"I am a refugee," my anesthesiologist told me after I had awakened from my third surgery in 12 years — one to repair a muscle tear in my left shoulder and two for the same disc in my lower back. "I am part of the British 'brain drain' of the late '60s. Doctors could not make any money. So I left." Britain's loss, my gain. The same surgery 12 years ago required a two-day stay in a hospital. Last week, after a two-hour surgery, I left the same day as an outpatient.
But under ObamaCare, we can expect a loss of talent and a decline in quality of care. Thousands of us, the doctor explained, abandoned England to practice medicine in America. "So, how's this?" my doctor said. "I left the U.K. to get away from the government telling me how to practice, what to charge — and now we are getting the same thing. ObamaCare stinks, and the people will regret it. What happened to the docs there will happen here."
Great Britain began practicing socialized medicine through the taxpayer-funded National Health Services in 1948. And indeed, one of the first U.K. studies on the emigration of their native-born physicians, "British Doctors at Home and Abroad," published in 1964, noted that, beginning in the 1950s, their docs were leaving for "high-income" countries at an alarming rate: "Many of them stressed the wider field of work they could undertake in general practice abroad and criticized the limited role of the general practitioner in England." And nearly half a century later, Britain's "brain drain" continues.
Medical advances require research and development. And as much as government spends on health care and medical research, the private sector spends much more. But ObamaCare places a tax on medical equipment manufacturers, to raise $20 billion for the federal coffers when it goes into full effect in 2013. As a result, some medical device manufacturers are already closing up shop or downsizing to reflect lower profits under ObamaCare. Some canceled plans for new U.S. plants, looking to other parts of the world. Many manufacturers have already announced significant layoffs, and most also look to other alternatives, including cutting research and development, and passing along the tax's costs to the patients.
In addition to the excise tax on medical device manufacturers, ObamaCare imposes many more taxes, including the following: an individual mandate excise tax for adults who don't purchase "qualifying" health insurance; an employer mandate tax for those companies who don't offer health coverage; and a surtax on investment income — making the rate as high as 43.4 percent on gross income from interest, annuities, royalties, net rents and passive income for families making more than $250,000. Given this, will we see the same private-sector investments in the health care field, as ObamaCare imposes ever more regulations designed at increasing "accessibility" and "controlling costs"?
What about costs?
Obama promised that ObamaCare would "bend the cost curve" down. The Congressional Budget Office just released new figures on the 10-year cost of ObamaCare. Starting in 2010, government began taxing for ObamaCare to build up revenues. So for the first four years, ObamaCare takes in tax money but does not start spending in any significant amount until 2014. This was a tactic designed to make ObamaCare seem more "affordable."
But even with this gimmick, the CBO just doubled its original projections for the cost of ObamaCare. Now, the CBO pegs the cost to taxpayers at $1.76 trillion over the next decade. And, critics point out, this price tag is only for the cost of insurance subsidies, Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program). It doesn't include implementation or other costs, which will likely send the taxpayers' bill soaring past $2 trillion.
Obama said his plan would save American families $2,500 a year on their insurance premiums. The new CBO report says premiums will rise 10 to 13 percent, and that up to 20 million people could lose their employer-provided health insurance every year from 2019 to 2022, a sharp revisal of its previous estimate of up to 3 million.
Oh, it all seems so lovely on paper, doesn't it?
Sen. Obama said that if he were "starting from scratch," he'd have a single-payer system. This is what they have in Canada. But when a high-ranking member of the Canadian government — and proponent of the Canadian health care system — needed surgery, he did not stay home. After having his 2010 heart surgery performed in Miami, Canadian Premier Danny Williams told reporters: "This was my heart, my choice, and my health. I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics."
Consider what the then-incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association said about their single-payer health care system: "(Our) system is imploding." Consider what the outgoing president said: "Competition should be welcomed, not feared."
My doctor remains cheerful. "I retire in a few years," he said. "Then it's your problem."
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.