Better Living and Better Health Care by Ignoring the Right


An op-ed piece in Sunday's Inquirer provides a good example of why so-called conservatives, libertarians and others on the bat-guano-crazy Right don't even deserve serious consideration when it comes to health care issues.

 The article was written by Jonah Goldberg, an editor at the National Review, the publication started by William F. Buckley in 1955. If Buckley were alive these days, he would likely have serious concerns that Goldberg and the other editors have taken the Review beyond the right side of the road and into the ditch. Buckley's son, Christopher, must have entertained similar concerns when he dissociated himself from the Review in 2008.

The provocation for Goldberg's 17th century thinking was a review by a Harvard physician of a New Jersey pilot program designed to improve care and control health care costs. The program's originator started with the understanding that a large percentage of health care expenses come from a relatively small number of people. Inspired by policing programs in the major cities, where a major proportion of crime is committed by relatively few people, the New Jersey health care program devoted extraordinary attention to those few patients whose profiles suggested their likelihood for consuming an inordinate amount of health care resources. In some cases, the program's clinic hired "coaches" to help at-risk patients comply with their medical regimens and develop healthier living patterns. As a result of such efforts, the program succeeded in reducing overall costs. While the reduction wasn't enormous, given that medical expenditures have been rising steadily for decades, even a small decrease represents an accomplishment.

 Goldberg, on the other hand, remains so blinded by Whig notions of atomistic individualism that he finds programs such as the one in New Jersey abhorrent. The notion that the government, in some way, subsidizes “lifestyle coaches” represents the road to damnation for him. The government, according to the likes of Goldberg, represents a purely evil influence. Consider the imminent danger -- government workers helping people to lead healthier lives. The abject horror should give us pause and convince us to place our trust in the omniscient, benevolent market. Teachers should no longer inform their students about hygiene. Police should cease coaching students after school. And as for social workers, why John Locke and Adam Smith would obliterate the entire profession.

  In science and in public policy, thinking and action often advance when people stop listening to antiquated voices with hidden, malevolent agendas. Contrary to the market-driven approach of "objective" journalism, all sides don't always deserve an equal hearing. Amidst the ongoing struggle to improve the overall performance of America's health care system, rated 37th in the world by the World Health Organization, progress demands treating the Right's views with the scorn it deserves.

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