Socialized Medicine: A Personal Perspective

The late 1980s were an exciting time for me. I watched with rapt fascination as the Soviet empire rather suddenly crumbled, imploding as its insides rotted away.

You see, I grew up in a family consisting of people who fought tyranny in a myriad of ways. My paternal grandmother hid Jewish Hungarians in her apartment as part of an “underground railroad” which smuggled them out of the country. My mother’s father was a newspaper editor who had to leave Hungary because he wrote editorials against both the Fascists during World War II and the Soviets after the war. My father was a revolutionary in 1956, throwing hand grenades at Soviet tanks.

My father was one of the top leaders of the American-Hungarian Federation for decades. He was President for many years. I was exposed to tales of Soviet savagery all my life. When glastnost and perestroika became 1980s watchwords, I prayed the Soviets would leave Hungary. And in 1990, my prayers were answered, at least in part.

Seeing free elections for the first time in decades, I decided it was time for me to get to know my heritage. I enrolled in law school in Budapest and moved there in September of 1990. When I arrived, I naively expected to see American-style freedom. Instead, I found a country which was no longer under the Soviet communist yoke but was still socialist in its economic outlook. I quickly learned that Western Europe was just as socialist and that socialism is not simply about the Government owning everything. Instead, it is about control of the economy and redistributing from the wealthy to the poor.

Socialism is equal parts law and economics. I studied both in a country which still had Soviet soldiers walking the streets bullying the residents for another year and a half after I arrived there. My textbooks were still the ones written under Marxism. My professors received their degrees from Leninist institutions. I was exposed to phrases such as “imperialist exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie” on a daily basis.

I studied socialism. Formally. I know what socialism is. I know its taste, its stench, its ugliness.

One of the most pervasive tools used by socialists is the nationalization of the health system. There are many levels to this from Governments paying for private insurance through complete ownership of all hospitals and employment of all health professionals by the State.

In most cases, the latter is the ultimate goal.

Living under a socialized medicine system, I got to know the many weaknesses of socialized medicine. I had children born under socialized medicine. I was treated for illness and injury under that system. I lost relatives to a system which decides who lives and who dies through rationing of health care resources.

When my oldest son was born, my wife had a C-Section. She told the doctors that she could feel everything but was told that was impossible. It was only afterwards that they realized the epidural was not inserted deeply enough. In recovery, she was given the local equivalent of aspirin for the pain. Across the hall from where she was recovering with our son, they were performing abortions.

I broke the knuckles on my right hand while hiking one Friday morning. I waited for hours in the local hospital before I was seen. By the time they got to me, the doctors had gone home for the weekend. A nurse wrapped my hand with an elastic bandage, gave me some pain meds and told me to come back on Monday. On Monday, I was told that the records showed that I had already been treated. They refused to see me again. No cast or splint.

My aunt (actually an older female cousin but in Hungary the definition of “aunt” is a little more flexible) was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years after I moved to Budapest. She was denied treatment because she was too old. She eventually passed away of the cancer.

Horror stories great and small abound in all countries with socialized medicine. Why? Because despite the rhetoric, socialized medicine is not about doing good for those in need. It is about control – control of the economy and control of the population. A Government which runs the health care system takes on the role of God in society. It decides life and death. It controls lifespans. It can make decisions based on wealth, race, gender, genetics or simply efficacy.

Imagine a Government which is facing the bankruptcy of its nationalized pension system, such as Social Security. More specifically, imagine our Government trying to come up with a solution which will keep Social Security going. When the Social Security system was first created, America had 33 workers supporting each retiree and our seniors were only expected to live about three years after retiring. Today, we have about three workers per retiree and that number is sinking. On the other hand, retirees are spending decades on Social Security.

The system is about to go on life support and there is nothing the Government can do to stop it. Well, almost nothing.  A Government which runs the health care system controls how long people live. It can save trillions over the course of a decade by withholding medical care in the later years of life.

This may seem too monstrous to believe but Governments have been known to do monstrous things, often under the guise of doing good. Providing people with access to healthcare seems like a noble goal. Saving the Social Security system appears to be beneficial. Doing so through systematized euthanasia is an atrocity.

Do we know that the Government is planning to do this? No, of course not. But this is just one of many ways in which the Government COULD abuse its power. And if a Government has power, it will abuse it in some way. That is an axiomatic truth.

As Ronald Reagan told us, the nine most frightening words in the English language are “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”

Governments always purport to help. They rarely actually do so. More often than not, they harm instead. Certainly, some in Government actually do want to help. Many more act out of self-interest. Either way, the result is more likely to be harmful on a net basis than helpful. To give such an institution control of our health care system is irrational and dangerous.

The financial and economic implications are just the tip of the iceberg. The human element, the unnecessary deaths which will occur are much more frightening.