Dr. Friedman, I think many of us would agree
with you about national health insurance, but, looking at it from a pragmatic standpoint,
what do you think the possibilities are here within the next two years? Of national health insurance? Yes. Well, I don’t think they are very good, I’m
glad to say. But they are not very good for a reason which is not, unfortunately, a desirable
reason. The prospects are not very good simply because of the budgetary pressures. The government
budget has been rising out of hand; it’s going to be $500 billion estimated for next year.
Here we are in the fourth year of an expansion with a deficit of over $50 billion looming,
the various national health insurance plans that have been proposed would involve very
large expenditures, $30-40-50-60-70 billion-you can get any number you want. As a result,
in the immediate future I do not see any prospects of the enactment of national health. Moreover, there is no… in my opinion, there
is no widespread public pressure for national health. You know, people are always saying
government does these things because of an overwhelming public demand. Nonsense… the
demand has to be drummed up and developed the way in which Madison Avenue develops a
campaign for a new toothpaste. There is no public demand for national health insurance.
Of course, everybody would like to have somebody else pay his medical bills for him, but people
aren’t that foolish and they recognize that if you have a national health system they
are, one way or another, going to have to pay the bills. And so I do not believe there
is any very great public demand for it. But nonetheless, there is great pressure for
it, and the pressure is deriving from various special groups that have special interests
to play, including the medical profession. There is pressure on the medical profession
because they want to get more money, and instead of there being a principled opposition on
the part of the medical profession to the idea of national health insurance, of socialized
medicine- let’s not call it national health insurance. It’s not national health insurance.
There is nothing national about it; it’s for individual people. There is no health about
it because it will make medical care less good; it will make the health of the American
people worse. And there is no insurance about it because it’s simply a government payout,
government subsidization. But there has been, so far as I can see, a diminishing resistance
by the medical profession itself against national health insurance- certainly by organized medicine.
There are a small number of fringe organizations of physicians that are strongly opposed to
national health insurance, socialized medicine- I’m going to stop using the word…to socialized
medicine and they have been producing material and so on, but it seems to me that it is past
time for the profession as a whole to look ahead and see what’s coming, and take much
more effective action than they have- not to cooperate with it, not to think that you
are going to be able to ride that tiger. You may ride it for a time, but sooner or later,
you are going to be on the bottom instead of on the top.