, STOP allowing bureaucrats to make careers out of being representatives to the constituency. Everyone who seeks office gets 2, 4 or 6 years to achieve their goals, and then they MUST wait 10 years before seeking office again. Lastly, PROSECUTE CORRUPTION TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW! If that means arresting half of Congress—so be it. When a civil-service employee steals from the people, he/she/they MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE! In the same fashion, corporate executives of healthcare/insurance/ or any other industry who prey on their customers, rip them off, harm them or rig the system—PROSECUTE TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW!

    Expanding the US Federal Government with this much additional bureaucracy is the death knell to personal freedoms. Have any of you ever worked for a very large corporation? Maybe 10-50 thousand employees? Yes, you know what that feels like—like being persona non-grate, like a number, a cog in a vast, rudderless enterprise. I’ve contracted services to the US Federal Government for more than ten years now, and I can tell you this: Just look at the way in which the US Post Office operates and you will see EXACTLY how a government sponsored healthcare system will un-work. Look at your large civil/health and emergency agencies that already exist. Do you really want the management of these massive fiefdoms managing your healthcare? I’ve met some exceptional, compassionate and amazing people working within our federal system, and I’ve met some of the MOST UNQUALIFIED management wielding multi-billion dollar budgets like drunken sailors at port of call after eight months at sea. NOT—PRETTY!

    Remember this?
    “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”

    These are the DEFINED TASKS (the scope) of the US Government’s responsibilities. Not making retail stores out of post-offices, not creating behemoth pseudo-corporate agencies that fail to operate to any level of efficiency, or accountability to the very people who fund their budgets, salaries, etc. not stepping into the natural cycle of private businesses, and wasting tax-payer dollars by the trillions. Not DICTATING that we accept some lunatic legislation that was conceived with the caveat, “After the bill is passed, then the American people will know what’s in it.” (Really?)

    Our government was founded so that we all had a say in defining the rules, and then enforce and re-visit the rules when necessary. But it is not up to the government to play god. We have a God, our One True God, and more than any of the solutions I proposed above, everyone on their knees, every morning, in faith, and prayer will secure what we require. God already knows—he’s just waiting on us all to ASK! And if you don’t believe that, then no government or bureaucrat or plan developed by man is going to save you.

    Vivat Jesus

  • JamesR

    Commenter Kathy stated in an earlier post: “The conservative American Catholic way of thinking has been an endless source of frustration to me over the last 12 years! This is yet another case. Yes, the whole contraception/abortion issue is very important and distressing (and should be addressed!), but so is the fact that 10′s of millions of Americans don’t have insurance.”

    Kathy, let me just tell you that your frustration as an apparent Catholic liberal pales in comparison to my disgust over liberalism as a Catholic conservative. Yep – you hit the nail on the head for me — all we hear for oh…around 3.5 years out of every 4 year cycle are the evils of abortion, and the sanctity of live, and the murder of millions upon millions of unborn children! Opposition to this murder is and should be central to our faith. Heck, our own Archdiose Bishop takes part in prayer vigils outside of the local Planned Parenthood branch…….

    And then…….we start getting close to an election, and suddenly all the Kathys of the world start saying stuff like “yes yes yes, I know, I know, that pesky abortion issue is importannt and it is oh quite distressing……..but what about “Social Justice!!……Migrant Workers Rights!!….Illegal Bush Wars!!……Workers with No Healthcare!”….
    And what happens next? Half of all Catholics forget ALL ABOUT abortion — put the unborn child on the back burner, its election time, baby! That John Kerry or that “Hope and Change” bumper sticker will be right there next to that “Co-Exist” sticker. End result: the most PRO-abortion president in my lifetime (and I am 52), got 53.5% of the Catholic vote. And promptly got invited to speak at Notre Dame after winning.

    The chances of a democratic President EVER doing anything like appointing a supreme court justice who will vote to uphold any state laws putting restrictions on Roe v. Wade; or doing anything like cutting funding to Planned Parenthood is ZERO!! Nil, Nada, Zip.

    And yet………and in spite of this fact — and even in light if his HHS Secretary being given unbridled power to destroy religious freedoms, under HIS monstosity of a law……what percentage of the Catholic vote will still go to the President in November? I can only pray that it is well under 50% this time around.

    • Jamie

      B-R-A-V-O! to you sir! Bravo!

  • Jan

    Too bad JamesR and Whit’s great comments are so far down – not enough people are going to read them.

  • John T Ridd

    Well Father,

    I thought you had something to offer, but you lost me on this one. Catholic healthcare begins with the Master himself in yesterday’s gospel and is continued by his followers on the last day of his earthly life. St. Veronica practices healthcare on his disfigured face and without any help from the government! It continues on with St. Peter and St. John on the way to the temple when St. Peter uses the same words as Jesus, “Gold and silver I have not, but in the name of Jesus, I command thee, arise”. Then, there is St. James in the fifth chapter of his epistle describing the Sacrament of Anointing. From the very beginnings, Catholics have practiced healthcare from the point of view of treating body and soul. Government healthcare cannot do that, because among the bureaucrats there is no belief in Jesus as the savior of the world.

    As Catholics we invented the hospital. We are the ones whom through St. Camillus received the red cross as a symbol of health care from the Blessed Virgin. His feast is coming up in two weeks. Look it up. I could spend an hour writing about saints who took care of the sick and did so without the state. The most recent example is St. Damien.

    No dear Father we do not want the government to be involved in healthcare, because sometimes there are moral decisions to be made, and those must be guided by the Church. Picking up garbage and putting out fires are one thing. Taking care of an 88 year old comatose patient is quite another. Let’s keep the government away.

    • Jamie

      AMEN brother!

    • Ireffragable Fraggle

      Then let the church use her voice through democracy, like the Father is recommending! Without government help the 88 year old may not have any healthcare. Do you really think the church has the resources to fund a universal healthcare system in the United States?

  • Nothy Lane

    I’m Canadian and not a day goes by where I don’t hear someone on the news, on the radio or just another person tell me that we have the”best health care in the world”. Canadians spend a lot of time and money telling each other we have great health care. And I just don’t see it. Everyone I know who has buried a parent agrees with me that the health care system is awful. We actually have a listing in the phone book for medical “advocates” because it is so well known that there is a problem. Let me explain that these advocates are not lawyers to whom you complain about bad service. These are trained medical technicians (nurses, pharmacists, etc) and they will act as a go-between for you with the doctor – they help you get the services you need! The industry is booming. But I have to ask, if the health care system is so good, why do we need “advocates” at all?

    A few years ago, a woman from a nearby town went on and Amercian commercial (put forward for the GOP) saying that under Cdn health care she would be dead but she wasn’t because she mortgaged her house and spent her money on healthcare in the US. The doctors in Canada made a decision for her and if she hadn’t sought US healthcare, she would have had to live with that decision (or should I say die with decision). That woman was later in the local newspaper saying that she has considered moving because of the death threats and harassment she has received as a result of speaking out against Cdn healthcare. There are a lot of people up here who have a vested interest in keeping the system we have going and who ignore the problems inherent in it. I hear people comparing the Cdn and US systems all the time and the resulting comparison ends with “in the US, you can lose your health if you get cancer”. But I can’t because I don’t have the opportunity to spend my money are better healthcare if I choose – unless I go to the US which makes it that much more expensive.

    I volunteer with a woman who has MS. She has a very advanced case of MS . Sh asked her neurologist about going to the US for the new operations everyone is touting as a godsend. (She needs him to sign the form so she can cross the border into the US) not only did the neurologist say no but he told her to find a new neurologist if she went behind her back and got the treatment. (Considering that there are only three neurologists in this city, that would be a huge hardship for someone able-bodied and able to fight him, let alone a disabled woman dependent on him for the meds she needs to see out this disease.) Essentially he sentenced her to die. What do I think about Cdn healthcare? I think it is awful.

  • Mike

    …or we could go to a system like Japan, where the government regulates costs, not profits. Their level of health care is superior to the US and the UK, their costs are lower, and individuals decide what procedures they want to have.

    By the way, I’d love to write you in for president, but I’m told if I do that it’s really a vote for Obama.

  • Richard

    But one of their means to control cost is to pay hospitals to terminate old people with the Liverpool Care Pathway (see

    from the article

    Salford Royal NHS got its payments cut in half since the did not meet their required goal of killing patients by LCP.

    If the hospital kills a patient one day early they save NHS 200 pounds.

    • Ireffragable Fraggle

      This is an article from the Daily Mail, a notoriously scare-mongering British tabloid newspaper. If you read the first few comments of the article, you’ll see some debate about the article’s conclusions…