- - Saturday, April 25, 2020

The vast majority of Americans would immediately object to a government official having the power to take an elderly person off of a ventilator to make room for somebody else. As a physician and a human being, I find even the thought to be both ethically and morally reprehensible, but under a government-run, socialized health care system that would become the new normal in America. 

During the current COVID-19 crisis, we are seeing the importance of building up overcapacity in our health care system. This is wise in case of local or regional crises such as major storms, earthquakes, accidents or terror attacks, and likewise, the current pandemic proves it must also take place at the national level.

Government-run systems simply do not produce overcapacity. In fact, they are incapable of producing it. At his April 14 White House press briefing, President Trump pointed out the facts to prove it. Italy has 12.5 ICU beds per 100,000 people in their population; France has 11.6; Spain has 9.7; and the United Kingdom has 6.6. For years, advocates of moving our country toward socialized medicine have pointed to these countries as models to emulate. 

However, contrast that with the United States’ still largely private health care system where we have 34.7 ICU beds per 100,000 people. Moreover, hospital systems were on a building boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as they scaled up capacity in anticipation of the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age. 

Then Americans were force-fed Obamacare.



Government officials, in all their wisdom, decided that people would get a card saying they had insurance but would no longer use hospital emergency rooms for primary care. The hospital systems did what the government mandated and moved away from the hospital model to an urgent care model, where patients are less likely to see a doctor. As a result, they began building urgent care centers instead of hospitals.

Here is the catch: When we encounter a crisis like the present one, urgent care centers fall short because they lack critical items like ICU beds and ventilators. As it always does, the government’s top-down control of resources led to scarcity. As a practicing family physician, I can tell you that individuals with those insurance cards continue to use the emergency room as their primary care facility. Now we are hearing from left-wing voices such as Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and University professor, urging us to continue to keep the economy closed until we have a vaccine for the virus — which could be 12 or 18 months away. He is also dutifully parroting Bernie Sanders’ claims that America needs a 100 percent government-run health care system. 

Dr. Emanuel is the brother of former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and one of the central architects of Obamacare, which he has admitted, “was not put in place thinking about a pandemic.” 

He is also an adviser to the now largely discredited World Health Organization, which failed the world in epic fashion by either conspiring with Communist China at worst, or being incompetent at best, to downplay the severity of the pandemic in its critical, early weeks. As if his credentials weren’t scary enough, Dr. Emanuel is also the author of an article called, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” which seemingly advocates that people over 75 years of age should voluntarily stop taking antibiotics or getting flu vaccines and just die. 

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Emanuel is currently employed as a health care policy adviser to Joe Biden, who, ironically, turns 78 this year. 

Meanwhile, it has been the private sector that has helped lead America out of this crisis. Early on, all COVID-19 testing was run by a government agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, it immediately became clear that in order to produce the number of urgently-needed test kits, the private sector needed to be involved. In a total government-run system, there would have been nowhere else to turn. 

The president and his Coronavirus Taskforce quickly engaged private labs to develop better, more accurate and faster tests. They also ramped up production to get these tests out to the public. The United States has now conducted nearly 4 million tests, the most of any nation in the world, and most importantly, the United States has fewer per-capita deaths than Ireland, Spain, France, the U.K, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden — all with health care systems the left admires. 

Obviously, more still needs to be done, but it is only because of these private companies’ innovative, American spirit that we will be able to reach the testing capacity we need, develop the requisite prophylactic and treatment options, and reopen the greatest economy in the world.

We don’t need health care policy coming from Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or Ezekiel Emanuel. Americans deserve the best health care in the world — a health care that can only be guaranteed by free market principles. 

• Kelli Ward, M.D., is a family physician, two-term Arizona state senator and the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Arizona. Follow Dr. Ward on Twitter at @KelliWardAZ and on Facebook.

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