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Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

Brezhnev Lives!



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Ah, California. Sunshine. The seashore. Beautiful women. Recreation galore. America’s breadbasket. The crossroads of the world, with myriad cultures and cuisines. Unparalleled resources and the great outdoors.

And the land of the free lunch, delivered by the beneficent political class in Sacramento, the generosity of which knows no bounds as long as the tools of spending and taxing are available. And when they aren’t? No problem: Merely issue decrees through regulation, and utopia moves a step closer. The latest manifestation of this altruism is a new set of HMO regulations requiring that patients be treated by HMO physicians within ten business days of requesting an appointment, and by specialists within 15 days. Patients seeking urgent care not requiring prior authorization must be seen within 48 hours. Phone calls to physicians’ offices must be returned within 30 minutes, and doctors or other health professionals must be available 24 hours per day.

No, I am not kidding. Put aside the horrendous implications of these dicta for costs and quality. Instead, consider the similarity of this brave new world to that envisioned in the old joke about the time that the great Leonid Brezhnev was on the phone listening to the desperate pleas of Todor Zhivkov, the general secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party, as he begged Brezhnev for increased economic aid. ”Comrade Leonid Ilyichovich, we desperately need 10 million tons of grain.” Brezhnev: “You will have them.” ”We need 25 million tons of oil.”  “You will have them.” ”We need 5 million tons of steel, 40 million tons of cement, 10 million pairs of shoes, 15 million winter coats, and 25 million tons of potatoes.” ”Fear not, Todor Hristovich: You will have them.”

“Leonid Ilyichovich, you are a giant among the defenders of the proletariat, and the savior of the Bulgarian workers. The day will come when your name will be uttered alongside that of the great Lenin. But I have only one question: Do you really think that the Czechs will be able to deliver?”

So: Will the Czechs in Washington write checks to deliver these goodies? And if not, who will, precisely? Sacramento has not answered that question.

– Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.



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