For many years, advocates of the "need" philosophy have included medical services among the list of goodies which everybody is supposed to get for free. There is hardly a better example of "neediness" than health care for the injured and infirm. Indeed, the classic cases—food for the starving, water for the thirsty—are less troublesome to most people. We seldom encounter cases of death from starvation or thirst, but everyone has reason to worry about a traffic accident or a sudden heart attack. Is it a moral imperative to help the "needy"? It has become a political imperative; the potentially needy are a majority.
The logical contradictions of the "need" philosophy are causing problems. President Carter has discovered that the various congressional schemes for subsidized medical care will cost such an unbelievable amount that he balks at supporting them. The bureaucrats who administer the current, more limited system of health care subsidies are experimenting with "cost controls." This means, of course, taking control of the incomes and investments of people who provide health care.
In 1974, the National Health Planning Act was passed which established a nationwide network of Health Systems Agencies. These HSA organizations have the power to prevent the building of hospitals, prevent the expenditure of money (private money) by hospitals for new equipment or new facilities, and can even prevent a new physician from starting a practice in a community where there may already be "too many doctors."
In most of the HSA areas around the country, the planners are appointed by local politicians and medical establishment bureaucrats. In the Los Angeles area, an experiment to elect the HSA democratically has been attempted. A complicated scheme for electing a number of producers' representatives, consumers' representatives, and appointing the proper number of ethnic minorities was established. Not everyone would vote, however—just those citizens who signed up as "members" interested in health care planning.
Libertarians in Los Angeles seized the opportunity to sign up as members and try to elect themselves to the HSA. Bill Webster, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of California's Judicial Committee, Linda Rader, L.P.C. activist, and Ed Clark, member of the national L.P. Executive Committee, were instrumental in this drive. Ed Clark was elected. Additional opportunities to elect or appoint other libertarians will occur this year and next, and the opportunity to preserve some measure of a free market process in the L.A. health care community will be worth watching.
Just as wealthy British subjects who need the better health care available outside their National Health scheme must fly to Switzerland or the United States, perhaps in 10 years Americans will have to fly to Los Angeles or Hong Kong for some free market medicine. If your local HSA doesn't plan correctly, your doctor will be stuck with the consequences of the mistakes regardless of his personal skills.
Earlier this year, the Libertarian Health Association was formed to resist the further progression of government interference in the health care fields. Not limited just to physicians, the LHA intends to provide its members with materials suitable for distribution to patients to motivate them, in their own interests, toward political action against the government.
Chairman of the LHA is S. Dallas Cooley, M.D. of Fairfax, VA. Dr. Cooley was active in the MacBride for President campaign in Virginia and had urged the formation of a "Physicians for MacBride" committee in 1976. The address of the LHA is 8316 Arlington Blvd., Suite 232, Fairfax, VA 22030. With some hard work, the LHA might accomplish at least as much as the General Practitioners' Society in Australia has done to reverse socialized medicine down under, as reported in REASON a few issues back.
In at least one state, Iowa, a local chapter of the LHA has been established by William A. Bockoven, M.D., 505 Fifth Ave., Suite 220, Des Moines, IA 50309. There are others, we think, but not all have sent us mailings.
Iowa is also the home of Dr. R.S. Jaggard, M.D., 10 East Charles St., Oelwein, IA 50662, who publishes a monthly newsletter with notes about private alternatives to government medicine and welfare. Dr. Jaggard is a conscientious objector to the Social Security System. His newsletter is distributed free upon request.
Another organization in opposition to the medical establishment is the Home-birth Education Research Service, publisher of the H.E.R.S. News, Postal Box 108, Gold Run, CA 95719. Jayne M. Joyce is the organizer of H.E.R.S., which has information available to interested persons about delivery and maternity without hospital or doctor requirements. "Decidedly feminist," Jayne Joyce says she is not about to give equal time in the newsletter to the paternalistic "doctor knows best" view.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Frontlines: Healthful Libertarians".