Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Government Is Not My Shepherd

I love the image of Jesus as shepherd and his followers as sheep. Believing that Jesus is God and that He cares for me and that I am dependent on Him for spiritual life is comforting. I am repulsed, however, by the idea of the United States Government being my shepherd.

A recent trip to Doctor’s Care for diagnosis of and an antibiotic prescription for a UTI brings the whole thing home to me in practical terms. I saw a nurse practitioner who agreed with my diagnosis and promptly provided the prescription and dismissed me with no charges saying, “You are all taken care of.” I didn’t actually feel better until the drugs kicked in.

After a few weeks and some paperwork passing through the hands of some government employees or contractors, I will receive notices from Medicare and from Mutual of Omaha, my Medicare supplement provider, about what was done with the claim filed by Doctor’s Care. And the government will borrow a little money from China to pay the bill. It will probably be $100 or so. And the national debt will rise a bit.

Where in the world did the idea come from that just because we reach a certain age, fellow tax payers should be taking responsibility for all our medical bills? Am I the only guy who understands that this is what is driving up the costs of health care? Am I the only guy who understands that, without such a government imposed Medicare price control system, doctors and other health care providers would be scrambling for cash paying customers and cutting prices and improving efficiency and advertising in order to serve as many patients as possible and collect from them when services are rendered? And I suspect most of them would be very generous in their treatment of those less able to pay.

You may say, “Well Darryl, if that is the way you feel why don’t you just turn down the Medicare benefits and insist on paying cash?” Because there is no Medicare benefit. It is just the return of a small fraction of the several tens of thousands of dollars of Medicare taxes I paid over my working life and the approximately $3,500 a year I am now paying for Medicare. I’m not getting anything for nothing.

But it is a terrible system, pumping in money and displacing private investment and preventing competition and creating non-productive jobs and, eventually, out of necessity, rationing care. And I will never get comfortable with the idea of government as shepherd, not even for physical life.