Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Socialized Health Care, Schmocialized Health Care

One of the major scare tactics used by opponents of Health Care Reform is that it will lead to Socialized Medicine™.

You know. The health care systems all them "damned furriners" use. It's UN-AMERICAN™!.

The mere thought of socialized anything is designed to strike fear into the hearts of good red-blooded Americans everywhere.

It's mind-numbing to me that some of those elderly persons shouting about the Bad Thing™ that is SOCIALISM at town hall meetings will, literally in the same sentence, warn their elected representative not to screw with their Medicare.
Or their VA benefits.
Or their Social Security.

(I'm now wondering if my logic circuits will also do some sort of melt-down when I hit 65.)

In any case, not every other industrialized democracy out there has a "socialized" health care system.

But many of them have a system in place that works far better than ours does.

Yeah, I know it's UN-AMERICAN™, but it still might be a good idea to take a look at the ones that DO work, and lift a page or two from them.

In Sunday's Washington Post, author T.R. Reid ("The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care") has an eye-opening article which dispels the top five common myths about health care around the world.

I strongly suggest you click on the link and read it. It's not long, and you will come away wondering WTF the fear-mongering GOP is shouting about.

Here are a few highlights from the article:

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.

... 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 Japan, waiting times are so short that most patients don't bother to make an appointment. One Thursday morning in Tokyo, I called the prestigious orthopedic clinic at Keio University Hospital to schedule a consultation about my aching shoulder. "Why don't you just drop by?" the receptionist said. That same afternoon, I was in the surgeon's office. Dr. Nakamichi recommended an operation. "When could we do it?" I asked. The doctor checked his computer and said, "Tomorrow would be pretty difficult. Perhaps some day next week?"

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 than ours.

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.

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, often while the victim is still in the hospital. The companies say they have to do this stuff to survive in a tough business.

Foreign health insurance companies, in contrast, must accept all applicants, and they can't cancel as long as you pay your premiums.
... 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.
(all emphasis mine)

Now. Doesn't that make you stop and think?

It should.

h/t to and to Rosie


Life Insurance in Canada said...

I can't but agree with you. The whole US system is a huge money maker. The insurance companies see patients as money bags that need to be drained as much as possible with as little expenses as possible. Isn't that just plain wrong? I think it is... Great article by the way.

Take care, Lorne

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