Under bills being considered in the House and Senate, federal intervention into health care would be much less intrusive than conservative critics prefer to pretend. The much-maligned public insurance option, for example, would be required by law to operate on the insurance premiums it generates from the marketplace and could not rely on taxpayers’ money. Likewise, there is no mechanism by which the government could dictate medical practices.
However, more direct examples of federal involvement in health care do exist already, as the Wall Street Journal points out:
LEESBURG, Va. — Federally funded health centers, originally created to serve the poor, are seeing a surge of patients as more Americans struggle financially.
The centers are on track to handle more than 20 million patients this year, up by more than two million from last year and twice the figure of a decade ago, according to surveys by the National Association of Community Health Centers.
“They’re seeing lines out the door,” said the association’s research director, Michelle Proser.
On a recent afternoon at the Loudoun County Community Health Center here, patients came in at a rate of one every two minutes. Operating chief Stephanie Kenyon said the waiting list has jumped to 500 from 20 in a few months. Some of the new patients are college-educated and, until recently, held jobs that put them in the middle class.
By conservative theory, such federal clinics should not exist and could not operate effectively if they did exist. But as the WSJ story points out, funding for the clinics doubled under that socialist George Bush, and the clinics deliver basic health care much more efficiently than private clinics.
They’re also swamped by patients unable to get care through the standard health-care delivery system, which rations the treatment it provides based on the patient’s ability to pay.