Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Sick Plan

John Edwards, the Democrat running consistently behind both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the politician who fervently hopes that his party's affiliates will have forgotten his general ineptitude and unlikeable personality as John Kerry's running mate, the presidential hopeful about whom the phrase "More Hair Than Wit" could almost be a campaign slogan, has come up with a breathtakingly idiotic idea.

In touting his plan for universal, cradle to grave, government health care, Edwards has declared that under his plan, it will be mandatory for Americans to go to the doctor every year for preventative care. Never mind that you feel fine, are in good general health, prefer natural or alternative medicine, or want to avoid a checkup during a raging flu season--you have to go. Period.

And since his plan includes dental and vision coverage, it's quite possibly true that those will require mandatory visits as well (though Edwards didn't specify if Americans will have to go to the dentist twice a year or if only one visit will be demanded).

Edwards failed to say what the penalty would be for avoiding these mandatory visits, though presumably, since he's fully committed to universal coverage, you couldn't be kicked out of the plan. I suspect he's planning to levy a fine on those Americans who don't choose to go to the doctor annually, or possibly create government incentives for doctors to make forced-entry house calls for recalcitrant patients.

Of course, Edwards fails to note that beginning three decades ago voices in the medical community were raised against the idea that annual checkups were necessary, important, or medically valuable. There are still such voices in the medical world today, professionals in various disciplines who agree that adults in generally good health may not need to see a doctor every year; a checkup every two to three years ought to suffice in the absence of symptoms of illness.

Edwards also fails to note that scheduling the approximately 300 million Americans for routine annual physicals would be difficult, given that doctors don't usually see patients on the weekend, and thus on each weekday there would have to be an average of 1.15 million physicals scheduled. Given the relative shortage of primary care physicians in America, and the fact that in certain rural areas of the country the ratio of primary care physician to patient is greater than 3,500 to 1, and you're looking at a logistical nightmare in the making.

Of course, it's probably fair to say that John Edwards isn't interested in logistics. He probably doesn't ever expect to be in a position to create such a system, or insist on such details as mandatory doctor visits. The whole position he's outlining is quite frankly an obvious bid on his part either to be considered as a viable running mate for Hillary, or as her top pick for some new cabinet-level "Health Care Tzar" position as a reward for his faithful years of service to the Democratic party. And in the event of a Hillary administration, it might be a safe bet to say that Edwards will at least be considered for such a reward.

It could be worse, I suppose. He could be running on a platform that includes mandatory preventative hair care appointments.


Alexandra said...

Scary...truly a hair-brained idea! ;)

Red Cardigan said...

Alexandra, where were you when I needed a post title yesterday? "A Hair-Brained Idea" is *much* better than what I came up with!!