Italy’s health care system is collapsing from the COVID-19 outbreak. There are a number of reasons for this, but the root cause is simple: Socialized medicine has led to a dreadful outcome.
At the moment, triage of the country’s sickest and rationing of limited resources, like beds and ventilators, are sadly leaving the elderly — basically anyone over 70 — to fend for themselves.
Is this all a glimpse into a grim future of American health care under socialism?
First off, it should be stated that claiming health care is a right is immoral. If we are all free and equal human beings, then no one can claim ownership or a “right” to any service from anyone else. Period. It makes no difference if the service is health care or haircuts.
Claiming one is endowed with an entitlement to the skills, education and abilities of others means rescinding rights from those same people to choose how they might wish to present and deliver them.
And if we rescind the rights of those folks to make choices for themselves, then they are no longer free and equal human beings.
But placing moral philosophy to the side for the moment, we can simply pay attention to the outcomes of socialized medicine that are now acutely apparent.
Italy’s national health service is the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale. Tanous notes that “SSN prices for payments to hospitals were set below market rates for the purpose of saving money on healthcare, and the results were as expected for a de facto price control.”
Italy has had a doctor shortage for the last decade. In fact, thousands of trained doctors have left the country in search of greener pastures.
In Italy, there are not enough jobs, wages are low, contracts are insecure and staffs are constantly short of workers. Funding cuts and a reduction in the number of hospitals have not helped. This is not even to speak of wait times, taxes and quality-of-care issues.
Now throw a deadly pandemic into the mix and it’s gasoline on an already raging fire. To help cope with the current crisis, nurses in Italy’s schools are graduating early and doctors are being called out of retirement.
Though Italy and South Korea are close in terms of populations — 60 and 51 million, respectively — South Korea’s health care is a hybrid system and much more like the U.S.’ compared to Italy’s completely free socialized system.
South Korea has been able to effectively fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
In South Korea, Tanous wrote, “Care is provided by a set of hospitals that are 94 percent privately owned, with a fee-for-service model and no direct government subsidies. Many of these hospitals are run by charitable foundations or private universities. Private hospitals in the country exploded in number from 1,185 in 2002 to 3,048 in 2012.
“The result is that South Korea has 10 hospital beds per 1,000 people, more than twice the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average (and nearly three times as many as Italy’s 3.4 beds per capita). These private hospitals also charge significantly less (between 30–85 percent of the price) than US hospitals.” (Obviously, our source misstated the statistic regarding Italy’s hospital beds. We assume they meant 3.4 hospital beds per thousand residents, not 3.4 beds per resident. — Ed. note)
The difference is stark: freer markets, greater competition and deregulation leading the way to greater access, more charity and lower costs.
“The evidence tells a different story,” Tanous went on.
“It portrays a situation made far worse by a reliance on government-centralized healthcare that manages costs by de facto price rationing rather than a free market system.”
If the U.S. wants its health care system to support the highest quality of care it can while serving as many as it can — even those who might not be able to afford it — America should remind itself of these realities to make the best argument against socialism.
UPDATE, Mar. 25, 2020: The Western Journal has added a clarifying editorial note to a quotation from a source in this commentary that stated Italy had 3.4 beds per capita — which is obviously untrue.
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