The Real Skinny on Socialized Medicine

“I’m the thinnest f@#king guy in town!”

–Michael Moore (Rolling Stone 9/17/04)

In his new film Sicko, Michael Moore makes it clear that he is a big fan of government-run health care. He may in fact be one of the biggest fans of socialized medicine in America, given his well-documented penchant for donuts and double Quarter-Pounders with cheese.

Moore proposes that the federal government nationalize the provision of health insurance so that everyone is covered. “The government has been quite good and efficient at creating a number of systems,” he tells Time. “Ask anyone on Social Security if their check comes on time every month. Like clockwork. And it comes through the so-called dilapidated U.S. mail.” In his movie, Moore celebrates the socialized health care systems in Cuba, Canada and France as better role models for America. In Canada, says Moore, the main flaw in their program “is that it’s underfunded.”

Of course, the reality is that Canada’s health care professionals are fleeing to America to work, and Canadian patients regularly come here for life-saving care. In fact, the Canadian system Michael Moore is so fond of is one of only three governments that make it illegal to buy private health insurance. The others are Cuba and Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. And here at home, the bankrupt Social Security system and massively inefficient U.S. postal service are not models for anything but government failure.

In a socialized system, every taxpayer pays in to the government pot. But not everyone gets the health care they need, because the demand for free health care will be virtually infinite. But the dollars available to be spent will be limited. Hillary Clinton, when she last tried to impose government-run health care on the American people, euphemistically referred to this as a “global budget” for health care expenditures.

Michael Moore calls it “underfunded.” Call it what you like, but what this really means is that some people get the health care they need and others wait in a line for service. It’s called rationing, and it is really Sicko. As the great Irish philosopher P.J. O’Rourke once observed: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

Michael Moore is too blinded by ideology (or perhaps by a deep fried Twinkie-induced blood sugar rush) to see the real problems with the U.S. health care system: the government is already too involved in the health decisions made by patients and their doctors. This has driven up prices and denied individuals the right to make health care choices for themselves and their families. To truly fix health care, we need to increase choice and competition, as well as reduce the insurance mandates and junk lawsuits that drive up costs.

But why do I keep taking shots at the breath-taking girth of “the famously outsized filmmaker,” as the L.A. Times recently referred to Moore? In America, what he eats is his choice. That is, for now. Fully socializing medicine will bring about a new set of problems that are far more threatening than just “access to health care.” Socialized health insurance concentrates power into the hands of politicians and bureaucrats, and it opens the door to ever more government intrusion into other aspects of our lives.

Michael Moore is grossly overweight. Some experts claim that obesity is an epidemic that is imposing a heavy, and unnecessary, burden on our health care system. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity leads to myriad health problems including heart disease, some types of cancer, and stroke. Medical expenses attributed to overweight and obese people, says the CDC, “accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998 and may have reached as high as $78.5 billion ($92.6 billion in 2002 dollars). Approximately half of these costs were paid by [the government-run health insurance programs] Medicaid and Medicare.”

If we are all on the financial hook for Michael’s aggressive eating habits in a socialized health care system, it seems like the rest of us must get a say in what he eats. After all, under a government “global budget” for healthcare spending, every extra cheese pizza Michael Moore downs today may someday result in a denial of care for your truly ill child waiting in line for “free” health care.

I can imagine a new federal agency, perhaps within Homeland Security, assigned the job of enforcing “good” dietary habits on suspicious eaters – like Michael Moore. Maybe Mike’s buddy Fidel Castro knows how to make this work. As far as I can tell, the only fat people in communist Cuba are part of the political class. The rest of the Cuban people are just hungry.

Matt Kibbe is the president of FreedomWorks.

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