Thursday, October 8, 2009

Freedom to say no

In response to my last post (Kiss Your Health Care Choices Goodbye), Charles R said:

"So I am really trying hard to figure out why it's a bad thing for anyone who wants to buy into this insurance plan to do so."

I want to make it clear. Charles clearly assumes it this is voluntary. It is not. The plan under discussion will FORCE you to purchase insurance that meets with government approval. You will not have a choice to forgo insurance.

Why would anyone forgo insurance? Why does anyone forgo purchase of any other product or service?

OK, let's suppose you have determined that you are healthy and want to keep it that way by eating a paleo diet including grass fed meats. Suppose also that your income level is such that if you purchase grass fed meat, you elect to forgo medical insurance policies and take your chances on what works (a paleo diet) rather than investing in a policy that would only get you "care" from an industry (allopathic medicine) that ranks as the third largest cause of death in the U.S. and appears to know nothing about healthy eating.

What am I talking about? According to Barbara Starfield, writing in JAMA, allopathic medical treatments rendered in hospitals by licensed personnel cause at least 225,000 deaths annually, due to nonerror adverse drug effects, medication errors, other errors, unnecessary surgeries, and hospital-acquired infections. Starfield also cited an analysis indicating that between 4% and 18% of consecutive outpatients experience adverse effects of medical treatments, resulting in 116 million extra physican visits, 77 million extra prescriptions, 17 million emergency department visits, 8 million hospitalizations, 3 million long-term admissions, 199,000 additional deaths, and $77 billion in extra costs. [Starfield B. Is US Health Really the Best in the World? JAMA, July 26, 2000;284(4);483-85]

That's more than 400,000 deaths annually caused by allopathic medical care. In comparison, only about 50,000 people die in auto accidents annually. Do you think those medical errors drive up the cost of medical care? Sure enough, and more insurance won't change it. Fundamentally our medical system is off course.

Now Obamacare comes along and says you have to purchase a government approved plan that covers hazard-ridden allopathic services you don't want (e.g. flu immunizinations, cholesterol tests, and deadly statins) but doesn't cover real health care that you do want (e.g. VT-D tests and supplements and grass fed meat).

The cost of Obamacare increases your taxes and insurance expenditures such that you now can't afford to purchase grass-fed meat. You have to get the insurance or pay a large fine (I've seen quotes up to $3200) or go to jail.

You can't make the choice you determined the best for yourself because Obama determined that you need unnecessary immunizations, cholesterol tests, and statins, rather than necessary VT-D and grass fed meat. Its a boon for the drug companies, cholesterol labs, and the big insurance corporations (because people who previously opted out will now be forced to purchase their products if not the government product).

Now, because you were forced to buy insurance you didn't want, you can't buy the food you do want. You are now more likely to end up needing medical care.

Bureaucrats generally don't know anything about health care; they listen to the people who peddle immunizations (instead of VT-D), statins (instead of species-appropriate diet), and insurance. I don't want them determining what I do with my dollars, how I maintain my health, or how I get my insurance.


Monica said...


This is one of the biggest reasons I fear intervention in the healthcare system: things I don't want being forced down my throat. Literally, forced.

Monica said...

Oh, and it's bad enough ALREADY for people who *have* insurance. People under conventional health insurance are *already* forced to go on crap, grain-based diets so they can get their "cholesterol" lowered to keep their premiums low. In other words, they go on a grain-based diet to temporarily shrink and oxidize their LDL, lower their HDL, and increase their overall risk of DEATH. Shameful.

How much worse will it be when and if government gets control of healthcare and these standards become *forced* on everyone? How about when various bogus preventative procedures, like mammograms and immunizations, become not just recommended and "free", but forced? For Our Own Good. Disgusting.

Thank you so much for defending health freedom.

Charles R. said...

"You can't make the choice you determined the best for yourself because Obama determined that you need unnecessary immunizations, cholesterol tests, and statins, rather than necessary VT-D and grass fed meat."

Except there is nothing like that in any of the bills being considered.

No one says you need to get any of the things you mention, unless you want to get them, then they are paid for by your premiums.

Sure there are people like you who will obviously never get an unexpected serious illness, and are rich enough even if you do to pay the possibly millions of dollars in medical bills you will never have to pay, so that the rest of us won't have to absorb those costs through higher hospital bills, etc.. That's wonderful, and I'm happy not only for your good health, but for you ability to predict your genetic future.

And I'm assuming you also don't carry automobile insurance, because you will never get in an accident, right? And if, god forbid, you do, you have plenty of money to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the person in the car you hit who became a quadriplegic, correct?

So I ask you again, as I asked you before, do you have automobile insurance? If so, do you feel like that's an improper intrusion into your life by you state government?

I, for one, am happy that all the other drivers on the road have insurance, so if they hit me, I know I will be reimbursed for my damage and/or injuries. I gather you are not.

Jim Purdy said...

I really like the science and nutrition content of your blog. The politics, not so much. But, heck, it's all interesting.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. I very much agree. Even though I live in Germany and health care is "supposed" to be a lot better there, all I can say is that after I went to the hospital a few weeks, I felt worse than ever! The doctors had and still have no clue and stying strictly paleo is helping me better than any drug ever did until now.

Don said...


A) How did you conclude that I am "rich"? In fact, I am one of the people who has a budget that I manage carefully in order to get the quality of food I want. If I am forced to purchase an insurance policy that increases my costs, I may not have resources to purchase the foods I want. Currently I have a Health Savings Account that has a high deductible, so it covers only catastrophic expenses.

B) I am not saying I "know" that I will never get an illness. I am saying that I am willing to take my chances; and even if I do get a brain tumor, the most effective treatment is probably a ketogenic diet, and I would take my chances on that rather than chemo or radiation. Everything is a gamble and if you do the research many conventional interventions are not good bets.

I certainly would not consider it your responsibility to take care of me in the case I got a cancer. If you wanted to offer help I might accept your charity, but I would never think of forcing you by law to pay for my therapy. I for one love life but recognize also that NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE, so don't consider it imperative to extend my life at all costs, on other people's backs.

C)I don't know how you came to conclude that I don't have auto insurance. I purchase auto insurance because I consider it a rational hedge against catastrophe, and would do it even if the state did not mandate it. Nevertheless, I reduce my risk greatly by safe driving habits and minimizing my use of my auto. The probability that I would ever be responsible for an accident causing paraplegia to someone else is infinitesimally small, but I carry collision coverage nonetheless.

I honestly don't see the analogy between auto and medical insurance. If I hit someone with my car I will be responsible for the damages. If I get cancer but don't have insurance to cover costs of treatment, I won't have hurt anyone else. If I can't afford treatment that's my fault, not yours. If I can't afford to purchase treatment, this means society's health care costs are reduced compared to if I force you to provide me conventional care. I am not afraid to die and I don't consider it "society's" responsibility to care for me and keep me alive at all costs. I don't understand why some assume that giving everyone the barbaric care of allopathy represents "compassion."

Let me put it this way, 150 years ago, if a person developed cancer we had no chemo nor radiation. Today we have this. Despite the evidence suggesting that these therapies are not all that successful, we apply them whenever cancer occurs. This represents a medical care cost that no one had 150 years ago. So, as we develop new technologies, costs will continue to increase so long as people use them. But I fail to see how using them makes us more "compassionate" than not using them. Even if they extend life, they don't change the fact that no one gets out alive.

Contrary to your belief that there are no uninsured motorists out there, even state mandates do not result in universal auto insurance. Although all but two states require it, still 15% of drivers are uninsured. It happens frequently that people get in accidents with uninsured motorists, even in states with mandates. If there were no mandates, insurers would come up with packages that provide insurance even if you get hit by someone without insurance. I would purchase one. Your belief that these things can't be solved by free enterprise simply does not sway me, because I know how the market can solve these things.

Don said...



D) Mandates include things like massage therapy, marriage counseling, naturopathy, hormone replacement, and acupuncture. Even though I practice acupuncture, I don't want insurance coverage for it, because it would increase my costs as a provider, and increase the cost of getting acupuncture, and acupuncture is not indicated for catastrophes. These unnecessary mandates increase the costs of insurance policies. I want the freedom to choose policies that cover only costs I can reasonably predict I won't be able to cover myself.

E) Preventive care has not proven effective in reducing costs. In fact, a smoker who dies at 77 as a consequence of smoking incurs less health care costs than a non-smoker who lives to 85. Those extra 12 years of life usually involve a lot more medical expense (tests, treatments, etc.). The Top Ten Myths book to which I referred covers all this.

F) In my own clinic I charge only $30 for an office visit and acupuncture treatment. Like many other practitioners, I also have negotiated lower fees with those for whom even this is too much. I choose to make my service affordable, and this gives me a competitive edge over those who have higher prices. This would also work in conventional medicine if costs were made visible, physicians were allowed to advertise, etc.

Competition is good. Take a look at Laser eye surgery. Not covered by any insurance policy to my knowledge. As a consequence, laser surgeons have had to compete for the business of people able to pay cash. Over the past ten years, the cost of laser eye surgery has dropped dramatically, and the quality has increased, as a direct result of this competition. Insurance tends to reduce competition, which allows prices to increase and fails to promote improvements in quality of care.

susan dawn wake said...

I'd like to echo Monica's comment: thank you for defending our freedom, because that's what at stake with these sorts of government mandates. And while I'm at it, thank you for your blog: I get great value from reading it.

Steve said...

A simple question:

Should citizens of the USA be allowed to drive a car w/o insurance?

Nyker said...

I absolutely agree with Don.

As sovereign human beings, we have the right to our own lives. It is a moral obscenity for the U.S. government to force U.S. citizens to buy health insurance. Furthermore, it is a moral obscenity that anyone support the use of coersion against individuals who are not harming others. The government takeover of medicine is coersive and violent. I oppose it and any rational individual who values their lives should understand that it is lethal to place your health in the hands of a government bureaucrat.

Don -- congratulations for making a moral argument against healthcare "reform."

If you love your life, then you should oppose all those who seek to control it.

Don said...


Yes, citizens of the U.S. should be allowed to drive without insurance. You could still sue anyone who hit you for damages. The market would solve the ensuing "problems", by offering insurance plans to cover damages by uninsured drivers; improving safety of vehicles, such as equipping vehicles with sensors that protect against collisions; insurers would have a stake in identifying unsafe drivers and would find ways to weed them out; people would drive less; etc. I don't know how may creative ways people would find to make roads safer, but they would do it, out of self interest.

That said, I repeat that the analogy between driver's insurance and health insurance does not hold. I have auto insurance to protect my assets in case I make a mistake and injure someone else. A person gets medical insurance to protect his assets in case he gets a disease, which does not involve injuring someone else. If I can't pay for my medical care, I suffer, no one else.

This illustrates how public insurance and mandatory emergency room treatment creates moral hazard. If I don't have to pay for my medical care, why take care of myself? If I need medical treatment, someone else will pay for it. Why save money for medical bills, if someone else will be forced to pay for it? If I have a heart attack, "society" will pay. If I break a leg doing stupid things, society will pay. Making people pay their way makes them behave more rationally. Its the same as the bank bailouts; we cover their butts so they keep behaving irrationally. Privatize the profit and socialize the losses. Same with public medical care. Privatize the healing, socialize the cost of care.

Don said...

A fine article on how UK health care can work:

Apparently, even taxpayer pockets aren't deep enough to pay for everything.

Charles R. said...

RE: A fine article on how UK healthcare could work.

That would be relevant to the current discussion if anyone, anywhere was proposing that we establish a system modeled after the UK system.

And as I'm sure you know, the U.S. "free market" system can compete with anyone on the number of horror stories that could be told.

The plural of anecdote is not data.

Charles R. said...

Wow you just don't like being challenged, do you?

Don said...


"Wow you just don't like being challenged, do you?"

What are you talking about? If you think I didn't post your comment because I don't like to be challenged, you are wrong. I have a busy life. I have things to do other than constantly engage in this blog. Regarding your other comment, which you said you wouldn't mind if I didn't post, I was waiting until I had time to respond to it.

Regarding my posting the Times article, I used it to illustrate that single payer has limits. This is not the only limit either. Rationing is routine in single-payer systems.

By the way, the indigent in the U.S. are already covered by Medicaid, so this new plan has nothing to do with providing coverage for the poorest among us.

I gave a reasoned argument against giving free care to everyone (moral hazard). I didn't see any 'challenge' to that.

Once again, we don't have a 'free market' in U.S. health care, you admitted this yourself. So if you point to the failures you see in the current U.S. system, you aren't showing the failure of the free market, you are showing the results of a government- regulated market.

Don said...

This article discusses how gov't interference in the market drives up costs, and also how New York State has prohibited a physician from offering low-cost medical plans, forcing him to charge for things he did not want to charge for - serving the cartels.

Joanne at Open Mind Required said...

Drivers talk on their cell phones, eat while on the road, rubber neck, read a book while driving, change CDs at 65 mph, argue with their fellow passengers, and engage in many attention-diverting activities. But it's all good, because they carry insurance!

I'd rather be on the same road with someone with no insurance who paid attention to driving than someone with insurance who screwed around at the wheel.


I lived in Japan for 15 years and enjoyed their market-based, reasonably priced, single payer system. Is their system perfect? No, but it is preferable to the US system. There were no bureaucrats making medical decisions. And no corporate bean counter trying to deny my claim either. And I was free to purchase all the supplemental health insurance I cared to. 80% of the clinics and hospitals are privately owned in Japan- a figure higher than in the USA.

Anonymous said...

I am poor, earning under $30,000 per year and feeding a family of four (myself, a wife, and soon to be two kids). I do not want Obamacare. I do not want mandatory healthcare of any kind. If I could forego the mandatory premium I pay to maintain employment at the university (where I work as a grad student), I would. As the son of a doctor, I have learned that health care in the US (and most of the Western world) is fundamentally stupid: while it is good for acute injuries (sometimes), it has very little understanding of chronic conditions (diabetes, MS, heart disease, etc.), and the treatment methods it applies to these are in many cases worse than medieval.

Thank you, Don, for calling out the bureaucrats who think they can make better decisions about our health than we can, even those of us who are not (by bloated American standards) "wealthy." As someone in this class, I am really tired of being patronized by politicians (and their empty-headed supporters) on both sides of the party aisle. I should be able to look after my family's health without paying out fat premiums every quarter so that people I never met (who care nothing for me as a human being) can feel good about themselves. It is bad enough that I have to pay taxes (which I do, just in case anyone is wondering) so that fatcats on Wall Street can save their condos and government workers around the nation maintain ridiculously high salaries, but this is really the last straw. Uncle Sam can take my wallet, but he cannot have my health (ever, under any circumstances).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Don, for calling out the government on their latest ploy to seize unwarranted control of our lives, which (as usual) they assume they can manage better than we do, especially those of us who are (by bloated American standards) "poor." As a thinking member of that class (earning under $30,000 a year), I am really tired of being patronized by politicians (and their empty-headed supporters) on both sides of the party aisle. I already pay taxes from my meager earnings so that Wall Street tycoons can keep their bonuses (without which our economy dies, right?) and government workers continue earning more for warming a chair than I get for hours of teaching and research. Now Uncle Sam wants me to shill out additional funds for medical care I do not want??

My experience with doctors is that treatment lags FAR behind theory. I would only go to a hospital for acute injury (and expect to be screwed even then), never for a chronic condition, and anything that puts money in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies is not coming out of my wallet without a big fight (Vioxx, anyone?). Obama and his minions, Bush and his, the "healthcare" industry--all that these people really care about is money (yours and mine), and they just discovered a new way to steal more of it.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

Don, this blog will resonate with you.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the double post. The first rant did not appear to post, so I rewrote it as the second.