As they got older, my parents noticed to their dismay that their friends talked more and more about their doctors. According to my parents, nearly all of their friends liked their doctors. However, there was always something to complain about — a personality quirk, a failure to return a call, a long stint in the waiting room, a grouchy billing administrator. Grievances like these tended to dominate the conversations that so annoyed my parents.
If Obamacare passes, President Obama and the Democrats will become part of, and perhaps dominate, most of these conversations. Every excessive wait, every missed phone call, every postponed appointment will become Obama’s fault.
This will be true even if the quality of the doctor-patient relationship does not deteriorate under Obamacare. It is human nature when something goes wrong to romanticize the past, forgetting that the same thing probably went wrong just as often back in the day. And, since most Americans, including the elderly, are reasonably satisfied overall with their health care, it will be easy to romanticize the past. Thus, blaming Obamacare will be the natural response to the ordinary frustrations that, in reality, are part-and-parcel of any doctor-patient relationship.
It is obvious, moreover, that the quality of the doctor-patient relationship for those who now have insurance will decline under Obamacare, and probably sharply. For one thing, Medicare funding is being slashed. The Democrats say that these cuts will be offset entirely by ending fraud, waste, and abuse. In reality, they will be “offset” by a vast increase in irritating events — long waits, inability to see the doctor of one’s choice in a timely manner, etc.
Medicare cuts aside, Obamacare would provide increased medical services for tens of millions of people who presently are uninsured (these people get medical services now, but not to the extent they would under Obamacare). At the same time, the number of providers would not increase. To the contrary, studies purport to show that perhaps one-third, or even more, of all doctors would leave the profession. Frankly, I don’t believe these numbers; when doctors threaten to quit practicing, I think they are mostly just talking. My guess is that perhaps 5 percent, and no more than 10, will actually exit.
But even if there is no attrition, it will still be impossible to maintain current service levels for those who now have insurance in the context of a vast increase in total service. Rather, it is inevitable that, if Obamacare becomes law, the medical service level for virtually all Americans will reside somewhere between what it is now for the insured and what it is now for the uninsured.
This, of course, is what left-liberals want; indeed, many of them see such equality as morally imperative. But it is a recipe for endless complaints by those Americans who presently are insured, i.e., the vast majority of Americans.
These complaints won’t be confined to the elderly. Old people complain more about their dealings with doctors primarily because they spend so much more time with them. But I’ve never met a person who likes being blown off by a doctor or sitting for 40 minutes in the waiting room, plus an extra 15 in the examining room before the doctor arrives. Nor have I ever met a person who enjoys hearing his or her aging parents complain about their medical service, especially when the complaint is justified.
In some ways the Democrats’ stubborn quest for Obamacare resembles Republicans perseverance with the war in Iraq. At some point, it became clear that the Iraq war was ruining congressional Republicans politically. Yet, they continued to support the effort because they thought it was the right thing to do. Most congressional Democrats, similarly, are supporting Obamacare because they strongly believe in it (some, though, are simply yielding to intense pressure from their leaders).
But there is this key political difference between the Iraq war and Obamacare: the Iraq war eventually wound down and will soon end entirely. Obamacare (unless repealed, which strikes me as something of a pipe dream) is forever. It promises to annoy, if not enrage, millions of people for as long as anyone is around to remember, however imperfectly, what things were like before the Democrats overhauled the health care system.
Maybe the House can adopt a rule deeming these memories forgotten.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
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