In the latest campaign in the battle over government monopoly health care, what some call “socialized medicine,” one potentially strategic player has been missing in action. That would be Regina M. Benjamin, MD, the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. That office began in 1798 with the U.S. Marine Hospital Service, launched to provide health care to sick and injured merchant seamen. As the official story confirms, it grew into a vast and unwieldy federal public health bureaucracy that has also served as a bully pulpit.
The Surgeon General determined that smoking is bad for your health, a favorite cause, along with AIDS, of C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General under Reagan. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders (1993-94) was a supporter of “Hillarycare,” the government monopoly health scheme promoted by President Clinton’s wife, who held no public office at the time. Elders also promoted drug legalization (her son served time for dealing cocaine) and masturbation. President Clinton first defended then fired her. Perhaps recalling that controversy, President Obama has not deployed the current incumbent, Dr. Benjamin, as a high-profile barker for Obamacare. Neither has he reformed an office and service that is “America’s Doctor” only in a ceremonial sense.
Neither Dr. Benjamin nor the uniformed corps of 6,500 “public health professionals” over which she presides will be making house calls on those who now lack health care due to unemployment. They cannot get care from a grandiose public service their taxes support. Neither can they get care from the U.S. military, which willingly treats wounded civilians abroad, and whose Corps of Engineers works on their levees.
In reality, convicted murderers get better medical care than working Americans, who must even pay for criminals’ sex-change operations and legal bills. If that absurd disparity does not amount to abuse, it’s hard to imagine what might qualify. Such abuse could be rectified without current schemes for government monopoly health care. Begin by deploying the military as a kind of Medecins Sans Frontiers on the domestic front. For its part, a largely ceremonial and bureaucratic public health service could be recast to apply practical medicine for individuals, just as it did at the outset. That would make “America’s Doctor” more than a figurehead, a wasteful bureaucracy, and a bully pulpit.