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Romania's 20-Year Nightmare: Unraveling Socialized Health Care

Our American political servants who mindlessly approved the 2,000-plus pages of the Affordable Health Care for America Act also scrambled for cover. All, from those working in Congress to those working in White House, granted themselves American versions of Helias and Gerota. None of them wanted to put his life in the hands of a nationalized health care system run by bureaucrats. Some 1,200 companies that had given grants to the Democratic Party and  labor unions representing 543,812 workers also received waivers from part of the health care reform law.

I have written elsewhere -- but it is worth repeating -- about another disastrous consequence of a health care system run by bureaucrats: baksheesh. People in the U.S. are not used to having to pay bribes to get things done. In Communist Romania, however, baksheesh was the only way to get an appointment with a reliable doctor or a clean bed in a hospital. In 2008 The Lancet reported that in Russia each doctor and nurse still had "his or her little tax," and that "they all prefer cash in envelopes, of course." Nurses took 50 rubles to empty a bedpan and 200 rubles to give an enema. Operations started at 300 rubles, but "the sky's the limit."[iv] In the U.S., baksheesh might not start out as such blatant bribes, but bribery is sure to soon become the rule in one way or another. In France, for instance, the government bureaucracy recently introduced a €1 franchise on every medical consultation, described as a contribution au remboursement de la dette sociale (contribution to the repayment of the social debt). That was followed by an €18 franchise on "costly" medical procedures. Now the French patients are learning that if they discreetly slip an envelope with cash into the pocket of the doctor's white lab coat hanging in his office, they will get more "attention." A little extra attention may be vital in such a government-run health care system, where doctors are obliged by law to see sixty to seventy patients a day.

One of the greatest myths about Marxism is the supposed virtue of equality for all. If only everybody could have the same of everything, the world would be an earthly paradise. All Marxists believe that only the state can create that paradise. That utopian ideal has now captured people's imagination in the United States as well. I spent many years in the inner sanctum of a Marxist government that was preaching this utopian ideal of equality, and I learned for a fact that it is nothing but science fiction. Lies. Dust in people's eyes. I have co-written a whole book about that, which may soon appear on the market. But pictures are often better than words. My fellow Romanians, who paid with 1,104 lives to free themselves from their Marxist paradise, have provided us with some painfully vivid pictures: a 2007 movie called The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, which won more than twenty international prizes.