The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Massachusetts, health care, and an old, dead Greek dude.

Posted By on May 8, 2006

Okay, so as many of you know. Massachusetts is requiring citizens to purchase health care via a variety of options, depending on income level.

I think the idea here is that it will lower health care costs for the rest of us if we stop having to subsidize (either through taxes or higher medical bills) the care of others. They will have their own insurance, so they pay their share.

Now, I don't have a problem with this idea, right up until the government gets involved in mandating it. Of course, my solution is that doctors should simply refuse to treat people who cannot pay – this will force people to purchase health insurance, pay bills out of pocket, or seek alternate methods of treatment (including not going to the doctor for every little bump and scrape).

The common response to this is “but doctors have to treat people – it's part of the Hippocratic oath”. Fair enough.

Here is the modern version. I can find nothing in there which says that you have to treat anyone who comes to your door. Liz says that she things this says so fairly clearly:
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. I disagree – I think this says how you must treat those which you decide to treat, not that you must actually treat everyone. But wait, it gets better. Looking at the Classical Version it would appear that the following are specifically banned:
  1. Charging sons of doctors for medical school
    … and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art – if they desire to learn it – without fee and covenant;…
  2. Abortion
    Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.
However, note their absence in the modern version. Of course, we can’t have that. That’s progress! We’ll allow abortions and make vast sums of money off medical schools (contributing to high health care costs as doctors command huge salaries as a benefit for those long years of toil and expense), but heaven forbid if we allow a free market economy to dictate price. How about this: You can run your hospital however you like. This includes not treating people who can’t pay. Some hospitals will, some won’t. Let the market decide. (Insert token socialist whiner here) But, if that were the case, then all the doctors would charge people and the poor wouldn’t get any medical care. To which I respond: Right, just like they never get any legal help because lawyers don’t do pro-bono work.

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