NY Times Proves Obamacare Can't Work

Command economies lead to shortages.

We've always said that Obamacare must be repealed and utterly destroyed.  We weren't alone in believing it to be unconstitutional.  We envied Sarah Palin's coining the phrase "death panels" to describe the committees that decide who'd be treated and who'd die.  We also argued that it would be impossible for government to sensibly regulate any endeavor as complex as medicine.

Finally, word is getting around: none other than the New York Times has now published conclusive evidence that Obamacare cannot possibly work.

Rube Goldberg Would Be Impressed

The so-called "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" created innumerable new responsibilities for government bureaucrats; this stunningly complex flowchart merely scratches the surface.

What's more, Obamacare gives a frightening degree of direct power to an unelected official: the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The phrase "the Secretary shall..." appears more than 1,000 times in the bill.  The Secretary is supposed to personally determine and decree exactly what medical conditions all insurance plans must cover, how much profit they're allowed to make, what doctors will be paid, what treatments everybody gets, and a host of other matters.  No detail is too small for government meddling, yet few are important enough as to be defined by something more democratic than a fiat decree by an appointed political apparatchik.

Our primary problem with Obamacare was and is far more simple and fundamental: the amply-demonstrated fact that government can't manage anything.  We don't want our medical system run by the folks who gave us $600 toilet seats.  Our health care system, at 1/6 of our economy, is about the size the entire Soviet economy was when Communism collapsed, proof positive that running a command economy of that size simply cannot be done.

Despite having vast natural resources and clever, industrious people, the Soviets were utterly unable to manage their command-based economy effectively.  Our market-driven system generated enough tax revenue to fund Mr. Reagan's Star Wars program which the Soviets couldn't match.

We were and remain convinced that our bureaucrats aren't any smarter or any more motivated than the Soviets were.  It should be ridiculous on its face to blithely assume that our government could micro-manage an entity as large as our health system.

Government-Induced Drug Shortages

In "F.D.A. Is Finding Attention Drugs in Short Supply," the Times wrote:

While the Food and Drug Administration monitors the safety and supply of the drugs, which are sold both as generics and under brand names like Ritalin and Adderall, the Drug Enforcement Administration sets manufacturing quotas that are designed to control supplies and thwart abuse. Every year, the D.E.A. accepts applications from manufacturers to make the drugs, analyzes how much was sold the previous year and then allots portions of the expected demand to various companies.  [emphasis added]

That's precisely how the Soviet economy worked.  Each year, the planning bureaucrats set non-negotiable quotas for each factory based on expected demand. The results of government control are well documented - Soviet citizens wasted lifetimes standing in line for scarce products while unneeded goods rotted in warehouses.

The Times tells us how government control of manufacturing works out in the US:

Now, multiple manufacturers have announced that their medicines are in short supply. The F.D.A. has included these pills on its official shortages list, as has the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which tracks the problem for hospitals. And the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has told the more than 8,000 doctors in its membership that shortages seem to be “widespread across a number of states” and are “devastating” for children[emphasis added]

America has decades of experience manufacturing high-tech drugs.  Why did a patient have to visit "more than a dozen pharmacies" to find an inadequate supply of a drug for ADHD?  Why are so many drugs in such short supply that the government has to maintain an "official shortages list?"

The second item on this list as of Jan 1, 2012 was:

Alcohol Dehydrated (Ethanol > 98%) (updated 12/16/2011)

Company/Products Reason Related Information
American Regent/Luitpold:

1 mL ampule, package of 10 (NDC 00517-8571-10); 5 mL ampule, package of 10 (NDC 00517-8575-10)
Manufacturing delays 1ml ampules being released.

Ethanol is the "secret sauce" in "adult beverages" that makes you drunk.  We've been manufacturing drinking alcohol for thousands of years.

What's the official reason for the shortage?  "Manufacturing delays."

Anheuser-Busch has no trouble making all the alcohol customers are willing to buy, and we're not aware of anyone poisoned by manufacturing contamination in living memory.  Go into any liquor store.  Are there shortages?  No, the shelves are groaning.

Why, then, are hospitals experiencing shortages of alcohol, of all things?  Why are there "manufacturing delays" for such a well-understood product?

The Times doesn't say, but the reason is as obvious as gravity.  Alcohol used in hospitals isn't just any alcohol that merely has to be safe to drink, dear me, no!  It's medical alcohol.  As a medical product, it comes under FDA regulation.

Alcohol had been used in medicine for centuries before the FDA was founded - even the Apostle Paul advised Timothy to use "a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thine often infirmities."  Paul had neither a medical degree nor Timothy an FDA-approved manufacturer, yet these ancients met their medical needs more effectively than we moderns.  Although you can buy medicinal-grade rubbing alcohol in any drug store, enough manufacturers decided not to bother with FDA rules for manufacturing medical alcohol that hospitals are encountering an alcohol shortage!

Now we know - the principles decreed by Obamacare are giving us shortages of a chemically simple substance that's been used for centuries and will shortly do precisely the same thing for the entire panoply of modern medical provision.

What's the Answer?

The solution is the same solution President Carter (D) used to save American railroads - get government out of the way.  When the railroads were failing, Mr. Carter promoted the Staggers Act which deregulated railroads.  They returned to profitability except for passenger railroading, which stayed under government control and, not coincidentally, loses billions of dollars per year in Amtrak subsidies.

Cancer-fighting drugs are also in short supply due to price controls.  The same answer is known not merely to the Times but to the brother of Barack Obama's closest political sycophant, Rahm Emanuel, and a philosophical contributor to Obamacare itself.  The article quoted oncologist Ezekiel Emanuel who said, “You don’t have to be a cynical capitalist to see that the long-term solution is to make the production of generic cancer drugs more profitable.”

Yet President Obama rejected the correct solution in favor of an approach known not to work.  Reuters reports:

Obama instructed the Food and Drug Administration to get better advance warning of impending supply problems and speed up its review of applications from companies that want to change or ramp up production to address shortages.  [emphasis added]

His order added six new staff positions to the five people who now track drug shortages.  In other words: create shortages, then hire more bureaucrats to track them!  Instead of getting out of the way, his response to government-induced shortages is to pile on yet more regulators, rules, bureaucrats, and price controls!

During the stimulus, the Obama administration spoke of "shovel ready" construction projects which would put people to work.  As it turns out, there's no such thing as "shovel ready" in construction because the approval process is too long.

Government-caused drug shortages really are shovel-ready, however, because the shovels will be digging graves.  Best not get sick while Obama is in office!

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

Why are people upset about government death panels vs. corporate death panels? Is the latter really perceived as considerably more fair?

January 19, 2012 3:33 PM

Are corporate death panels more humane than government ones? No system allows unlimited care, certainly not our current one.

January 19, 2012 3:33 PM

Yes, corporate death panels are inherently more fair - because you can go around them. You can change to a different corporation (or, at the very least, others can hear of your ill fortune and switch themselves.) You can sue. You can even raise private money and pay for the treatment yourself.

With universal single-payer monolithic government health care, you can't do any of those things. If the death panel gives you the thumbs-down, you're SOL - unless you're rich enough to seek treatment outside the country entirely, which is why America gets so much medical tourism from England, Canada, and many other places.

January 19, 2012 3:44 PM

As one would expect, the Times believes that the soution to government-induced shortages is more power to the government. This time it's another drug children need.

A Frightening Shortage of Vital Drugs
The severe shortage of a drug used to treat childhood leukemia highlights why Congress must pass legislation giving the F.D.A. more power to head off such a crisis.

February 19, 2012 1:54 PM
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