Socialism – What’s so Bad About it?

October 7, 2009 at 2:18 am | Posted in crooks & liars, government, health care, Obama, political, stupidity | 8 Comments
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Quick everyone there’s a fight on the playground.  That’s kind of what it feels like with the ongoing  discourse on my last posts:  A Child’s Prayer and Tea Party..

Even though the posts were not directly related to health care reform that is what the ongoing debate, mostly between Phil and Michael, has become.

Phil made a point that I have heard many times; that those without money or health insurance can go to the emergency room.  Do these people NOT understand routine health care is not the purpose of emergency rooms?  The word emergency should be their first clue.  ERs used in this way are driving up the costs of actual emergency treatment and the cause of having to wait six or more hours to be seen by an ER doctor.

This morning I read an OP-ED by Nicholas D. Kristof who outlined a very sad scenario that should not and would not exist if the health care industry had not gotten so out of control.  David Waddington needed a kidney transplant due to a genetic disorder.  The best match would be one of his two sons.  Unfortunately the doctor advised against the sons being tested as a match because they had a fifty percent chance of developing the same disorder and the testing would reveal this fact, making them un-insurable under our present health care system.

Many of our legislators, media pundits, and citizens seem to be suffering from cranial rectal inversion…wouldn’t it be great if a cure, for this condition, was discovered and it was accessible to all those suffering from it.  The symptoms are the inability to understand, interpret, and relate reality without wildly absurd distortion so pathetic it’s funny.  I know, it’s not nice to laugh at the handicapped but with some of the crazy statements being made by those suffering from CRI, it is hard not to.

In the following article, How Other Nations beat the US on health care, by T.R. Reid he outlines systems that are in place in other countries.

As Americans search for the cure to what ails our health-care system, we’ve overlooked an invaluable source of ideas and solutions: the rest of the world.

All the other industrialized democracies have faced problems like ours, yet they’ve found ways to cover everybody — and still spend far less than we do.

I’ve traveled the world from Oslo to Osaka to see how other developed democracies provide health care. Instead of dismissing these models as “socialist,” we could adapt their solutions to fix our problems. To do that, we first have to dispel a few myths about health care abroad:

1. It’s all socialized medicine out there.

Not so. Some countries, such as Britain, New Zealand and Cuba, do provide health care in government hospitals, with the government paying the bills. Others — for instance, Canada and Taiwan — rely on private-sector providers, paid for by government-run insurance. But many wealthy countries — including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland — provide universal coverage using private doctors, private hospitals and private insurance plans.

In some ways, health care is less “socialized” overseas than in the United States. Almost all Americans sign up for government insurance (Medicare) at age 65. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, seniors stick with private insurance plans for life. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the planet’s purest examples of government-run health care.

2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.

Generally, no. Germans can sign up for any of the nation’s 200 private health insurance plans — a broader choice than any American has. If a German doesn’t like her insurance company, she can switch to another, with no increase in premium. The Swiss, too, can choose any insurance plan in the country.

In France and Japan, you don’t get a choice of insurance provider; you have to use the one designated for your company or your industry. But patients can go to any doctor, any hospital, any traditional healer. There are no U.S.-style limits such as “in-network” lists of doctors or “pre-authorization” for surgery. You pick any doctor, you get treatment — and insurance has to pay. Canadians have their choice of providers.

As for those notorious waiting lists, some countries are indeed plagued by them. Canada makes patients wait weeks or months for nonemergency care, as a way to keep costs down. But studies by the Commonwealth Fund and others report that many nations — Germany, Britain, Austria — outperform the United States on measures such as waiting times for appointments and for elective surgeries.

In Japan, waiting times are so short that most patients don’t bother to make an appointment.

3. Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.

Much less so than here. It may seem to Americans that U.S.-style free enterprise — private-sector, for-profit health insurance — is naturally the most cost-effective way to pay for health care. But in fact, all the other payment systems are more efficient.

U.S. health insurance companies have the highest administrative costs in the world; they spend roughly 20 cents of every dollar for nonmedical costs, such as paperwork, reviewing claims and marketing.

France’s health insurance industry, in contrast, covers everybody and spends about 4 percent on administration. Canada’s universal insurance system, run by government bureaucrats, spends 6 percent on administration. In Taiwan, a leaner version of the Canadian model has administrative costs of 1.5 percent; one year, this figure ballooned to 2 percent, and the opposition parties savaged the government for wasting money.

The world champion at controlling medical costs is Japan, even though its aging population is a profligate consumer of medical care. On averag, the Japanese go to the doctor 15 times a year, three times the U.S. rate.

They have twice as many MRI scans and X-rays. Quality is high; life expectancy and recovery rates for major diseases are better than in the United States. And yet Japan spends about $3,400 per person annually on health care; the United States spends more than $7,000.

4. Cost controls stifle innovation.

False. The United States is home to groundbreaking medical research, but so are other countries with much lower cost structures. Any American who’s had a hip or knee replacement is standing on French innovation. Deep-brain stimulation to treat depression is a Canadian breakthrough. Many of the wonder drugs promoted endlessly on American television, including Viagra, come from British, Swiss or Japanese labs.

Overseas, strict cost controls actually drive innovation. In the United States, an MRI scan of the neck region costs about $1,500. In Japan, the identical scan costs $98. Under the pressure of cost controls, Japanese researchers found ways to perform the same diagnostic technique for one-fifteenth the American price. (And Japanese labs still make a profit.)

5. Health insurance has to be cruel.

Not really. American health insurance companies routinely reject applicants with a “preexisting condition” — precisely the people most likely to need the insurers’ service. They employ armies of adjusters to deny claims.

If a customer is hit by a truck and faces big medical bills, the insurer’s “rescission department” digs through the records looking for grounds to cancel the policy. The companies say they have to do this stuff to survive.

Foreign health-insurance companies, in contrast, must accept all applicants, and they can’t cancel as long as you pay your premiums. The plans are required to pay any claim submitted by a doctor or hospital, usually within tight time limits. The corollary is that everyone is mandated to buy insurance, to give the plans an adequate pool of rate-payers.

The key difference is that foreign health-insurance plans exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to make a profit. The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.

U.S. system has elements of all

In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really “foreign” to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them.

For Native Americans or veterans, we’re Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we’re Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we’re Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we’re Burundi or Burma: In the world’s poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can’t pay stay sick or die.

This fragmentation is another reason that we spend more than anybody else and still leave millions without coverage. All the other developed countries have settled on one model; we’ve blended them all into a costly, confusing bureaucratic mess.

Which, in turn, punctures the most persistent myth of all: that America has “the finest health care” in the world. We don’t.

In terms of results, almost all advanced countries have better national health statistics than the United States does. In terms of finance, we force 700,000 Americans into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In France, the number of medical bankruptcies is zero. Britain: zero. Japan: zero. Germany: zero.

Given our remarkable medical assets — the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced hospitals, world-class research — the United States could be, and should be, the best in the world. To get there, though, we have to be willing to learn some lessons about health-care administration from the other industrialized democracies.

T.R. Reid, a former Washington Post reporter, is the author of “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.”

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8 Comments »

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  1. I hate the “just go to the ER” line. It doesn’t work- unless you have an acute emergency (just like the name implies). My husband has MS. Trust me, you can’t get effective care for MS in an ER. That’s not their job.

  2. just wanted to say hello..I am new on this site and am very excited to be able to speak my mind on my views!!!!

    • Welcome aboard!

  3. T.R. Reid, a former Washington Post reporter, is the author of “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.”

    That’s all I needed to read … lol

    ‘Better’ (provided you don’t ask for anything too complicated)

    ‘Cheaper’ (naturally since dying will always be cheaper than living)

    ‘Fairer’ (which means everyone losses and consequently no one wins … see word 2 Cheaper)

    • Wow! here you go again, “That’s all I needed to read…” . I think this is because your colander brain can’t hold much info with which to think about. Try the following paragraph from the article:

      “…The key difference is that foreign health-insurance plans exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to make a profit. The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage…”

      Why is this concept so difficult for you to understand? It really is very simple: remove the INSURANCE profit motive from the system.

  4. and here’s the whole problem:
    “..the key difference is that foreign health-insurance plans exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to make a profit..”
    now THAT would NEVER work in the US where EVERYHTHING is measured in monetary values, as it seems those are the only ones americans have and can understand.

  5. You are a brilliant blogger and yes…my hero! I love how accurate you are. I would also like to add for those who complain about the insurance waitlists in other countries such as Canada….Well I am on a waitlist for insurance here in America. It isn’t just other countries, try NOT having insurance and I’ll insure that you’ll be waiting quite some time. My estimate is roughly two months before they will even look at my name and then I must come up with the $60.00 non-refundable processing fee which they will keep whether I am accepted or not…Ah…America the beautiful.

    • Thank you for that wonderful compliment (blushing). Please be patient while you are waiting to be considered to donate large sums of money to a huge profit driven insurance company. Impatience is probably on the list of pre-existing conditions and would very likely get you rejected.

      How great would it be if we were all making so much money that we could make people wait indefinitely for their turn to throw money at us.


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