In recent weeks healthcare has become the center of political debate and the likely target for impending reform. The renewed call for universal healthcare represents another manifestation of Americans’ sense of entitlement, responding to the nurturing it has received from the left. Unfortunately, like most pests, entitlement poses much greater problems in its removal than its cultivation, and the trend of growth is unlikely, if not impossible, to be reversed. Policymakers should be more aware of the demanding nature of their constituents and recognize the pattern of unwillingness to relinquish a benefit once it has been distributed. Social security and welfare resulted as temporary solutions for the economic blows the Great Depression struck. Now, it is unimaginable for America to be without either program. Likewise, employer-provided healthcare emerged in World War II to meet specific conditions associated with the wage and price controls operating at the time. Since its initial implementation, healthcare has been incorrectly associated with jobs, and this association has had adverse effects on the cost and quality of healthcare.
The latest boost for entitlement is the healthcare plan proposed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that borders so closely on Socialism that even Hilary Clinton would be proud. Universal healthcare has all the qualities most attractive to the left: It is fiscally irresponsible, garners the key voting blocks they usually curry favor with, and sounds really nice. The idea is quite nice; “universal” means everyone would have it. Although, logic and experience should tell us that when everyone has something, it ceases to have the same value as a commodity. When something is free, people don’t tend to respect it and think little of using it too frequently or inappropriately. When going to the doctor is of little or no cost, people tend not to exert the same effort in avoiding illness or injury. Schwarzenegger’s plan mandates that everyone has health insurance – including the nearly one million illegal immigrants in the state and their children. The estimated 750,000 of those immigrants who do not receive healthcare from their employers or from purchasing it themselves will be provided for by the state – meaning you and your taxes.
Though the government is constitutionally endowed with the responsibility of legislating equal opportunities, this healthcare scheme is another example of the attempt of many in the government to legislate equal outcomes. This effort undermines the country’s superstructure that recognizes the potential of individuals, provides them with the freedom to pursue their own abilities and interests to support themselves and their families, and rewards those who take this initiative. This effort to provide universal healthcare secures a very different structure; the benefits of hard work and the successful attainment of goals does not allow you access to superior health care. Instead, the system rewards those who have neither worked as hard nor achieved as much with the same benefits that you work for. Indeed, this proposal even rewards those who have violated U.S. laws to gain entry into the country with free health benefits for themselves and their children for which they are not taxed. An adverse effect of this policy may make California an even stronger magnet for illegal immigration as the attractions grow. Additionally, because Schwarzenegger’s plan imposes such a burden on employers, who would have to pay at least 4 percent of payroll for each employee, many policy scholars predict that employers will be more likely to hire “off the books” – more jobs for undocumented workers.
The costs to taxpayers are not limited to the actual burdens of providing healthcare; this proposal, if enacted, will also require the creation of new bureaucratic agencies to monitor healthcare habits of the state’s population, and investigate and penalize those without insurance. While the idea sounds promising, the realities are daunting and wholly unnecessary – private citizens, doctors and companies could achieve similar, charitable outcomes at a much less substantial cost.