Murphy was lying on a gurney, wearing nothing but a white hospital gown covered with rows of little blue flowers, reading a Highlights magazine, when I found him in the emergency room.
“Murphy, what's wrong?”
He looked at me a bit embarrassed. “Well, I was making breakfast this morning, and I banged my arm really hard on the edge of the kitchen counter. Man, did that hurt!”
I checked my watch. “It's after three o'clock in the afternoon, Murph. You've been waiting here all this time?”
“Yes,” he replied. “This is an outrage, and the Obama Administration will hear from me, pronto!”
“But why,” I asked, “did you decide to come to the ER for a bump on the arm?”
“I figured that, because of ObamaCare, I'd take advantage of my right to free medical. Better safe than sorry, right?”
“But you came to a hospital emergency room for a simple bump on the arm!” I said, incredulous.
“But it really hurt! And besides, the hospital staff has been very nice. They already took me to x-ray, and drew blood for some tests because I complained about chest pains.” He said this rubbing his belly. His hospital gown had hiked up to expose what shouldn't decently see daylight in public.
“First of all, Murph, pull your gown down...nobody wants to see those, or your fat thighs! Second, Obama's national healthcare plan—which is called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by the way--hasn't gone into effect yet. So you're going to be presented with a bill for all of this. Did you get to eat your breakfast?”
“No, I rushed right here after I cracked my arm.”
“Then you haven't eaten since dinner last night?”
He shook his head to signal negatory.
“So they're looking for a heart problem and probably all you're suffering from is hunger pangs. Great! This is going to cost a fortune.”
“But I don't have the money to pay,” Murphy whined. “I thought the government was going to pay for all this.”
“So Murphy, you came in for a huge helping of needless healthcare because you thought it was free?”
“Well, why shouldn't I? I pay taxes, don't I?”
“No Murph. You don't pay taxes. When was the last time you did an honest day's work instead of mooching off of friends?”
He looked hurt. “Now you're going to throw my hard times in my face, are you?” He glanced at the monitor that was beep-beep-beeping, rubbing his sore arm, trying his best to appeal to my sympathies.
“But Murphy, you seem to have a life of nothing but hard times, because everyone always rescues you. You haven't seen a need, apparently, to get a real job in years. Between friends' couches and dinner tables, you haven't paid a penny in taxes—or rent, or utilities, or food for that matter--in years. I might also add that, because you don't take responsibility for yourself, you feel free to overeat and carry around an extra forty pounds...”
“Hey! I resent that! I'm probably only about thirty pounds overweight.”
“Whatever. The point is, you don't eat carefully, you don't exercise, you smoke cigarettes, and you don't take care of your health in other ways. But when your unhealthy lifestyle starts causing you problems, who are you going to call on to take care of you?”
“ObamaCare, of course. That's what it's for, isn't it? It's one of my civil rights.” He sounded annoyed now. As though I should understand.
“Healthcare is not a civil right, Murphy. It's something that we should provide for those unfortunates who are unable to help themselves. But government healthcare is not the answer. Government healthcare sets up yet another institution ripe for corporate takeover, where corrupt government officials collude with unscrupulous business people to take as much taxpayer money as they possibly can. We see that in government institutions one after another.”
“Yeah, but healthcare is a civil right,” said Murphy. “It's right there in the Declaration of Independence!”
“Wrong, Murph. According to the Declaration of Independence, we're born with certain inalienable rights. The rights enumerated are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The government is formed to protect our lives through law enforcement. It protects our liberty by maintaining an armed force that keeps out invaders who would deny our liberty. And it should guarantee our pursuit of happiness by otherwise keeping its hands out of our lives in all other areas—and that includes healthcare.”
“You heartless bastard!” Murphy yelled. A nurse pulled aside the curtain.
“Sir, you're going to have to keep your voice down,” she warned, darting harsh looks at the both of us.
“You want to deny healthcare to innocent people who've fallen on hard times,” Murphy hissed through gritted teeth,, a scowl of indignant self-righteousness plastered all over his face. “Just leave them to die if they can't afford it. Is that your answer to overpopulation?”
As in any discussion with my friend Murphy, I heaved a heavy sigh of resignation. “No Murphy. You know me better than that. You know I give huge amounts of money to charity to do just the kind of work you're accusing me of not caring about. But I don't want the government taking money from me in the form of taxes so that some corrupt bureaucrat can funnel it into the pockets of his cronies, with a nice bonus for himself, all the while claiming to be administering a government healthcare system. That doesn't do anyone any good at all while, at the same time, allowing immense government corruption to pass as 'business as usual.' It may not happen in the beginning. It might not happen in the first decade. But I've learned from my Native American friends to consider the effect of our decisions on the seventh generation. Many government programs today are older than that, and they're run like somebody's fiefdom.”
“Well, your big insurance companies sure waste a lot of money,” said Murphy with the assuredness of someone who'd cornered me. “And corruption is rife, if you consider executive salaries and bonuses in the tens of millions of dollars!”
“You're right there, Murph. And once again, you can thank government intrusion in the marketplace. What would happen if everyone who was disenchanted with the current crop of insurance companies decided to place their bets—insurance, after all, is a form of gambling—with a new, small company that did business ethically? Why, they'd bankrupt those companies that do business unethically. People would have a choice, and they would choose in their own self-interest, as they should. But government regulation makes entry into the insurance business so nearly impossible that nobody with a better solution to our health insurance problem can possibly get started. Government regulation has become the greatest obstacle to innovation in the health insurance industry, which is a huge part of the problem with our healthcare system. The same could be said of government intrusion into the healthcare field itself. Providers are so stymied by regulation that costs go through the roof just defending against that kind of unwarranted intrusion—which is often, by the way, invited by health providers trying, in their own self-interest, to keep out competitors.
“Plus, with government sponsored anything, we get the added 'benefit' of the abuse of the system by those without any scruples, who help themselves to whatever is being given away for free. And I hate to say it, Murph, you're a prime example, sitting here with a bump on your arm, costing somebody—probably the government, and definitely this hospital—thousands of dollars in unneeded medical care.”
“But it really really hurt!” Murphy cried, deeply wounded.
“Yeah,” I said, “and just wait until the bill comes. Then you'll really know what 'wounded' is.”
Just then the ER doctor came to Murphy's bedside. “Well, young man, it looks like you can go home. We found nothing wrong today.”
“Oh, thank God!” said Murphy. Then, with a side glance to me, “Are you sure there's nothing? Don't I need a cast, or maybe a sling to keep my arm immobilized for a while?”
“Nope,” said the doc. “I'd just recommend some ice on that bump for a little while. You're going to get a nasty bruise. I'll have the nurse bring you an ice pack to take home with you.”
“Oh Doctor,” I cut in. “How much does one of those ice packs cost?”
The doctor squirmed a little, then started to walk away as though he hadn't heard my direct question. Not being one to be cowed by the medical profession, I pursued it, at great volume so that everyone in the ER heard it.
“Uh...they go for only about three-hundred dollars each,” he mumbled over his shoulder as he ran away.