BRUSSELS -- Conservative bloggers went bonkers back in 2006 when then-Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean traveled to Portugal to keynote a meeting of the Party of European Socialists. At last, they clucked, Democrats were showing their true colors, though in truth Dr. Dean never hid his sympathies.Just calling a spade a spade.
He was back again last week to rub shoulders with his ideological soul mates, albeit without his former title as DNC chief or a job in the new Obama administration. Still, in an interview here amid the latest meeting of the Eurosocialists, he was especially enthusiastic when talking about the Obama health care plan.Did I ever tell you, dear readers, about the morning I walked past my local Brent Council health clinic? The waiting room was full and there was a huge line out the door and down the sidewalk. At first I thought, "hmm, they must have legalized crack." But then I realized, "nope, they're just waiting for health care, the way the Russians used to wait for half a loaf of moldy black bread."
A former physician, Dr. Dean is a fan of the cost-cutting merits of President Obama's "comparative effectiveness review," to be funded by $1.1 billion quietly inserted in the recent stimulus bill. Critics say CER would provide a formula, in a future government-run health care system, for denying treatment options to save money -- much as happens today in other countries, where rationing-by-waiting list or outright refusal to provide care are the norm. "That's never going to happen in the U.S.," responds Dr. Dean. American patients wouldn't put up with it. Instead, he says, under Obamacare, doctors will be free to prescribe any procedure or remedy they deem appropriate as long as they're willing to "go through some hoops." Dr. Dean seems to assume physicians will be willing to wade through red tape and risk the ire of government overseers by insisting on prescribing expensive treatments. Others might have their doubts.
Ah yes, the glories of universal health care.
But wait, there's more.
On the flip side, even Dr. Dean worries about the fate of pharmaceutical research under a system of government-dictated prices. Americans already pay for most the world's drug research because only in the U.S. are drug companies allowed to charge a price that covers their huge sunk research costs. His solution: Sue the European and other countries that put price controls on medicines at the WTO. "The rest of the world must pay their fair share of R&D," he said.Good luck getting anyone else in the world to fund something they've been getting for free for the last, what, 50 some odd years?
If you have a disease or malady for which your government masters don't deign to provide R&D funding, too bad.
If you're on the list of people deemed unworthy of life saving surgery or limited supplies of meds or a frickin MRI, too bad. Wait in line and hope you don't die before your number gets called.
Look, the status quo sucks, but it's better than socialized medicine and worse by far than the type of health care reform suggested by conservatives.
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