Thursday, September 10, 2009

Compromised Care

It is perhaps the most persistent myth of the many myths surrounding the national debate about health care: The United States has the finest health care system in the world.

Not so, and not so just about any way you want to define “finest” or “best”.

We heard a bit more about the President’s plan in his speech to congress last night. And there was the obscene spectacle of some pinhead congressman from South Carolina interrupting the President’s address to call him a liar. The Republicans have no real plan; they’re apparently against anything the Democrats suggest, and are fond of calling any change “socialism”. Never mind that every member of congress enjoys the benefits of “socialized medical care” and none of them seem eager to abandon their privilege.

Our neighbor to the north, Canada, relies on private-sector providers, and the government runs the insurance plan. Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and many other “developed” nations provide universal coverage and use both private-sector providers and insurers. Germans can sign up for their choice of any of more than 200 private health insurance plans.

How many private insurance plans do YOU have to choose from?

If your answer is more than zero, how many of those choices you have will reject you because of a pre-existing condition? How many will put a limit on your benefits? How many of them will have a “rescission department” devoted solely to digging through your lifetime medical records, finding a reason to deny a claim?

Here comes the “socialism” part.

In nearly every other foreign nations (and I can‘t find one where this isn‘t true), health insurance companies must accept every applicant, they can’t cancel as long as you pay your premiums, and are required to pay any claim your doctor, clinic, or hospital submits. Most of them do it in a few days, not several months, as in the U-S. That’s because these “socialist” plans in the rest of the civilized world exist to care for patients and pay their bills, not to make a profit.

The United States is the only developed nation that lets insurance companies profit from their health insurance plans.

And we’re grossly inefficient. Worst in the world. Highest administrative costs of any nation. About 20% of your premium goes to nonmedical costs. Canada: 6%. France: 2%. Every other payment system in the world - every one - is more efficient than ours.

Another persistent myth: cost controls stifle innovation. I have an artificial left hip. The French invented joint replacement. We do our fair share of medical innovation here, to be sure. But the erectile dysfunction drug hawked constantly on TV? A British discovery. The list is long, of innovations and discoveries in countries with “socialized medicine”.

And perhaps the most telling statistic: the number of bankruptcies each year caused by medical bills in the US is 700 thousand. France: zero. Germany: zero. Japan: zero. Britain: zero.

Anyone who thinks the status quo is sustainable in the US health care system must be on socialized medicine.

Like members of congress.

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