Fact, Emotion, Liberty, Tyranny, and Health Care

The debate runs deeper than tonsillectomies and tort reform

In a time in American politics when liberal Democrats in Washington, D.C. are pushing for the exponential expansion of government, I think it’s important to highlight the importance of and distinction between two ideological scales, the first being the divide between liberalism and conservatism, and the second being the sliding scale between totalitarianism and liberty.

The two are not mutually exclusive. Many who consider themselves right-of-center on the first spectrum actually harbor many statist tendencies, the best example being George W. Bush’s insistence that the government had a role in keeping financial institutions afloat, while many who might place themselves on the left side of the liberalism-conservatism divide seem to understand–for the most part, at least–that the role of government should be relatively limited, two examples being Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and Bobby Bright of Alabama.

For all of its faults and frustrations, the ongoing debate over health care reform has provided a fantastically illustrative example of the hallmarks of both spectrums. And there’s no better example of how liberalism, conservatism, totalitarianism and liberty factor into the debate than the failed government-run health care system in Maine, and how two very different news organizations–PBS from the left, and Fox News Channel from the right–approached it.

PBS on Maine’s Dirigo Health System.

I feel for John Henderson. I really do. It doesn’t look like he’s living beyond his means. He doesn’t seem like a man just looking for a handout. John Henderson looks, to me, like a hard-working American who has been forced to choose between insulin and breakfast, and found a way out in a supposedly promising state-run health care program. His story tugs at the heartstrings.

However, even the traditional emotional arguments used to argue in favor of radically reforming the health care system in America are flawed in their subjectivity. The story of those like John Henderson who truly cannot afford health coverage under the current system naturally tears at our sense of benevolence and care for the common man. But to focus solely on the plight of those 16 million people who remain uninsured and perceive the Democrats’ plan for health care reform as their knight in shining armor is to forget the story of dozens of millions of seniors and others who will see their benefits change and their costs increase as a result of this administration tossing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater in the name of health care reform.

Not only will the Democrats’ plan lead to rationing of care which will primarily affect seniors in what should be the best years of their lives, but its passage will require hundreds of millions of dollars to be cut from the Medicare budget, the cost equivalent of simply eliminating Medicare altogether for an entire year. Furthermore, as quality of care declines for seniors and every other America, the Democrats’ plan for health care reform will cause costs to rise — as Dick Morris explained to Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren last night, this plan will tax pacemakers, heart stents, artificial heart valves, artificial hips and knees, prosthetic limbs, motorized wheelchairs and more.

Where is the emotional outcry, the demands for justice for the tens of millions of Americans who will see quality decrease and cost increase because the Democrats insist upon destroying the entire system to purportedly benefit a few? Why not tell the emotional story of the grandparents on fixed income forced to move into the home of their grandchildren because Congress made health care reform more about expanding government control and less about health care?

While conservatives make decisions based upon defined principles and concrete facts, liberals rely on a nebulous sense of justice and intangible emotion. Because the left controls most of the media and therefore the vast majority of programming which makes its way into American living rooms, the selective use of emotional arguments like the story of John Henderson can be utilized to tap into the bleeding hearts of liberals and garner support for the Democrats’ idea of health care reform. What the liberals are largely missing, however, is the harsh realities of government-run health care systems.

Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity and Griff Jenkins on Maine’s Dirigo Health System.

The harsh reality is that the government-run health care system in Maine, despite being a saving grace for roughly ten thousand people like John Henderson, has in fact failed the remaining 1.2 million residents of that state, including 130,000 still uninsured. The harsh reality is that after only six years the initial guarantees made have all been broken–the program has not covered all of the uninsured, was not paid for by cost savings from waste found and excised, and promises of no new taxes have been abandoned–and the promised, noble goals of decreased costs, unfettered access and better care have gone unrequited. Instead, Maine residents have been left with the same coverage gaps, with a bankrupt system, and with an increased tax burden on top of it all.

Even more, the harsh reality is that the Dirigo Health System, at its creation, looked an awful lot like the Democrats’ plan for health care reform currently slinking its way between closed offices and through shadowy corridors on Capitol Hill.

Those are the facts. Emotion need not apply. And the fate of the Dirigo Health System in Maine, in looking at the underlying facts, has offered an excellent example of the practical distinction between totalitarianism and liberty.

Blind faith in the omnipotence in the state, specifically in Maine’s implementation of the lofty goal of universal, state-run health care, led to more promise than performance. In theory the program sounded fantastic, but in practice the heavily subsidized entitlement program collapsed under the weight of overutilization, essentially a byproduct of Maine residents relying on and placing faith in government rather than taking responsibility for themselves and their own health care costs.

“It doesn’t work,” says Dirigo Health System board member Joe Bruno. “Dirigo has not even come close to fulfilling its promise of covering the uninsured in the state of Maine. We cannot provide this plan to everyone because we’re not getting enough revenue in the plan. There’s not enough cost savings in health care in the state as defined by the plan [in order to] fund more people.”

Perhaps those like John Henderson would have been better served by a health care system which erred on the side of freedom. The liberty inherent in a health savings account would go a long way for diabetics like him, and harnessing the power of the free market and opening up the private insurance industry to interstate commerce will allow people like John Henderson access to the more than 1,700 private-sector companies currently offering health coverage from coast-to-coast, each competing against one another, each clamoring to provide more options at a lesser cost than their competitors in order to obtain business from people like him. Erring on the side of freedom — that’s the way to decrease health care costs for everyone without sacrificing quality of care; that’s the hallmark of true health care reform.

In the end, the current situation in Maine has shown that the answer to reforming health care lies in less government, not more. Less than ten percent of uninsured Maine residents have been helped by the expansion of state government into Dirigo Health Care, whereas the natural decrease in prices which would come as a consequence of fostering competition among insurers in all fifty states and removing government from the equation altogether would likely have provided many more than the 10,000 currently covered under Dirigo to afford their own private health coverage.

In his seventh and last State of the Union address, Ronald Reagan explained to America that “there are a thousand sparks of genius in 50 states and a thousand communities around the nation,” and that “it is time to nurture them and see which ones can catch fire and become guiding lights.” That, friends and neighbors, is the heart of federalism, an opportunity to gain overall strength from the freedom and liberty of individuals and individual states. Regardless of ideology or whether you come from a perpective heavy on emotion or fact, it has become apparent that the Dirigo Health Care System in Maine is not a guiding light. We must ensure that those on Capitol Hill look to other sparks of genius in order to truly reform the American health care system, rather than adopting an extinguished flame in the name of political expediency and disdain for a free America.



  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article, Jeff. Great way to pull everyting together.

  2. Boston Blackie says:

    "We must ensure that those on Capitol Hill look to other sparks of genius in order to truly reform the American health care system, rather than adopting an extinguished flame in the name of political expediency and disdain for a free America."

    Great article but good luck with that ever happening on Capital Hill. If you believe that, Jeff, I have a nice home in PA for sale for you. Oh wait, never mind, you already own it! :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is the same here in Oregon. The state has gone so far as to create a lottery so that the people who will be admitted into the Oregon Health Plan can be selected. Not by need, not my means, nope, by lottery.

    In an article published in January of 2008:


    it was stated that "for the first time in more than three years — will begin accepting new beneficiaries in its Oregon Health Plan" and that they were going to use a lottery to do so. It went on to report "Karen House, a medical director with the state Department of Human Services, said that about 19,000 people currently are enrolled in the program and that the program can enroll up to 32,000 beneficiaries and still maintain budget solvency. House said more than 100,000 uninsured Oregon residents are eligible for the program."

    This is a bankrupt plan and only because the state can not print money will it have any restrictions.


  4. Rix says:

    A great article, Jeff, sensible and emotional at once. Too bad the people who should be reading and re-reading it are stuck with New York Times. Asking a Democrat to decrease taxation is like asking a fish to live on land – both would lose their sustenance. So one does not ASK a fish. One uses a fishing rod – and in our case, the Second Amendment defines what a rod is.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is off the subject. I have not been able to read everything on your website every day, so please forgive me if you have already written on this subject. I have read something that absolutely terrifies me concerning the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this coming December. I am hearing that if Obama signs the treaty at that conference, our country will cede its sovereignty to the United Nations. Please see http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles…/Monckton_interview.pdf and http://www.campaignforliberty.com/blog.php?view=26474 for articles. If this is true, the word needs to get out to everyone.

  6. Boston Blackie says:

    Off topic but I need to vent!!
    God help me, Obamama is in town. He is here to talk about clean energy at MIT, can someone tell me what his carbon footprint was to get here and back. Then it is off to a fundraiser for our governor, mini Obamama, at 6K a head and what is Obamama going to talk about but greed!?! Loved the fact that I sat in traffic while they shut down the roads for him though it was not even near the route he was taking, guess the staties needed some O.T.$$. Hope he has time to stop and see his illegal auntie, wonder how her deportation appeal is going these days.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ready on the Left
    Ready on the Right
    All ready on the firing line

    Rix is right

  8. Anonymous says:

    Keep this up Jeff and you are looking at a Pulitzer, heck maybe a Nobel, though you are over-qualified.

  9. toto says:

    Whats amazing about this, is Olympia Snowe is in favor of the health care reform, which appears to be on a parallel with the one in Maine. Is this woman that stupid, or does she actually think it will work on a larger scale? Amazing, these politicos are proving to me more and more everyday just how stupid they really are.

  10. Anonymous says:


    Olympia Snowe isn't stupid. Disingenuous….yes. She vote with the Marxist because it curries favor with the welfare recipients that dominate the Maine electorate. One could call it whoring.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Dear Jeff and readers, Please check out the Pink Slip campaign sponsored by Faith to Action and World Net Daily. It is a way to make our voice heard Now at a critical time. The time is short. We have already sent 4 million Pink Slips to individual congressman from citizens. Please help us now. It only takes a moment and costs $29.95 to send a Pink Slip directly to all 535 Congressman (that's 6 cents for each Pink Slip sent directly to their office by Fed EX.) Here is a link http://www.sendcongressapinkslip.com/ or go to http://www.wnd.com or just call 1-800-496-3266. Even if you can't afford to do this; please send this to your friends via E-mail fax, word of mouth, and post on as many blogs as possible. Lets see how powerful the blogsphere really is. I was there in Washington on 9-12 and when my fellow patriots yelled CAN YOU HEAR US NOW the Earth shook and our cry echoed through the corridors of power. Keep our cry alive and call now.
    God Bless America!

  12. Anonymous says:

    REVOLVING HISTORY! Never in my wildest dream I tought that, after 30 + years in America I will write about my parents, actually, almost the whole Eastern Europe, were hoping that the Americans will came and free us from Communism. Today, as American citizen, I'm hoping that Eastern Europe, which from left turn to right, could influence in any way and stop our country to take a distructive path of Communism. I hope my pray won't be in wan as ours was for more than 45 years, America, never came to free us. I, and many others escape. Some were lucky and reach freedom, Others, waren't so lucky, paying with their life the price for freedom. God help us and help America to stay FREE.

  13. goddessdivine says:

    Excellent post, and spot on. That 8-min clip is eye opening. Why is no one talking about this?! The empty suits in Washington are either stupid or power hungry; unfortunately I fear it is the latter. This is all about control and expanding govt involvement in our lives. Time to Van Jones (my new word, meaning expose and then dispose of) them all!

  14. Vibe says:

    What our Gov. is really looking into is getting into the health insurance biz. But if you look at it the ability of health insurers(even as they are today, Blue Cross, Medicade, etc.)to pay whatever the medical community decides to charge for "care" is what has allowed the cost of medical care to inflate to the position it is in today. We don't really need anyone to take over the insurance part so much as we need to look into how the heck hospitals can get away with charging $18 for a single Tylenol, or why they can charge $10000 for a single nights stay in a bed.
    If you get right down to it -we've had voluntary socialized medicine for years, with all of the premium payers footing the bills for the few who used the services – and everyone of the inside players know this and accept it as normal. Look at some of the catalogs in the waiting rooms…office chairs for medical offices are 3 to 4 times the price of the same chair in a normal retail outlet…for the same chair. Price gouging is rampant throughout the supply chain. What we would need of government is to look into those practices instead of trying to figure out how to get cut in on a piece of the scam

  15. Anonymous says:

    I will begin by stating that I come from a long line of medical professionals, and I married one! So, please understand that I am not against conventional medicine…it has its place.


    I can't help but think constantly that one idea that never is discussed regarding healthcare is that a very inexpensive way to take care of one's health is through NATURAL REMEDIES. The pharmaceutical companies have no vested interest in natural therapies because they cannot profit from natural products nearly as much.

    But they could really help cut costs of healthcare by drastically reducing the need for expensive conventional meds and treatments.

    So if people who don't use conventional medicine are FORCED to buy insurance that largely covers only conventional therapy, then that is discrimination and just plain wrong!

    Lisa in TX

  16. Simpleswine says:

    I gather some will say it does not matter, BUT… how did that guy go from being a School Teacher to being a warehouse worker, low paid, no bennefits?

    It does matter… too often we heare the sob stories, and do not question the veracity… maybe it's fear of not being 'PC'… I do not know, but I do know I question why I, or any one, should pay for an individuals bad choices… and that video shows one… again, how do you go from School Teacher, to warehouse worker?

  17. Simpleswine says:

    The Maine People's Alliance, think ACORN lite (possibly a subsidiary? Too tired to look for it, but…)
    Yep, go to their site, look under members… John Henderson, the former Teacher, now warehouse box boy… even has a nice picture.

    Something smells on this… until I know WHY Mr Henderson had the major job change, I think I will withhold my empathy for him…
    As rhambo has said "Never let a crisis go to waste…", paraphrased but you get the point.


  1. [...] care reform.  That’s significant in itself, considering that Massachusetts–along with Maine’s failed Dirigo Health System–has been a real-life testing ground for many of the policies sought on a national level by [...]

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