Shoe Money Tonight

Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nationalized Health Care

This is a topic that is often blogged about, but it's one I haven't touched yet. I have a feeling that as the next presidential election draws nearer, especially if Hillary runs, we will be hearing yet again about reforming our health care system to a nationalized system like that in Britain, Canada, or pretty much most of Europe. I can sum up my opinion of this idea in two words: HELL NO. I have quite a number of reasons why I have this opinion. They all are based on what I consider to be serious flaws in the systems, flaws that put patients in unnecessary danger (at least compared to what we provide here). Most of my examples will be from Britain and Canada, but I do have some personal experience to share from a Scandinavian country.

Lets tackle the most important one first - outcomes. This article by Deroy Murdock in National Review Online . Some facts he reports (read the article for more detail):

- in the US 25% of those diagnosed with breast cancer will die; the numbers in Britain and New Zealand that number is 46%

- the US system does better in treating seriously ill patients in hospitals (only 1/7th the death rate in Britain)

Murdock also discusses access in that article. I certainly didn't know prior to reading his article that New Zealand will not give dialysis to kidney failure patients who are over 75 years old. Did you?

According to this reprint of a Spectator article, 40% of British cancer patients never get to see an oncologist and 36% of Brits needing elective surgery wait more than four months. Startling number when you realize that only 5% of Americans wait more than 4 months for elective surgery.

The National Center for Public Policy Research compiled a nice list of facts about the Canadian Healtcare system and wait times for procedures. It's interesting to note that Ontario has the shortest wait time (nearly 14 weeks). Why do I find that interesting? That's the Canadian province that is a mere one hour away from where I live. And do I see Canadians who can afford it come here and pay out of pocket for treament? Of course I do.

Then there's this article in Opinion Journal. It talks about the lawsuit filed by a man in Quebec after he had to wait a year for a hip replacement. He won. The chief justice involved in the case stated "access to a waiting list is not access to health care." The ruling stopped just short of declaring the entire system unconstitutional.

For an insider view of a NHS - see Angry NHS doctor . He works in the British equivalent of an ER. Warning - poor grammar, spelling and British slang abound on his site.
(Edit (9/24) - Apparently Angry NHS Doctor is no longer blogging. What a shame).

Oh yeah, that personal story. My in-laws moved here from Denmark in the 1970s. When my husband was in high school his dad got sick. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and had lost a fair amount of weight. So, he was scheduled for an elective hemicolectomy. When the opened him up to do the surgery, they found that his problem wasn't just from the UC. It was from the colon cancer that was hiding there. The surgeons were able to remove it all and 10 years later he's still doing fine. The doctor's told them they were lucky they found it when they did, given its size, if it had gone unnoticed it would have killed him in six months. The wait time in Denmark for the type of elective surgery would have brought him very close to that six month mark. He often remarks that he'd be dead if they were still living there.

That's my two cents on the issue. Comments? Feel free.


Anonymous Alice said...

Thanks for the links and hard facts. I feel very strongly about this, too, but have had a hard time marshalling statistics to go with my instinctive defense of the free-market system. I'll be referring to your post often. :)

9:56 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

For those of us with health insurance or the ability to pay, the free market system works fairly well -- much better than the single-payer systems in many other countries.

For those without health insurance, the picture isn't so pretty. We need to do something to get them covered, because THEY are the reason Hillary, et al want to inflict socialized medicine on the rest of us.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous cush said...

It's great to have these stats all together here. Judy has hit the nail on the head for me. Figuring out how to cover the uninsured, at least at some basic level, is a daunting task. The current situation in our ERs, especially here in the Southwest with our large population of illegal immigrants, is out of control.

9:51 PM  

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