The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

What everybody knows about health care

with 7 comments

Here’s the argument I get when I recommend single-payer healthcare: “Everybody knows that when government is involved, bureaucracy, waste, and high-cost result. Everybody knows that!” [Roll eyes here]

As friends of mine say about moving but inaccurate sermons, “Good preachin’—but it just ain’t so.”

Today’s Des Moines Register carries Eugene Robinson’s summary of a study by the Commonwealth Fund, “a respected New York foundation with a track record in health care stretching back to 1918.” It surveyed the U.S., Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Britain. All but the U.S. have single-payer systems.

Would that everybody really knew. Consider:

1. Personal touch: 80% of Americans see a regular doctor regularly. 84% of Canadians do. The others? Australians, 88%; New Zealanders and Britons, 89%; Germans, 92%; and Netherlanders, 100%.

2. Prompt service: 49% of Americans can get a same-day or next-day appointment when ill. 75% can in New Zealand.
65% in Germany. 58% in Britain.

3. Cost: No contest. None. Zip. Never let anybody get by with suggesting commercial health care is cheaper. The facts:

  • The United States spends $6,697 per capita annually on health care … more than twice as much as any of the other countries surveyed.
  • “Americans were much more likely than any other national group to have spent at least $1,000 out of pocket on medical expenses over the past year.”
  • “Far more Americans … had failed to fill a prescription … or skipped a prescribed test, treatment, or follow-up.”

I believe it is Jane Bryant Quinn who points out that the health care giants in the USA spend $300 billion on promotion. You’ll see their ads on TV tonight, won’t you? Enjoy them, ’cause they’re part of your health care bill.

4. Ah, but “everybody knows we have the best health care available anywhere.” Proof?

  • The United States ranks dead last in life expectancy …
  • “The United States has the worst infant mortality by far … “
  • “We’re paying more and dying … sooner.”

Why do we put up with this? Because everyone knows private programs are better. Because everyone knows how high the taxes would be. Because politicians and industry bigshots call it “socialized medicine” and everybody knows anything called “socialized” is suspicious without need of discussion (which is, of course, exactly why politicians use such talk).

Well, erp. Millions of Americans suffer so other Americans can imagine private enterprise is well-suited for every endeavor.

We know better.


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Written by Monte

November 14, 2007 at 4:45 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Still hoping that someone can explain what “single payer” means.

    Monte Says: Good question, my friend! Try Yes, we can all be insured or Physicians for a National Health Program for good answers.

    Steve

    November 24, 2007 at 5:10 am

  2. I’m with you, Monte. I’m a hospital chaplain, and I’ve been frustrated by the lack of common sense on this issue. I appreciate your post.

    I’m not as forceful about the “single payer” as you are, but there’s got to be a way for a nation as wealthy as ours to cover everyone’s healthcare. Healthcare is not a luxury, it’s a life and death issue, making it also a “right to life” issue in my mind.

    Again, thanks for the post.

    Monte Says: Thanks, Williamso! You’re right, “there’s got to be a way.” “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are not equally available to all in the USA, despite our conviction that we are “endowed by our Creator” with them. As you point out, denial of health care is culturally mandated loss of life for many who are supposedly free and equal. And as in most cultures, the wealthy have rights that the poor don’t.

    williamso

    November 19, 2007 at 4:27 pm

  3. I’m not sure what a “single payer” is, but the rest of it looks pretty good.

    Steve

    November 17, 2007 at 4:29 am

  4. […] to Comments Here’s a spin-off from the Church and money Synchroblog: Monte Asbury writes in What everyone knows about health care: “the health care giants in the USA spend $300 billion on promotion. You’ll see their ads […]

  5. Brian and Frank, thanks for your comments. Brian, sounds like you’ve got a good setup for your employees – but, of course, most people aren’t your employees. Would your program accept a woman who’d had breast cancer? Or the disabled steel worker in the video? Or the 40 million others in spots like theirs? Doubt it.
    I wonder what motive free enterprise has to provide service to people it can’t make money off of. Why would more freedom make business more interested in customers they already don’t want?

    Frank, I just don’t know about doctor salaries. But I know that one of the best sites for discussion of single-payer plans is Physicians for a National Healthcare Program.

    Monte

    November 17, 2007 at 1:27 am

  6. Can you tell me what the pay comparison is for doctors in the US vs other countries? I suspect US doctors are paid much more. I’m not prepared to go to a single payor system yet but you have some good points.

    Can we start by capping or eliminating the advertising dollars?

    frank

    November 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm

  7. Monte, thanks for your thoughts, very interesting.
    I do not agree with a single payer system, and could really shoot holes in may of your arguments. Yet, #4 is one of interest to me.

    As Americans we make choices, which is my book another word for Freedom. Many Americans choose to not take care of themselves. The Diabetes epidemic is basically a self inflicted one. Diseases like this and related diseases to smoking etc.. is what causes some of our mortality numbers. Yet, people are choosing to live their lives as they choose.

    My individual employees pay a net of $31 per month for health insurance from a major carrier. It can be afforded.

    Free enterprise does work and used to work in healthcare. The problem is that we have a half goverment system (medicare) and a half private system. For free enterprise to work, it has to be a total private system.

    Monte Says: Brian, the more I think about it, the more I think there are some questions to ask of your comment.

    1. While I’m glad you provide some coverage for your employees, who covers their children? Who covers their spouses? How will they get coverage when they retire?
    2. I hear many saying private enterprise is the way to take care of this. But I have yet to hear anyone say why private enterprise would. Indeed, the cancellation of the seriously ill by the insurance industry in order to improve its bottom line is a huge part of the problem. Why would an all-profit system be an improvement for the millions who are un-insurable?
    3. Do you receive the same health care plan that you offer your employees? If your own is better, why is it fair for the person who owns the company to get better care than the person who provides the labor?

    brian

    November 15, 2007 at 9:30 am


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