More on Nationalized Health Care

July 25th, 2009

As I indicated a couple of days ago, my primary disagreement with nationalized health care is philosophical.  For those who don’t care much for philosophy, here’s something to chew on from the BBC.  If you want the best odds of surviving cancer, you should probably want to get it in the United States, and not anywhere in Europe.  Five-year cancer survival rates for the four most common (breast, prostate, colon, and skin) are significantly higher here than over there.

What about Canada?  We beat them, too.

Wait times?  Canada is kind enough to provide a website that will give you an average wait time for your medical care.  The average wait time in Toronto for general surgery seems to be somewhere between three months and six months.  You could die from an incarcerated hernia or an infected gall bladder in three to six months.  And even if you didn’t, you’d probably be in constant misery while waiting your turn, at least from the gall bladder.

I recently had a CT scan of my abdomen because I thought I had a hernia.  It took me two days to get an appointment with my surgeon, another three days to actually get the CT done, and one day after that I had my results (over 200 images read by a radiologist).  If I had needed surgery, I’d probably have it next week.  Fortunately, it seems that all I have is a torn muscle.  In Toronto, I would have had to wait for 30 to 45 days, on average, just to get the CT.  And then another three to six months for the surgery.  That’s nearly three-quarters of a year for something I can get done in two weeks here.

I shattered my cheek playing ball in high school.  I don’t know where that would fall in Canada’s health care system, but if I had had to wait for three to six months for surgery, I would have ended up with permanent, irreparable double vision.

I cannot even obtain data on wait times for CT or MRI in two of Canada’s largest cities:  Vancouver, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta.

In Montreal, Quebec, you can wait for three months to get an MRI, and about a month and a half for a CT.  A new hip in Montreal will have you waiting almost six months, as would be the case for just about any orthopedic surgery there.  That’s a long damned time to have to hobble around, taking narcotics for pain, risking addiction, constipation, and bowel obstruction, not to mention probable lost work time.

Socialized medicine does not work.  What is the ultimate cost for failing to treat in a timely manner things that should be treated now, even if the actual cost of service provided were comparable to here (which it isn’t)?  Most of the countries with socialized health care spend about 6% or 7% of GDP on health care.  Here, we spend about 13% or 14% of GDP on health care.  Clearly, that extra money we spend isn’t merely thrown away on advertisements for Viagra.  We pay more money and get better, more timely service.

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6 Responses to “More on Nationalized Health Care”

  1. Charles Amico |

    You might want to read my post today as I met a Canadian on a flight 2 days ago and asked him about whether there were long waits and about the system in gemneral.

    Also, Bill Maher questions For-Profit motives in healthcare saying millionaires are being made on the back of the sick.

  2. Brian |

    What can I say Charles? This is the information published by the Canadian government. Did you even go to the links I provided?

    And as far as “for profit” motives in health care, I’d suggest you’re looking at this thing from the wrong end of the telescope. I’m thrilled to live in an age where I am even able to buy my health. In short, good health care is a luxury that couldn’t be bought for any amount of money even 100 years ago.

    Doctors go to school a long time, and are usually in their 30s before their careers start. Who are you or Bill Maher to decide how much money a doctor should be able to make? Are you next going to decide the incomes of engineers, programmers, and nurses? God forbid that the designer and manufacturer of medical instruments shouldn’t make money for their efforts, too. Maybe programmers shouldn’t be able to make $50/hr for their efforts. Pay them minimum wage.

    Where does it end? Where does the quest for your version of “fairness” stop?

    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” — Benjamin Franklin.

  3. Brian |

    I just realized, Charles, that you seem to have completely missed everything said about 5 year cancer survival rates. Would you care to comment on those studies? Many of these studies were published, I might add, by the European and Canadian governments.

    If you think Canada and Europe have such great systems, I’d suggest you move there and not wreck what I and the overwhelming majority of Americans already have.

  4. Tom |

    President Obama, his progressive friends, and some Democrats would like to go to a single-payer health care system. Obama said that very directly during the campaign, although he’s backed off a bit lately. He’s going to stay backed-off, too, because nothing that resembles that kind of system is likely to be passed into law, even if it’s hidden beneath a “public option.”

    Two reasons are normally given for the need for health care reform — the large number of people who don’t have health insurance and high (and rapidly growing) costs.

    First, the uninsured: The number of 47 or so million uninsured people is significantly misleading. It’s cast in language that implies that this huge number of people don’t have access to health care, which isn’t true. It’s also mostly incorrect. The breakdown of the numbers is readily available; here’s just one source.

    Second, the high and growing cost: Health care does, in fact, cost too much in America. There are several things that could be done to reduce costs, given the political will to do so: serious tort reform, control of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, closer scrutiny of entitlement to government-funded programs, refusal to provide non-emergency government-funded medical care to illegal aliens (except for those incarcerated), and a serious approach to bidding-down drug costs through existing government-funded programs (Medicare, Medicaid, VA).

    One point that keeps coming up in these discussions is the amount of money doctors make. I don’t have a problem with that, provided that doctors, like anyone else, make their money ethically and legally. I don’t think we should worry until they’re as well-paid as athletes, actors, trial lawyers, talk-show hosts, American Idol judges, fat documentary film makers, former presidents and vice presidents (some of them), investment bankers, hedge-fund managers, CEOs of large corporations…the list could be much longer. Oprah alone probably makes enough every year to equal what 100 or more average doctors make.

    I’m not naive about health care in America. Although much of what you’ve said in this and the previous article is clearly true, our system is not without warts. Among industrialized countries, our life expectancy at birth and infant mortality rates don’t compare so well, to name just two areas. But given the size and complexity of our society, and the sectors in which negative outcomes are most often found, I’m not sure much can be done to significantly improve things, other than cost-cutting measures like those mentioned above.

  5. Brian |

    On the money, Tom. Like anything else anyone might want, health care has to be sought after by those that may want or need it. The ignorant and apathetic, by definition, are not going to seek it. It is available to all as long as the effort is put in to obtain it.

    As an aside, I think Oprah makes about 200 to 300X the annual income of an average physician (somewhere around $200K, if memory serves). But my experience is that for people in that income range, doctors probably have the worst lifestyle of any of them.

    My older sister’s husband is a pulmonologist, and I’m pretty sure he’s still working 80-90 hours a week. They take 2 very nice vacations a year and live in a pretty big house (about 4000sf) on a golf course. But he never has much time to enjoy what he makes.

    Contrast that with the owner of a software company I used to work for. He worked his guts out when he worked, but he could take a week or two off and still make money off of what his employees were doing in his absence. He went home around 6PM every day, and was in about 7 every morning. He didn’t work weekends, he didn’t have to carry a pager, he didn’t have to take call at 3 AM. He lived in a huge house, drove a Town Car, and went on vacation wherever and whenever he felt like it. Plus, he had his Navy retirement on top of what he earned through his software company.

    When my brother in law goes on vacation, he doesn’t make any money.

  6. doris |

    Illegals getting healthcare for free steams my rice. But how do you turn away a man holding a sick child? This is a real moral and complicated problem. How can you turn away anyone truly hurt or sick? How do we stop all that wastful spending, plus so many illegals using hospitals for routine care, colds and such?

    Yes, doctors work long, hard hours for not so great wages, they seem to never stop and never really have time for any patient. They run you through like cattle through a chute and can’t remember you, your name or a thing about you. It’s a real shame but seems to be the best system around, too bad rude, speedy, sometimes obnoxious doctors charge you an arm and a leg for, well, an arm or a leg.

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