More Health Care Gibberish From John Edwards

I used to think that Edwards was simply a light weight seeking political power, or as Bob Shrum called him, “a Clinton who hadn’t read the books.” Considering how Edwards made a fortune convincing southern juries that birth defects were caused by medical malpractice, I thought he must have at least some cursory knowledge of health care. Of course there’s already something suspicious about someone who makes healthcare a cornerstone of his campaign but doesn’t know that Cuba has a government run health care system, especially as he asked this just a few days after recommending that people watch Sicko.

The more I hear from Edwards, the less it appears that he has any real understanding of the major issues of the day. The latest nonsensical statement from Edwards was that his health care system would not only encourage preventative care but make it mandatory. (Hat tip to Q and O).

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care.

“It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care,” he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. “If you are going to be in the system, you can’t choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.”

He noted, for example, that women would be required to have regular mammograms in an effort to find and treat “the first trace of problem.” Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced earlier this year that her breast cancer had returned and spread.

Edwards said his mandatory health care plan would cover preventive, chronic and long-term health care. The plan would include mental health care as well as dental and vision coverage for all Americans.

I sure wonder how he plans to enforce this. Based upon the number of patients who refuse mammograms or other recommended screening studies, it may be a huge expense simply to enforce this. While I often find it frustrating to see so many patients make dumb decisions, freedom means being able to make your own dumb decisions as opposed to having government make personal decisions for you.

At present I have many patients refuse influenza vaccines every year. Should I force a patient to have one against their will I’d be charged with assault and battery. Under Edwards’ mandatory health care plan, would patients forcibly receive such vaccines? In some cases, such as mammograms, the value is well established. In many other cases there remains some controversy over what is best with different medical organizations having different recommendations. Even when the rational for a recommendation is established, this is something to be discussed by the patient and their physician, not a matter which applies without variation to every individual.

Hopefully the idea of dragging people in by force to have a influenza vaccine or mammogram is well beyond what Edwards proposes, but even less Draconian efforts could be counterproductive. Even if there were measures which penalized the non-compliant by increasing the out of pocket cost of care, or otherwise restricted care for those who fail to abide by recommendations for preventative care, this would be contrary to the real goal of making health care more affordable for all who desire health care services. If someone has not had mammograms do we then refuse to treat them should they later develop breast cancer? Unfortunately it is an unavoidable fact of life in health care that we often wind up treating people for things which might have been prevented.

The goal is to help enable people who desire coverage but are not able to under the current system, not to force people into a mandatory plan. I’ve long had reservations about Edwards based upon his poor record with regards to civil liberties as well as a Bush-like ignorance of the issues. A plan like this makes Edwards even more authoritarian than the current Republican Party.

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