IBD – Posted 04/13/2012 06:46 PM ET
The Obama Record: When Vladimir I. Lenin sought to remake Russian society into a “proletariats’ paradise,” he targeted three sectors for control: health care, banking and education. Sound familiar?
Of these three, however, Lenin viewed socialized medicine as the “keystone” to building his socialist utopia.
The Bolshevik leader told the Russian people everybody would be able to afford going to the doctor, not just the “greedy rich.” He also claimed centralized control of the medical industry would “reduce costs” and end the “waste” from “unnecessary duplication and parallelism” in a competitive market.
In 1918, the USSR became the first nation to promise “free” universal health-care coverage. Fifteen years later, major flaws appeared in its grand social experiment, even to Western observers who for the most part romanticized it.
“Monetary motives have almost entirely ceased to operate in medical practice in Soviet Russia,” observed a pair of sympathetic physicians from America and Britain who traveled to Russia in 1933.
As a result, “there still exists a great shortage of physicians and hospitals,” they wrote in their report, “Red Medicine: Socialized Health in Soviet Russia.” “Drugs are almost fabulously dear and scarce.”
“Overworked doctors” couldn’t handle the flood of new patients. A bloated new medical bureaucracy, led by the People’s Commissar of Public Health, only worsened delays in treatment.
“The dissatisfied patients objected to the many formalities before they were allowed to see a doctor at the public clinic, and to the fact that the intervals before they saw him again were excessive,” the 1933 report said.
“Other complaints have been of lack of hospital beds when needed.”
It was not uncommon for patients to die while waiting in line to be admitted.
Rationing became necessary. Elderly patients were often turned away from care. Death panels appointed by the health commissar decided their fate.
“This committee decides as to patients needing treatment at a rest home or a sanatorium,” the Western doctors wrote in their report.
As bad as Soviet medicine was, it was anything but “free.”
“Most workers and their families receive free medical treatment as insured persons,” the report said. “But the funds for this treatment do not come from insurance funds, but from general taxation.”
This is how President Obama intends to pay for his own universal health-care plan, which will subsidize some 28 million uninsured and underinsured Americans through tax hikes on the rich.
In a little-noticed 2009 speech, Obama vowed to demolish “structural inequalities” in America and rebuild the economy on three new “pillars” — socialized medicine, banking and higher education.
“My administration is working hard,” he told the NAACP at its 100th anniversary conference in New York, “to lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity that will put opportunity within the reach of not just African-Americans, but all Americans. Of every race. Of every creed. From every region of the country.”
Obama continued: “One pillar of this new foundation is health insurance for everybody.”
He promised to create a medical system that not only closes “health-care disparities,” but “cuts costs and makes quality health coverage affordable for all.”
ObamaCare creates some 160 new federal agencies and offices overseen by the Health and Human Services Department, which will control a handful of large insurance companies operating like public utilities.
Like Lenin, Obama plans to ration care, especially for the elderly.
A key part of his massive new health bureaucracy is a Soviet-style panel that has received little press attention — the Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB is not a household name. But, barring repeal by a Republican administration, it will be.
IPAB is a rationing body made up of health bureaucrats appointed by Obama.
Unaccountable to Congress, these commissars will make life or death decisions about the care of elderly, such as whether or not to continue dialysis or chemotherapy.
Their cost-saving recommendations, which are binding and cannot be overruled, go into effect starting in 2014. Cutting costs through rationing is now more critical than ever, as ObamaCare is already over budget. In its first decade, it will cost twice as much — more than $2 trillion — as first projected, according to a new Congressional Budget Office study.
Russians suffered through 70 years of Lenincare. By the end of the century, the USSR was infamous for having one of the worst health-care systems in the world. The horror stories are legion: surgeries performed without anesthesia; patients poisoned by bad hospital food, HIV spread through dirty needles; rampant abortions; and the highest infant-mortality rate in the industrialized world.
Obama is no Lenin. But he, too, thinks the state can provide medical care more equitably and less expensively than the “selfish,” profit-oriented free market.
This sounds so altruistic. But as the Foundation for Economic Education’s Anna Ebeling — born, raised and educated in the USSR — recently warned: “Let us remind ourselves that in the Soviet Union the road to medical-care hell was paved with the same good intentions.”