Monday, February 19, 2007

On Universal Healthcare

I commented in this post that if people want to know what universal healthcare would look like, they should look at the military system with its long waiting periods for simple procedures, limited doctors' appointments, and other assorted problems (I specifically didn't address the charges of filth...that was never my experience with military healthcare, nor do I think it is the norm).

I commented on Shakespeare's Sister, which ran a post on the military care article as well. Shakespeare's Sister (a.k.a. Melissa McEwen) takes the opportunity to dump all the problems of the military health system on George W. Bush's lap (naturally), and I sought to correct her impression. I stated that the problem with military healthcare is long-standing, through Republican and Democratic administrations, in times of war and times of peace. In short, one couldn't blame the current problems on President Bush without acknowledging that the system was already broken when he inherited it. I then made my comment about it being a view of universal care.

SS didn't like this comparison, calling it "a stupid thing to say." As is usual on liberal blogs, there was the usual chorus echoing her remarks, leaving the impression that universal care is absolutely wonderful in other countries and any negative comments are just "stupid things to say." On a side issue, I will say that both SS and the commenters were far more polite than I usually see on left-leaning blogs and that was commendable.

But then, is it true that socialized medicine works oh, so well in other countries that to be against it is simply wrong-headed? I think not.

I found this site, which gives many of the arguments against socialized medicine, but most interesting to me were the links to examples of poor medicine when the government controls it.

--One in 10 patients admitted to National Health Service hospitals in Britain is unintentionally harmed and almost a million safety incidents, more than 2,000 of which were fatal, were recorded last year, according to a report on Thursday.

Thousands of elderly National Health Service patients are dying because they are denied intensive care treatment after surgery, a study has found.

A six-year survey of four million operations found that 85 per cent of the most vulnerable patients do not get the intensive care that could save their lives or prevent serious complications.

As a result, it is estimated that up to 5,000 frail and elderly patients die each year because they are not put in intensive care beds for monitoring after their operations.

Rupert Pearse, who led the research, also claims that 25,000 more suffer life-threatening complications because of the care failures.

Among the causes are a lack of intensive care beds and "ageism" against older patients.

--British healthcare to be rationed. Britain's National Health Service is advising general practitioners to refer fewer patients to specialists and to restrict patients' access to a second opinion.
Local health agencies are to be told to cut general practitioner referral rates to those of the lowest 10 percent nationally, saving the government about $44 million a year, states a plan still in draft form, produced by the London Transition Team and discovered by the Times of London.

Emergency care practitioners should "redirect" 40-70 percent of patients to general practitioners or walk-in clinics, the documents state. Hospitals that treat people who should have been sent to general practitioners will not be paid.

--British body rejects drugs for cancer patients. Britain's cost-effectiveness medicines watchdog ruled on Friday that costly erythropoietin (EPO) drugs should not be used to treat anaemia caused by anti-cancer therapy, dealing a blow to drug firms and cancer campaigners.

The articles linked at this website are numerous and reinforce the point I tried to make at SS and here: government healthcare requires rationing of resources to patients. There's simply no way for the government to afford the best healthcare for every patient.

Healthcare is expensive. Anyone who has had to buy their own insurance knows this. The prices companies charge are ridiculous and they constantly look for reasons to raise one's rates. Even if you answer "no" to every risk question, they will still try to find some flaw in your history with which to decline some service or recommendation. But even with that, forcing everyone into the same system of healthcare creates an unwieldy situation which won't help the Americans it is designed to help.