Thursday, January 24, 2008

FREE "UNIVERSAL" HEALTHCARE - ANYTHING BUT FREE

This topic was requested sometime ago by Guido of Northern Trip.  It's one that we have all heard a lot about, especially since one of its main proponents, Senator Hillary Clinton, is running for President.  Thank you, Guido, for your request.  I'm sorry it took so long to get to posting it.  There's a lot of information I've had to wade through in order to get sourceable, factual information.

The term "universal healthcare" is a dressed-up term for socialized medicine.  Those in favor of government healthcare don't like it to be called socialized medicine, and even say that they're not the same thing.  The reasoning here is beyond me.  Encyclopedia Britannica defines socialism as " a system of social organization in which property and the distribution of income are subject to social control rather than individual determination or market forces."  Under so-called universal healthcare, the distribution of healthcare would be subject to social control (the government) rather than "individual determination or market forces."  Sounds like socialism to me.

Continuing on, I first want to address the cost of "free" government healthcare.  On the surface, it sounds fantastic.  No more insurance premiums.  No more out-of-pocket expenses that insurance won't pay, which seems to go up constantly.  After all, we've been paying taxes for years, so why not let the government take care of our healthcare costs?  Let's take a look at it.  Socialized medicine is anything but free.  It has to be paid for, by somebody.  Who pays for it?  The best way to answer this question is to look at an example of universal healthcare already in place.  In 1994, a version of "Hillarycare" was implemented in Tennessee, called TennCare.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled HillaryCare in Tennessee, The Disaster That Might Have Been for the Whole Country, TennCare consumed up to ONE-THIRD of the state's annual budget.  If you go to TennCare's website, right on the front page it states that the annual budget for the program is $7 BILLION.  The State of Tennessee's current total annual budget is about $26.5 BILLION.  That still works out to nearly a third of the total budget.  Want to guess who pays for this extra $7 BILLION?  John Q. Taxpayer in the form of higher taxes.  The state got into so much financial trouble over TennCare that then Governor Don Sundquist tried to pass a state income tax.  The attempt failed, so Tenneseeans don't have a state level income tax.  The state derives it's income mainly from its gasoline tax and sales tax.  Governor Phil Bredeson wanted to dismantle TennCare totally.  In an address to the Tennessee School Board Association, Governor Bredesen said,"It makes no sense for one facet of our responbilities, health care, to be able to come to the table first and eat and drink all it wants, then if there is anything left over, we can consider our other responibilities."  That really sums it up.  For the record, Governor Bredesen is a Democrat.

The next problem with socialized medicine.  Patients have to wait for treatment.  I don't mean a few hours at the Emergency Room or a day or two to get in to see a doctor.  I mean months.  Walter E. Williams, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, syndicated columnist and author, wrote an article for TownHall.com in February 2007 entitled, Do We Want Socialized Medicine?  He cited a report in London's Observer that said "an unpublished report shows some patients are now having to wait more than EIGHT MONTHS for treatment, during which time many of their cancers become incurable."  According to the World Health Organization, about 10,000 British people die unnecessarily each year from cancer.  In December 2001, the Observer reported that one in five bowel cases which were curable at the time of diagnosis had become incurable by the time of treatment.

We hear Canada's system touted as the example that the U.S. should follow for government healthcare.  The situation there is no better.  Dr. Williams continued in his article quoting the Fraser Institute based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  The Fraser Institute has an annual publication called "Waiting Your Turn".  This report gives the average wait times for treatment under Canada's healthcare system.  These wait times varied from 4.9 weeks for oncology to 40.3 weeks for orthopedic surgery.  The average wait for a CT scan ranged from 4.3 to 9 weeks, MRI 10.3 to 28 weeks, and ultrasound 3.8 to 8 weeks.  These wait times obviously prolong patients' suffering and sometimes death is the result.  Despite this, Canadian law prohibits private clinics from providing services covered by the Canada Health Act.  That is why Canadians have come for years to the U.S. in droves for treatment.  I understand this, too, may soon be illegal for them to do so.

This is just a very brief overview of the problems with socialized medicine.  The cost is enourmous both in terms of the inevitable major tax increases to pay for it and also human suffering. The government bureaucracy to administer this on a national level would be staggering.  Just the anti-fraud section would have to be huge.  This system would be way too tempting a target for fraud.  Using the TennCare example, a number of pharmacies in middle Tennessee were charging the system for medicines they never delivered.  This system involves taking your tax dollars and mine and redistributing it nationally, including to pay for the higher health care cost of those who engage in high health risk activities such as smoking, illegal drug use, alcoholism, etc.  If you lead a healthy lifestyle, you would still pay.

I am only able to scratch the surface in one entry, but I hope this gets readers thinking this all the way through.  If I have comments contrary to my post, or suggestions for entries covering other aspects of socialized medicine, I will make additional posts.

Please take the time to read the articles I've hyperlinked.  The complete articles will give a more complete overall view.  It's well worth the time spent to obtain this vital information because it can affect your health, the quality of your health care, the length of time you have to wait for it, and your standard of living.  

11 comments:

rdautumnsage said...

Healthcare, even FREE gov. aide is anything but affordable. Even those who are medicaide have to pay a minimum stiped to even begin to get the help they need. These days Drs. tend to see you according to how your planning on paying the bill. I know many say they don't....but you don't get rich on free....(Hugs) Indigo

queeniemart said...

thank you for writing this so i can understand it. The one thing i love the most about Bill Clinton is that he can explain ANYTHING and i understand him. You said it straight to the point. I pay SO MUCH of my check out for medical ins and then can not afford to use it for even a doctor visit. My husband and i go without much needed care BUT there is NO WAY i ever want universal health care. I would rather pay out my a$$ and be able to go to an ER and get a Cat Scan in 30 minutes or an MRI in an hour than die waiting for the basics to help me. What an interesting subject. I see friends and others who are on SSI use and abuse the system though...daily.....they get free meds and then go see those meds on the street for crack or weed or meth or whatever.....and jump from one ER to another, for FREE, to continue their pain pill addiction. I do not know one person on Medicaid IN MY LIFE (not everyone is like this) that is honest and uses their medical card and ER privledges and free dental and free vision and free hospitalization and free medication only when they need to. SIGH.  So, nothing is perfect in life.

take care Dirk!!

lj

pharmolo said...

Many thanks for compiling this review, Dirk.
You highlight the problems of the British NHS, in terms of waiting times. This was addressed and has improved in recent years. The problem lay mainly in terms of communication - by my experience.
You may be interested to know that in parts of continental Europe, healthcare is funded by a dual approach, part state-subsidised, part privately funded. Unless you are on a low income, private healthcare insurance is compulsory, but not to the ridiculous extent that it is in the US.
One thing you must bear in mind is that healthcare is fast becoming unaffordable due to the rapid advances in medicine.
TennCare looked to me like a laudable system doomed to failure, due to problems of scale, level of government (state, rather than federal) and the economics of the state of Tennessee.

Excellent piece of work

Guido

luvrte66 said...

A very thought-provoking entry.

Beth

lifesabench6 said...

Excellent post Dirk!  I DO NOT want socialized healthcare!!  I had it when I lived in Canada, and it is draining the country!  I've heard so many stories from friends and family up there- and half of them are libs.  My sister had to wait for 3 months just to get a mamagram when she felt a lump last year.  When she finally got it done, she had to wait over a month again just for the results- she was a wreck!  Thank God that it came back negative- she would have had to wait over a year to start chemo.  My best friend's Dad was in agony from a knee problem, so they took him to a nearby hospital- he had to wait in the waiting room for over 11 hours before someone would see him!!  There are so many other stories too- and from other socialist countries.  When I first moved to the States 15 years ago, the healthcare talk had just started in earnest.  I have to admit, not having any healthcare then (nor now) I did miss my ohip (Ontario Health Ins. Plan) coverage- but even by then, so much abuse of the system, it has drained the tax payers- and doctors.  I even heard about Billary's good friend fromCanada, I believe she's a prominant journalist or the wife of one, came to the States for her cancer treatments- because there's bettercare, and quiker.  I realize that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, but socialism and more big government is NOT going to help.  I say cap the slip and fall/malpractice awards, get rid of insurance (Pencil pushers!) and go back to the old fashioned method of pay as you go!  I bet there's a bunch of doctors wo wouldgo for that.  I know that's how I do it.  I scrimp and save to put emergency $ away for just that purpose- and if I ever have a time, well, I may not have enough money to pay my bill right away, but I know all hospitals takepayment plans.  God Bless you Dirk for all the hard work you're doing!  Carolyn

ma24179 said...

It made me nervous when I first heard it... Something that sounds that good is obviously going to turn out really bad. Tell me how I can get QUALITY healthcare payed by the government at low costs and I AM IN...(never will happen). Until then, I would prefer to stick with my high premiums and copays. -Missy

gehi6 said...

I have long been part of the mediaid system due to diability.  I changed my medical plan because it had gotten so deep in the hole from people using emergency services when they didn't have coverage and not paying mainly.  In my time George Bush added drug coverage to medicare benefits probably because of stronger lobbying for this bill. I have tried to cost the system as little as possible by good health habits. Last year a disabled woman in my complex had a stomach reduction to deal with her increasing obesity problem and has had to spend around 6 months in the hospital, several times in ICU during that time, and they always send us the bills charged for servies.  Her bills alone must have been staggering!  I have been afraid medicare and medicaid would break the country let alone socialized medicine. Gerry http://journals.aol.com/gehi6/daughters-of-the-shadow-men/  

wwfbison said...

This is a very good entry with excellent points.  Being that I purchase the health insurance for our family owned business I can tell you first hand the cost of quality insurance for our employees is skyrocketing, almost out of control.  We now pay $62400 per year.  Our renewal came through for a 22% increase effective April 1.  Employers cannot continue to assume this burden yet we want good coverage for our employees....what to do???  NOT universal health care!  My mother in law is a cardiac nurse from Canada and she will tell you first hand the atrocities of their "free" health care system.  Her family comes to the States for medical care.  I don't know what the answer is but we as employers and we as citizens are being run into the ground trying to pay for quality health care.  Our employees and me, mom & step dad (we don't get our insurance free either) pay $30 a week towards the coverage and we are doing everything we can not to have to increase their portion.  I hope someone has an answer.  I am sorry this is so long.  This issue is something I am very interested in.
Lisa

nhralph said...

I am retired now and although my income has gone down substantually, I still have health insurance comming out of my check. I would love to have free medical insurance but I also know there is no such thing as FREE when it comes to anything. It will cost taxpayers one way or another. I agree the system does need to be fixed but universal health care is not the way to do it. Lets keep the gvernment out of health care. The government only knows how to do two things, collect taxes and fight wars, in everything else, they are incompetant.

thatboyaintright said...

The problems with our current health care system are legion. The problems with socialized medicine are even worse. I don't know that the answer, but I know something has to change. Unfortunately, when there has to be change, the change comes at the hands of politicians, the most corrupt people on the planet. IMHO, some sort of socialized medicine is coming & there is little we can do about it.

We're already bankrupt so what's a little more to the debt, right? (said with great sarcasm)

alohamik said...

Great stuff Dirk... absolutely spot on... I'm considered a minority as a hispanic. But at 6'2, 280 lbs... there's not a dang thing 'minor' about me... But apparently I'm supposed to (according to Hill's people) want free healthcare and have the government do everything for me... from womb to tomb... I DON'T THINK SO!! I'm as poor as all get out, but I am my own person and am happiest when the gov't stays out of my life...

Mik