'Free' health care

'Free' health care

December 23rd, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

You may have seen a funny -- though painfully true -- bumper sticker that reads, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait till it's free."

Of course, the point is that health care -- like any other benefit -- is not free. It must be paid for, by somebody.

Doctors and nurses must spend years gaining the education they need to provide high-quality medical care. Hospital buildings and doctors' offices certainly don't build themselves. And somebody has to perform complicated research to develop the high-tech equipment and medicines that save or at least lengthen and improve the lives of millions.

None of that is inexpensive -- much less free -- and talking about "free" benefits is just a way of disguising the fact that those benefits must be paid for by someone else.

That is a lesson that Great Britain is painfully learning.

A recent headline on an Associated Press article read, "U.K.'s free health care under threat." The story noted the growing waits that British patients are having to endure before they can obtain necessary medical services. In some cases, patients with non-lethal conditions have been left in severe pain so attention can be devoted to the most urgent cases.

But troubles with Britain's supposedly "free" medical system have been multiplying over the years, with poor care and rising wait times raising alarm among doctors, nurses and patients alike. So Britain's current difficulties in delivering care are really not very surprising.

The long and short of the problem is that Britain doesn't have the money to sustain its more than six-decade-old socialized health system. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once noted during a TV interview, "Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money."

Well, modern Britain is finally "running out of other people's money" to finance its big-government medical system.

It appears "free" health care has a steep price.