Does Barack Obama Support
by Michael F. Cannon
Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute (www.cato.org) and coauthor of Healthy
Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It.
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack
Obama (IL) has proposed an ambitious plan to
restructure America’s health care sector. Rather
than engage in a detailed critique of Obama’s
health care plan, many critics prefer to label it
“socialized medicine.” Is that a fair description of
the Obama plan and similar plans? Over the past
year, prominent media outlets and respectable
think tanks have investigated that question and
come to a unanimous answer: no.
Those investigations leave much to be desired.
Indeed, they are little more than attempts to con-
vince the public that policies generally considered
socialist really aren’t.
A reasonable definition of socialized medicine
is possible. Socialized medicine exists to the extent that
government controls medical resources and socializes the
costs. Notice that under this definition, it is irrele-
vant whether we describe medical resources (e.g.,
hospitals, employees) as “public” or “private.”
What matters—what determines real as opposed
to nominal ownership—is who controls the
resources. By that definition, America’s health sec-
tor is already more than half socialized, and
Obama’s health care plan would socialize medi-
cine even further.
Reasonable people can disagree over whether
Obama’s health plan would be good or bad.
But to suggest that it is not a step toward social-
ized medicine is absurd.
October 7, 2008
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Democratic presidential nominee Sen.
Barack Obama (IL) has proposed an ambitious
plan to reform America’s health care sector.
According to his campaign website, “Obama
will sign a universal health care plan into law by
the end of his first term in office. His plan will