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Date:10/15/2007

Government prohibitions against purchase of private medical care compromise patient health

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The move by the U.S. government to restrict the ability of Medicare patients to spend their own money on medical care is denying these patients an elemental right: the right to save their own lives. That is the conclusion of Kent Masterson Brown in the Cato Institute policy analysis "The Freedom to Spend Your Own Money on Medical Care: A Common Casualty of Universal Coverage."

"Over the last 20 years, the Medicare bureaucracy -- and to a lesser extent, Congress itself -- has limited the freedom of Medicare beneficiaries to purchase medical services with their own money," writes Brown. "Those limitations violate beneficiaries' right to privacy, undermine a tool that could reduce the burden Medicare imposes on taxpayers, and may deny care to Medicare beneficiaries outright, or deny them access to the highest quality care available."

As the Canadian health system -- vaunted by proponents of socialized medicine as a smashing success -- moves away from self-pay restrictions for medical care, the United States, in its effort to provide universal coverage, is moving in the opposite direction, toward a system of treatment by tribunal.

The danger of universal coverage, Brown argues, is when the government fails to meet the needs of patients, then prohibits them from purchasing medical care on their own, locking patients in a situation much like the cell of little ease, a torture device in which the prisoner can neither stand, nor sit, nor lie down. This is not merely something that is occurring under foreign systems of socialized medicine. Instead, it exists today, in the United States, under the federal Medicare system.

Critics of self-pay argue that allowing patients to opt out of Medicare on a service-by-service basis would create a two-tiered health care system in which only the wealthiest seni
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SOURCE Cato Institute
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