Dr. Ben Carson advocated for government-run catastrophic health care as late as 2012.
Responding to a report from BuzzFeed News during a press conference at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, Carson said that a 1996 essay that ran in the Harvard Journal of Minority Public Health in which he proposed government-run nationalized catastrophic care and end-of-life national guidelines for who should and should not receive care, "bears about as much resemblance to my current views as our views on Afghanistan did 20 years ago."
Carson, however, advocated a nearly-identical proposal to reform health care in his 2012 book, America the Beautiful. Carson also outlined the same approach in his 2000 book, The Big Picture, and in a 2009 speech to the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club.
From Carson's 2012 book saying the government should take over the responsibility of catastrophic care and health insurance companies should be regulated like utilities:
One solution would be to remove from the insurance companies the responsibility for catastrophic health-care coverage, making it a government responsibility. I can hear someone shouting now that the government can never do anything correctly , but I beg to differ . It is because of a government program known as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) that most of us are able to afford our homeowners insurance. If there were no FEMA, Allstate, State Farm , Nationwide, and all the other homeowner insurance companies would be telling us that they had to drastically increase premiums because there might be an earthquake, tornado, hurricane , tsunami , or other natural disaster that would otherwise drain their coffers. Homeowners' insurance would be so expensive that you would have to ask your employer to cover it. Clearly, if the health-care insurance companies did not have to cover catastrophic health care, it would be relatively easy by analyzing actuarial tables to determine how much money they are likely to be liable for each year, which of course would determine how much money they had to take in. With this information at our disposal , health insurance companies could be regulated just as utilities are regulated.
Likewise, Carson argues as he does in his 1996 essay that the government taking responsibility of catastrophic care would lead to a delicate discussion of end-of-life care and when treatment is necessary.
Since the government would now have the responsibility of paying for catastrophic health care, we as a society would be forced to examine the policies that have led to a situation in which 40 to 50 percent of all health -care dollars are spent during the last six months of a person's life. We put dying people in intensive care units while testing, poking, and prodding them until they render up their last breath. Unlike most other countries of the world, many of us do not seem to acknowledge that death is not optional. It is perfectly reasonable to send terminal patients to hospice , where compassionate and comfortable care can be rendered until death takes place. Much of the excessive care that currently occurs when a patient is terminal is given by health-care providers who fear lawsuits if they fail to provide that care. Others are simply procedure-oriented, recognizing that they will be paid whether the patient survives or not. Fortunately, these individuals are relatively rare in the medical profession. Again, I can hear some people screaming after reading this that I am advocating for "death panels." Some people like to put forth terms like this because they stir up emotional responses rather than encouraging people to engage in rational dialogue aimed at resolving issues . Obviously , as our population ages and as our medical technology becomes more sophisticated and expensive, the potential for bankrupting our society with medical costs skyrockets.
We are facing a time when we have to be pragmatic, while at the same time exercising compassion. One day, we will be able to keep the average person alive for 150 or even 200 years due to medical advances, and we will then be faced with the question, should we use our advanced knowledge in a way that will rapidly overpopulate the world? The emotional answer would be, yes, of course , we should use our knowledge to extend every life, and we can worry about the consequences later. A more rational response would include examining the effect on the entire population of such action and perhaps advocating a more measured course of action.
Carson's 2000 book The Big Picture also advocates the same approach, arguing the program would paid for with contributions from insurance companies' profits.
In a 2009 speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, Carson also proposed government becoming responsible for catastrophic health care.
"Some people say, 'well you can't let the government be responsible for anything.' Well that's not true," said Carson citing FEMA taking responsibility in the instances of natural disasters.
"Let the government responsible for catastrophic health care as defined by a certain dollar amount and all of a sudden you can control the insurance companies. Quite simply while they can still make a profit."
Carson currently proposes reforming health care though a program of giving a $2,000 stipend to each American to set up Health Savings Accounts.
Ilan Ben-Meir contributed reporting.