Butch Mazzuca: Universal healthcare for whom? | VailDaily.com

Butch Mazzuca: Universal healthcare for whom?

“Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources, which have alternative uses,” said Lionel Robbins, former head of the London School of Economics.

By that definition, the Garden of Eden may have been a system of production and distribution of goods and services, but it was not an economy because everything was available in unlimited abundance. Without scarcity, there is no need to economize.

So what does “scarcity” mean within an economic context? Scarcity means that what everybody wants is more than what is.

American economist and social commentator Thomas Sowell dramatically illustrates this point when he tells us that on a battlefield, “economic” choices are made even when no money changes hands. If 10 soldiers are wounded and there are limited resources (medics, morphine, bandages, etc.) choices regarding the allocation of scarce resources must be made. If one soldier is near death, but five others have a higher probability of living if they are administered to first, someone must make a choice as to the allocation of scarce resources, i.e. the medic’s time, medicine, supplies, etc.

With that illustration as a backdrop, let’s examine a statement from Sen. Barack Obama’s official presidential campaign Web site that could greatly affect each of us if the senator is elected next November: “Millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured because of rising medical costs: 47 million Americans ” including nearly 9 million children ” lack health insurance with no signs of this trend slowing down.”

Interestingly, Congressional Budget Office statistics tell us that about 10 to 12 million of those 47 million the senator refers to are not American citizens ” they are illegal aliens ” who it can be argued are the demographic most in need of health care and who represent the biggest unmet medical need in our nation.

Congressional Budget Office statistics also indicate that 15 million of the 47 million without health insurance are American citizens who are eligible for Medicaid ” they simply haven’t signed up yet. In addition, virtually all of the children referred to in the statement are eligible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but their parents haven’t yet enrolled them.

So what’s the bottom line? After sorting the numbers we find there are really about 20 million Americans who either cannot afford or cannot find adequate health insurance. But completely revamping the most technologically advanced health care system in the world doesn’t make a lot sense when there are other and better ways to insure those 20 million Americans.

Obama’s campaign spokesman denies that the senator plans to provide health insurance for illegal aliens. But at the same time, the senator’s speeches, Web site and various newspaper articles all refer to “47 million uninsured Americans” ” and it strains credulity to believe that Obama and his advisors aren’t aware of the true statistics, considering that health care is the signature domestic issue of the Democratic Party.

Obama has indicated his plan will provide the same health benefits that members of Congress receive. However, if people living here illegally receive Congress’s “Cadillac version” of health benefits without cost to them, it will 1) increase our taxes, 2) encourage more illegal immigration and 3) strain the system. To paraphrase political analyst Dick Morris, such a plan would cause shortages with government bureaucrats deciding who gets to see an oncologist, who can have an MRI and even who can have bypass surgery and who will die for lack of it.

Most Americans would opt to have health-care decisions made on the basis of need and citizenship rather than on the “brutal realities of battlefield triage” as Morris recently opined, e.g., do we treat the 30-year-old illegal alien or do we spend our scarce resources on an overweight, diabetic, 80-year-old taxpaying American citizen with high blood pressure? Either/or decisions are sometimes tough to digest, but a quick look north to our Canadian neighbors with their waiting lists for medical procedures gives us an idea of what we might expect when health care is “free.”

But back to the basic question ” does Obama plan on providing health care for illegal aliens? The answer is, we don’t know. But we do know that the cost of providing health care for 47 million additional people (versus 20 million) will be staggering, which is why I find it difficult to believe the junior senator from Illinois really intends to provide Congressional-type health benefits for illegal aliens.

Obama has, in some fashion, altered or nuanced his positions regarding public financing, the FISA bill, withdrawal from Iraq, meeting with Ahmadinejad, faith-based initiatives, gun-control, merit pay for teachers, NAFTA and Social Security taxes. But providing free health care for illegal aliens is a topic that cannot be nuanced ” the answer is either yes or no.

In fairness, the voters should give Obama the benefit of the doubt on the matter. But unless he makes a clarifying statement very soon, they will have no choice,e but to assume he intends to spend billions of our tax dollars creating another incentive for people to “come here illegally and then remain indefinitely.” Let’s hope the senator clarifies the matter before Election Day.

Quote of the day: “You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, and you cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.””Anonymous.

Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.net.

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