Guest Editorial


Bookmark and Share

Mencken's ghost shilouetteA prescient and profound 1966 letter about socialized medicine

I’m feeling inadequate and humbled. 

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons has a commentary of mine in the Summer 2012 edition.  It also has a reprint from the journal’s archives of one of the most prescient and profound pieces I’ve ever read about socialized medicine.  Comparing my commentary to it is like comparing an article in People magazine to a Shakespearean play.

The archival piece is “A Letter to Mississippi Physicians,” written on May 1, 1966, by Mississippi physician Curtis W. Caine.  

Remember the date:  May 1, 1966.

The letter summarizes Dr. Caine’s thoughts to his fellow physicians about Medicare, which was signed into law on July 30, 1965, to go into effect on July 1, 1966.

Now, 46 years later, the Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the Pelosi-Reid-Obama plan to socialize the rest of medical care, although Medicare is unsustainable in its present form and will be insolvent in 20 years

Dr. Caine made 122 enumerated points in his letter.  Below is a sampling.  To see how relevant his points are to today’s situation, just replace the word “Medicare” with “ObamaCare.”

- Socialized medicine, stripped of its deceptive whitewash, is reactionary; it is the imposition of central power and control over America and Americans in the false guise of beneficence; it is the opposite of the American way.

- Medicare was drafted by politicians and bureaucrats.  Official representatives of the medical profession were not consulted about the provisions of Medicare.

- Socialized medicine has always, in every era and in every location, arrested progress in medical science through restrictive, burdensome, suffocating regulation, leading to loss of incentive, stagnation, and decay. 

- People almost never value anything that is free.

- Ponder this – would a patient be wise to place his life in the hands of doctor who has lost his self-respect for practicing government medicine?  Then again, perhaps the patient would be even less wise if that physician were of the type who had not lost his self-respect for doing so.

- Under Medicare the good doctor will be equalized with the mediocre doctor.  There will be less incentive to be the best doctor possible.

- Under socialized medicine, the Department of HEW [the former U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare that was subsequently split into separate bureaucracies] has patients and the Department of HEW has doctors.  But doctors do not have patients; and patients do not have doctors.

- By participating in socialized medicine, physicians unilaterally become hired clerks – employees of appointed political bureaucrats.

- The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude.

- Government produces nothing; therefore it has nothing to “give” to anyone except what it has first taken from him or someone else (minus a sizeable brokerage fee).

- Medicare is legal plunder.  It promises the possession of someone else (the doctor); it promises something the government does not possess (medical knowledge).

-  It is a mark of moral bankruptcy for one group (legislators) to arbitrarily guarantee the professional ethic of a second group (doctors) to a third group (the citizens). 

- Only doctors can practice medicine.  No one else is equipped by training and experience to do so.

- All [people] over 65 (except certain criminals) are eligible to receive “benefits” under Part A of Title XVIII of PL 89-97 [the Medicare law].  This includes an estimated six million over 65 who have never been under Social Security and thus have paid no Social Security “taxes.”  For this six million, Part A of Medicare is pure charity. [Today, most Medicare beneficiaries are getting more back in medical care than they paid in Medicare taxes over their working lives.]

- Under Title XIX, all recipients of welfare, regardless of age, will be eligible for Medicaid by 1970.  There are in excess of 200,000 on welfare in Mississippi alone.  It is estimated that Title XIS of the present law, without amendment, will cover forty million people by 1975. [There are now more than 50 million people on Medicaid, plus an additional 5.5 million on Supplemental Social Security Income, or SSI.]

- While money is squandered by the bureaucrats in administering Medicare, doctors participating in Medicare will be required to be economical.  Cheap treatments and cheap prescriptions are to be given preference.  HEW employed referees will set the standards – not the patient’s doctor.

- If you participate in Medicare, any praise or commendation will go to the bureaucrats, but its failures will be blamed on YOU.  [Just as Obama lambasted doctors for unnecessarily removing body parts to make money.]

- HEW, the liberals, the bureaucrats, and other socialists will never admit the inherent fraud of socialism or their own guilt in perpetuating it, but will, instead, divert the blame to DOCTORS for the predictable shortcomings of socialized medicine.

- Medicare, though it is called such, is not insurance.  There is no contract.  There is no policy wherein the provisions are stated.  It is whatever “the Secretary of (HEW) may direct” at any given moment.

-  That Medicare will destroy private insurance and private medicine should come as no surprise to no one.  It was planned and promoted for just those reasons.  That is its purpose!

- By the end of 1965, 57 percent of those eligible for Part B of Medicare had not enrolled.  The bureaucrats frantically put on an all-out propaganda drive of deceit.  Threats of the deadline of March 31 were utilized.  Most agencies of the government, entertainment stars, governors, and many others participated.

- On January 31, eight million people – that’s 46 percent of those eligible – had not enrolled; 1.1 million had actually signified they do not want to enroll – God bless ‘em.  Efforts by the social planners were intensified.

- The politicians and bureaucrats desire the nationalization of medicine.  The people are not demanding it. 

- The socialization of medicine in the United States is not intended as an end in itself.  It is planned as a means to an end – the total socialization of America.

- For the American miracle to continue we must have less government and more individual responsibility.  [Federal debt per person was less than $2,500 in 1966, versus over $45,000 today.]

Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who needs an ego lift and can be reached at