Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Democrats Wounding Amrican Health Care

Right now, if you have insurance (or lots of money) the U.S. provides health care second to none. The Democrats, under Obama and his willing stooges in Congress, are poised to destroy American health care. John McCain is proposing changes that would bring our health care into the free enterprise economy -- and make a basically good system better and more cost-effective.

Scroll down to read Part 1 of this three-part series. Previously, I referred you to Dr. David Gratzer's superb book The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care. He described how the much-praised (over-praised) Canadian system leads to endless waits, needless deaths, and a poor quality of care. The "good news" is that it pretends to be free. The "bad news" is that it's so deficient it's not worth much..

What we don't want is a Canadian-style system. That's the one Gratzer describes as having elderly patients waiting for days on stretchers in emergency room corridors. They're lying there drenched in their own sweat and urine.Gratzer notes that the downside of American health care is that the cost has spiralled. He points to the example of Vice-President Cheney's pacemaker, which "costs more than fifty times the average annual health-care expenditure of an American in 1950."

Thus, care is in the U.S. is superb, but a lot of people can't afford it. Eventually, the government may not be able to afford it either.Two factors have led to the challenges America faces in health care. One if the fact that, in 1943, the government announced that "employer-sponsored health insurance would not be taxed." Thus, for tax reasons and as a recruitment-retention tool, most employers began offering health insurance to employees.

The burden of providing health care -- unlike every other burden (housing costs, transportation, food, etc.) -- falls to employers. Later, part of the burden would be assumed by government. A second factor affecting the health system is the advance of medical technology.

A generation ago, Dick Cheney would not have had a pacemaker, because it hadn't been invested. A generation ago, someone like Dick Cheney would have been dead.

Technology that preserves life is wonderful, but it comes at an extremely high cost.In Gratzer's words, here's what happens: "These two forces, the insurance model and technological advances, are mutually reinforcing: because insured patients don't pay directly for their own state-of-the-art care, they can't make the consumer choices that would curb the cost of this high-end treatment. As costs have increased to the point of crisis, reformers have sought to reduce them."

Gratzer thinks the reform favored by Democrats (basically, Medicare and Medicaid) have been a disaster, sharply raising costs without really improving the overall quality of care. But Dems can relax, because Gratzer believes the reform favored by most Republicans -- basically, the HMO model -- also has been a catastrophe. It brought a large, expensive -- and often ham-handed -- bureaucracy into the system.

Overall, a major problem with health care -- in our country and others -- is the illusion that it's free. In life, every good and service comes at a cost. In health care, however, the cost is hidden -- or, more accurately, paid by someone other than the user (patient).

When things appear to be free, people tend to overuse them. If tomorrow, the service station near you were to start offering a tank of gasoline for free, the line of "customers" would stretch for miles. If steak and lobster were free, I would have had them for all three meals.

Do people overuse medical services that don't directly cost them money? Yes. In fact, I do it (to a small extent) myself. There are stories of elderly people in Florida and elsewhere who look at visits to the doctor as social occasions. Some doctors encourage the overuse of their services because it puts money in their pockets.

More to Come Tomorrow . . .

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