A friend of a friend responded to my rant on health care the other day, taking me to task for not being willing to hand over 1/5th of the US economy to the government and allowing those wonderful bureaucrats in Washington to finish the job they started when they first screwed up US health care by granting tax subsidies to employers who offered health insurance, way back in the 50’s. I don’t know, perhaps we should question the veracity of all the promises given by those saintly authors of such lovely things as HMO and PPO regulations (and insurance regulation in general) and all those other constraints put on health care providers as well; they were, after all, supposed to fix the health care problem, rather than make it worse.
Maybe, just maybe, we should probe a little deeper into this problem of health care, and see where the problem originates.
Reading the objections to my rant, I have to say that the problem with health care appears to originate in the opinions of average citizens. I say this because the points that are being made are generally in error; as anything beyond basic research on the ‘net will show. And yet this isn’t the first time I’ve seen these points made, which is why I’m going to take the time to rebut them.
Part of the problem with health care facts is, there aren’t a lot of easily accessible facts to go by. But I will do my best to answer the 6 points brought up by my detractor, and then perhaps pose a few questions of my own.
So here goes:
1) If our system is the best, why does a child born in IRAQ have a better chance of reaching age one than a child born in this country?
Because that isn’t the real statistic: the Wiki List of Countries by Infant Mortality Rate clearly shows that Iraq (27 / 81.5) has a much higher rate than the United States (163 / 6.3). The IMR is higher in the US than in Canada (173 / 4.8) and the other socialized systems, but it’s not that statistically significant; although the variation in rates probably relates to factors within the health care system.
2) If our system is the best, why do we have the highest percentage of our citizens on prescription drugs which treat the symptoms but not the cause?
That sounds like it comes from a “Why the US health care system sucks” brochure. There isn’t any realistic way of measuring prescription drug rates as described. I daresay that if there was, it would be higher in countries where health care is a ‘free’ service, rather than in the US where the user has to pay. There is also a wide array of methods for categorizing what is a prescription (given by a doctor after a visit) and what is simply continued treatment of the same ailment. In the US, a prescription is required for all controlled drugs, whereas in the UK if you’ve been prescribed something once, it continues to be available to you as long as your are treating the same ailment.
I’d rather have a drug that treats a symptom rather than a cause, than to go without treatment for both symptoms and cause and just be allowed to suffer; which is what happens in many countries where medical care is rationed by the state.
3) If our system is the best, why do we rank below so many countries in general health?
Again, we don’t. We rank below much of Europe (and of course, saintly Canada) and not much else. There’s a reason for this (like the IMR statistic) it’s called reallocation of service. There is a refocusing of service towards basic health functions and away from more specialized health services in the socialized systems. They can do this because the doctors work for the state, and the number of specialists is limited by state mandate.
Is this a good thing? Forcing someone to act against his own judgment is never a good thing, from where I’m sitting.
4) If our system is the best, why do most countries people live longer than we do?
Another false statistic. According to the List of Countries by Life Expectancy the US is 45th on the list. Not exactly a stellar showing, but definitely above the halfway mark; and above places like Denmark (the happiest place on earth) Ireland and Cuba (so highly touted in Sicko) We are down the list from the socialized countries of Europe (and, of course, Canada) but they are topped by some other countries that you wouldn’t think had long life expectancies, like Japan.
This is also not the defining characteristic of good medicine; it has more to do with genes and climate than it does with free medical service.
5) If our system is the best, why is the rest of the free world on another system?
Because the rest of the free world isn’t as free as the name implies. Do I have to use the same argument your mother used when you were five?
If Jimmy jumped off a cliff, would you want to jump off too?
It’s a bad idea to give government that much control over our lives; and the lack luster performance of the socialized systems (which I did notice he didn’t bother to try and refute) proves the skeptics right; that rationing of available services, re-allocation of assets (doctors and nurses) from one specialty to another, and denial of service though long wait times (about 34% of Canadians complain of this) and limited areas of availability (I pointed this out in Sick(o) in America) does occur, this is the nature of single-payer managed socialized systems.
And those who can afford to come here (the US) do come here to get treatment (including Michael Moore, as Stossel pointed out) at private institutions. If the rest of the free world is better, why would that ever happen?
6) If you are POSITIVE this is the best system, come down with a long term issue and see how well you are treated when your health provider decides you are no longer a viable “asset”.
I have a long term issue. No health insurance, no job; but I do have a clear conscience. I’ve never asked someone else to sacrifice themselves for my benefit; I’ve never taken out of the pot more than what I put into it. Which is what any socialized system (all of which should be ended; school, Social Security, whatever) does; it allows the socialist maxim “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” to play out. Nowhere is this more clear than in the field of medicine. We can’t abide the idea of rich doctors and fat cat pharmaceutical companies taking more than their fair share. Therefore we will take these men of ability, and sacrifice them to the greater good, the need of the many. And since we needy can’t be bothered to pay anything for their services, we’ll draft the wealthy amongst us to pay even more taxes (and add more sacrifices to the pile) so that we can have free health care. No more do we have to worry about engaging in risky behavior…
like the objector who offered the list above. He received ‘free’ treatment for a motorcycle injury. An injury which probably could have been avoided had he chosen an alternate form of transportation. Perhaps Canada should outlaw motorcycles, it might save them a few tax dollars. I know that the US gov’t will do far more than that. Say hello to mandated diet plans and compulsory risk assessment surveys. No more cheese burgers for you, and no bungee jumping or snowboarding either. Ah, what fun it will be living in the land of the free, and the home of the federally insured.
…the all-caring nanny state will be there to pick up the tab for all those years of smoking, all those trips to Burgerhaven; whatever your poison of choice is.
Except there’s a fly in this ointment. It’s not sustainable. Like the Ponzi scheme of Social Security, There’s not enough money to pay out all the eventual claims for health care. So the state will simply decide who will get health care and who won’t, with rationing. And those without political connection will do without health care in the same way that those without money do without it now. Perhaps even more so, since the state can compel it’s servants (the doctors) not to provide service to whomever they deem unfit, even if that service is for free.
This is already happening with medicare, with doctors and patients being forbidden to come to a mutual agreement concerning services that the state has determined are not necessary. It’s happening in Canada, where citizens have been brought up on charges for trying to pay for services, and clinics have been shut down for attempting to sell services outside of the socialized system.
Obviously, Canada’s health care system is not the best; none of the metrics that can be used to measure it come to that conclusion. The US system is the best, when it comes to quality of treatment for certain illnesses; and falls on it’s face when it comes to efficiency and cost; and efficiency and cost will not be positively addressed by simply handing the system over to government. Look at the efficiency of the DMV if you doubt that.
The solution to the health care problem is educating the average citizen. It’s robbing your insurance company. It’s taking control of your health care expenditures and asking the providers hard questions. Do I really need this test? What is this going to cost? Until we know what we are paying for services, we’re never going to get a handle on the real problem, the cost of health care. And that cost will either be paid now, in person; or later, by some state official who’ll make your health care decisions for you.
Which option sounds better to you?
Editor’s note, 2019. To paraphrase my smartassed younger self, I’ll take socialized medicine for $100, Alex. The problem of healthcare in America today is that it is so much more complex and convoluted than anyone understands, even the people who work in the field or study it from outside. However, there is no way that anyone poorer than Bill Gates can pay for every cent of the healthcare they require, funding everything required to provide even the simplest of medical interventions. Much less get the intervention delivered to the sufferer before the illness kills them. That is reality, not illusion.