Egad! Socialism!

Red alert. Battle stations. We're under attack. If something isn't done immediately, the nation could find itself in the death grip of socialized medicine!

From the health care reform plans of the Democratic presidential candidates to the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Republicans are surrounded by the relentless onslaught of godless government medicine. But they're not going to give up without a fight.

President Bush made darn sure 10 million uninsured children didn't get infected with socialism when he vetoed the bipartisan SCHIP expansion bill. Now those kids are free to go to the emergency rooms of America to get health care the old-fashioned way. By begging for it.

Republican presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney both trotted out the "s-word" to characterize the SCHIP bill and Hillary Clinton's health care plan. "When you hear Democrats in particular talk about single-mandated health care, universal health care," Giuliani said recently, "what they're talking about is socialized medicine." The Cold War may be over, but socialism, led by lab-coated legions of government-paid automatons armed with hypodermic needles, is on the march again.

What's interesting about the latest reincarnation of a familiar conservative bogeyman is that none of the soldiers in the war against socialized medicine ever calls for the abolition of the Veterans Affairs hospital system or the military health care program, much less Medicare, Medicaid or the vast network of city, county and state government-run hospitals throughout the nation.

The fact of the matter is that 45 cents of every health care dollar spent in the United States already comes, in one form or another, from the government.

Of course, the president of the United States regularly uses the government-run, government-staffed National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for checkups. And veterans hospitals are among the most technically advanced in the nation, utilizing information technology in ways that private-sector providers should emulate.

And yet, 46 million Americans still lack health insurance. Unanticipated medical costs are the leading cause of personal bankruptcies. Ask any of those people if they're more afraid of "European-style socialized medicine" than they are of the current U.S. health care system.

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