Saturday, July 07, 2007

Socialized Medicine Makes You Really Sicko

Like clockwork, Michael Moore brings out pre-election propaganda, in this case a sales pitch for universal health care so we can be just like the Europeans, Canadians, and, of course, the fortunate Cubans.

Before I sound critical of Michael Moore and “Sicko,” I must confess that there is much about healthcare in the United States I don’t like.

Specifically, Medicare is a mess. It embodies most of the faults of other universal healthcare systems, is already insolvent, and fuels an enormous medical fraud underworld (For example, in Los Angeles alone, and just for medical equipment, Medicare fraud may cost taxpayers several billion dollars a year.)

Medicaid is as bad, or worse. Medicaid fraud is estimated to waste at least ten percent of its total costs, or over $30 billion a year.

Besides Medicare being inefficient, expensive, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, and bankrupt, is there anything about it that is better than its foreign models?

Resoundingly, yes!

The American Medicare system is forced to exist in competition with private medical care practitioners, whereas the foreign systems most admired by the Left, until recently, had government monopolies on healthcare.

The fact that that is changing, and changing rapidly in many bastions of welfare statism such as Sweden and Canada, should be teaching us something.

Something even Michael Moore might be able to get through his fat head.

For instance, as we look to Europe, and particularly Sweden for healthcare inspiration, Sweden is moving toward free-market medicine.

Stockholm, the capital of Europe’s most heavily socialized Scandinavian state, is contracting health services to private companies because of European Union regulations that forced Sweden to lower its onerous public taxation.

Stockholm set three goals for privatizing healthcare, goals that could apply to every socialized medicine system:
  • To remove the public monopoly on the delivery of health care services.
  • To control the spiraling costs of public sector services by introducing market forces and competition.
  • To set new performance benchmarks (i.e., shorter waiting lists) for other Swedish hospitals to emulate.

Stockholm met all their goals. Costs fell from a low of 13 percent to more than 50 percent compared to public health services. At one hospital, average waiting times fell 80 to 90 percent for procedures such as heart surgery and hip replacement, and the hospital is treating an average of 100,000 more patients each year than it did as a public hospital - but using fewer resources.

Are you taking notes, Michael?

Cheaper, faster, better – pretty, Sicko, right?

You didn’t tell us any of this, did you, Michael?

In Canada, the darling of American socialized medicine enthusiasts, the winds of privatization are blowing too, for the same reasons as Sweden. The Canadian national health care system has chronic problems, in particular long wait times for surgeries, tests, and treatments. Tens of thousands of Canadians languish on long waiting lists, and many go to nearby Detroit and pay out-of-pocket to get CAT scans in six days instead of waiting six months in Canada.

The Quebec Supreme Court found that waiting lists for medical treatments were unacceptably long, causing some patients to suffer or die unnecessarily. The judges struck down a Quebec law banning private health insurance for procedures covered by Medicare (the name of the Canadian public healthcare system). The court ruled that patients should be allowed to go outside the public system and pay for timely medical treatments through private insurance.

The United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand now have private healthcare systems existing alongside the public ones.

In France and Germany patients have the option of enduring the long waits for socialized medicine, and suffering and possibly dying while waiting, or paying for immediate medical treatment. As is often the case in the UK and other nations, the patient who pays for private treatment often gets it on the same machines, served by the same technicians and doctors, as they would have if they had waited interminably for their “free” healthcare.

They just get it faster, better, and suffer less.

When I was an Air Force budget officer at a base in the UK, a British clerical officer worked for me. He was a fixture on the base, and had worked there for us Yanks for over two decades before I arrived, and a decade after I left. After he retired from the British civil service, he soon needed a hip replacement.

His National Health Service doctor examined him, after a while referred him to a specialist, and in time the specialist saw him and scheduled hip replacement surgery.

A year had passed. Since hip replacement surgery is not considered to be a treatment for a life-threatening condition, his surgery was scheduled for the end of the budget year, contingent on funds being available.

They weren’t.

The surgery was rescheduled for the end of the following budget year.

Same story. No funds available for surgery to correct a non-life threatening condition.

In the meantime, his hip had deteriorated to the point he could no longer drive, and his leg became ulcerated.

The hip replacement was rescheduled, and rescheduled again, then finally cancelled because the condition of his leg had deteriorated to the point where a hip replacement would have been wasted.

Are you going to put this in “Son of Sicko,” Michael?

No comments: