Montana's Soviet-Style Government Healthcare Clinic

Gov. Brian Schweitzer announced that the state will operate a healthcare clinic for government employees which will lead them to receive separate care from the rest of Americans.

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A rapid-response team deployed at Hackensack University Medical Center. Nurse Michele Simone assists by needle insertion for a patient experiencing shortness of breath.

At first glance it might appear that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer's announcement that the state would be establishing a government-run health clinic for state employees is a good idea, one that will help keep down the cost of healthcare.

Actually, it's anything but.

Allowing those who set and enforce the rules under Obamacare at the state level to have their own private facility for treatment is a recipe for rampant corruption of the kind usually found in the satellite states of the former Soviet Union. It's a formula that will inevitably lead to one class of healthcare for government workers—one that does not involve rationing or waiting periods of any kind—operating separately from the healthcare the rest of America gets.

[See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.]

As far as bending the healthcare cost curve is concerned, the only way the numbers work under Obamacare is if the government-run exchanges eventually begin to ration care. This will be done not on the basis of ability to pay but based on the ability of the system to provide the needed service. Wait times will rise. Some people will, out of necessity, be declared too old or too infirm to receive the treatment they need. Some may die waiting for bed space to open up so they can be admitted to the hospital for treatment. And some types of care may be  eliminated or cut back because the healthcare bureaucracy deems it too expensive, substituting—if anything—alternative forms of therapy that are less effective or may do no good at all.

That's how the system in general will operate because it must operate that way. But, in a government-run clinic established for the benefit of government workers—the same people who make the rules, enforce the guidelines, write the budgets, and otherwise have the connections and pull not available to most Americans, it is easy to belief that the sky will be the limit.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Does the Supreme Court's Healthcare Ruling Help Obama?]

There will be no rationing. If wait times are too long, more doctors will be hired because, somehow, miraculously, the money will be found in the state budget to do just that. Radical treatments will remain available since the clinics the government establishes for its own workers will obviously, according to the bureaucrats who review grant proposals, the best place to conduct pilot programs and medical trials. Somehow the money will always be there while the rest of the system is left to starve.

The program is already popular. According to Reuters, "state employees (are) quickly booking slots for the privately operated clinic, which the state expects to generate savings by reducing duplicate testing for patients and by paying doctors by the hour rather than by the procedure."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

"We're completely full," Reuters quotes Schweitzer as having said on a recent pre-opening tour of the first of three facilities planned to open this year. This, of course, should come as no surprise since employees who use its services will not be charged a co-pay nor a deductible.

Now that it's free, it's no wonder it's so attractive. When the cost of a good or service is zero the demand for it is infinite.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

"'I can afford this,' patient Sarah Yancy said with a laugh," Reuters reported. "There are a lot of times I didn't go to the doctor when I wanted to go to the doctor because I knew I'd have to pay for it," she said.

Unionized state and federal government workers already enjoy higher rates of pay for the same work and more generous benefits than those in the private sector, unionized or not. The disparity is obvious and well-documented. Government-run healthcare clinics of their own is just one more perk to add to the list of those that few of the rest of us earn after a lifetime of hard work.

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