Essay: Dr. Waxman's Enlarged Ego Syndrome

So Democrats don’t like all those ads for prescription drugs on T.V. – the ones for high cholesterol, enlarged prostates, dry eyes and, yes, ED. On C-Span recently, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D., Calif., said “a lot of people start thinking they have medical problems because they’ve seen too many of these commercials. I don’t think that’s doing the public a lot of good. It’s certainly making the drug companies richer, but it’s not doing a lot of good for the public.” That statement tells us an awful lot about Waxman, President Obama and the other liberals currently trying to cram socialized health care down the throats of a reluctant citizenry. Waxman assumes that there is something inherently wrong with citizens knowing that these drugs exist. Waxman is a statist ideologue, so perhaps he really believes information should be rationed (he certainly believes health care should be rationed). Maybe what bothers him in this case is that the state has not yet managed to insert itself into this transaction. A drug company speaking directly to a consumer smacks too much of liberty. The congressman must have a low opinion of the medical profession, to imply that consumers need only ask their doctors for prescriptions and they’ll get them. Physicians pay massive malpractice insurance premiums and the Democrats refuse to cap malpractice tort awards. So in violation of the universal law of CYA, doctors can’t be trusted to give cursory exams to verify the presence of the maladies in question. Conversely, he has an awfully high opinion of Henry Waxman. And why not? The congressman has been graced with special powers of discernment that allow him to understand both the best interests of citizens and the nefarious motives of the pharmaceutical companies that would practice upon them. Once health care has been reformed, Waxman and others of the elect will use their gifts to fairly, gently (but firmly when necessary) dispense the decisions, treatments and advice that will make us well. Are there hypochondriacs who find themselves with another malady because of drug ads? Certainly. Are there MDs who’ll write a prescription of it will get said hypochondriacs out of their offices? Maybe. But so what? There are imperfections and abuses in any human system. The vast majority of Americans just find the ads annoying, except perhaps those the ads are intended to help. But even if doctors’ offices were overrun by people who just found out there’s a drug to treat an affliction they didn’t know they had, the policies Waxman espouses would only be counterproductive. As a general economic principle, consumers who must pay for their own health care use less of it, and what they do use is apt to be more efficient and effective. Yet in their book, “Healthy Competition,” the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner and Michael Cannon wrote that “roughly 86 cents of every dollar spent on medical care in the United States today is financed through a third party.” In other words, 86 percent of patients feel under no economic constraint when they receive medical treatment. With Obama’s beloved “public option” and mandates to employers, that percentage will quickly get to near 100. If nobody believes they’re paying for health care, there will be more CAT scans for head aches and restless leg syndrome prescriptions, not fewer. But that’s a distraction. There are commercials to critique, corporations to demonize and citizens to demean. For Waxman, Pelosi, Obama and the rest, it’s not about “reform.” It’s about remaking the world the way they want it or – even better – in their own image. Waxman’s California district includes Hollywood, Brentwood and Beverly Hills, so we can assume his constituents are four-square behind his efforts to nationalize health care. Perhaps most of them agree with his take on drug commercials. But they should rethink it. In fact, they should be deluging his office with e-mails and phone calls, maybe staging a (green organic) Tea Party on Sunset Boulevard. After all, do the vain, self-absorbed baby-boomers who run Tinsel Town really want bureaucrats in charge of the Viagra supply? Does the proletariat’s right to health insurance outweigh the right of aging celebrities to the myriad drugs and procedures needed to produce the illusion of youth for a few more years? When they’re headed for recovery from their fifth chin tuck, do they want to have to rely on Advil because somebody in Washington has determined they don’t need Demerol? A Hollywood Tea Party protesting Dr. Waxman’s Miracle Tonic … that would be a clash of egos fit for a blockbuster movie. Or maybe a pharmaceutical ad.

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture