May 11, 2006

Ugly Consequences of Nationalized Medicine — Part 3 of 4

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:17 pm

To Save Money, They Define “Emergencies” Down.

“S.O.B.er” Interested-Participant points to a UK Mirror article on Britain’s National Health Service advising people to stay away from hospital emergency rooms unless they are in a true medical emergency — and then identifies a whole lot of true emergencies that won’t get treated:

But documents seen by the Mirror show the “ailments” include serious heart problems, pneumonia, epilepsy, bleeding ulcers and even gangrene.

Health experts said lives will be lost because people with serious illnesses – often the poor and old – will be afraid to go to hospitals for emergency treatment.

Patient groups were stunned that Ministers want more people treated in the community when GPs’ surgeries and other facilities were already unable to cope. Pressure group Health Emergency said: “Savings like this could be at the expense of people’s lives.”

But Ministers said “unnecessary admissions” to A&E cost £1.3billion and it would be better for patients and the NHS if people were treated outside hospitals.

The 18 “ailments” listed in the documents and the amount they cost A&E departments include congestive heart failure, £211million’ chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including emphysema, £253million’ pneumonia and flu, £158million’ angina, £134million’ epilepsy and convulsions, £77million’ and asthma, £64million.

Nationalized health care — it can literally kill you.

No thanks.
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Other posts:

  • Part 1 (April 9) — “An Inevitability: Withholding of Care in ‘Hard’ Cases”
  • Part 2 — “The government, disguised as a hospital’s administration, can move you up or down the waiting list, depending on your political views and actions”
  • Part 4 — “Canadian docs are coming to the US”
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6 Comments

  1. Instead of isolated incidents regarding national health care (which costs much, much less and covers many more), how about defending the current “free market” employer-based system?

    Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    Comment by Theo — May 11, 2006 @ 3:56 pm

  2. #1, this part where you posted your comment is not isolated, it’s about the entire British health system restricting emergency care to its roughly 75 million residents.

    I would defend The US’s free-market employer-based system, except that it’s not free-market and it’s largely not employer-based. Well over half of all medical care is run through Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and others to the point where the market isn’t functioning properly, and probably can’t function properly.

    This guy’s pretty close to what should be done, though no one has the will to implement it:
    The Future of Health Care Policy
    http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=051006E

    I’m not in the mood for a treatise on the healthcare system, and since I don’t recall you providing any specifics to support any of your arguments for three days running, I’m sure you aren’t either (typing the word “laughingstock” a lot doesn’t count).

    Comment by TBlumer — May 11, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  3. The old Medicare (before Dubya’s prescription drug “benefits”) ran extremely more efficiently than HMO’s do:

    http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article_two/2628/

    According to a study by top experts in 2005, “the United States wastes more on [private] health-care bureaucracy than it would cost to provide health care to all its uninsured.” As the World Health Organization noted, 15 cents of every dollar Americans spend on private health insurance goes to “administrative” expenses. That is a euphemism for everything from filling out and processing insurance paperwork to padding HMO executives’ salaries. By contrast, when the government spends money on public health care programs like Medicare, those “administrative” expenses only consume about 4 cents of every dollar…One solution is a universal health care system where the government is the single payer. A shorter name for this is “Medicare for Everybody.”

    Forget left and right, capitalist and socialist – what gets the most people covered (which is what a “compassionate” conservative would ask) at the least cost? Clearly, it ain’t the HMO system.

    Comment by Theo — May 11, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

  4. Although it looks tempting, Medicare gets on as it does because of heavy cross-subsidization from private-sector care.

    I have a fundamental problem with high exec salaries that is not limited to the health care biz. I have no problem with guys like Gates and Jobs and the Waltons being billionaires, because they innovated and created enormous value. I have big problems with people in paper-processing businesses like health claims getting outsized rewards, but….. the shareholders are the ones that should be raising hell.

    I’m not defending the HMO system. A system closer to what Kling describes would work better, and actually does in those limited areas of health care that aren’t regulated. The cost of laser eye surgery, for example has plummeted over the years even while quality has improved. There’s no reason that shouldn’t happen in many other areas of medicine, except that the incentives are all wrong.

    Defenders of single-payer need to defend Canada’s long waiting lines, backward technology, and horrible sanitary conditions. They can’t; and it would even be worse if the US didn’t serve as a partial safety valve for the Canadian backlong. That’s our inevitable future down the road with “Medicare for everybody.” No thanks.

    Oh, and Part 4 will talk about how doctors are leaving Canada for greener pastures in the US. That’s another result of single-payer — less incentives for aspiring doctors.

    Comment by TBlumer — May 11, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  5. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “State Coverage Initiative” (SCI) statistics for 2004, 9.5 million of the 45.8 million uninsured are not U.S. citizens. Therefore, the number of uninsured Americans is closer to 36.3 million. In fact, I suspect that almost all of the increase of the number of the uninsured in the last few years can be accounted for by the huge influx of legal and illegal immigrants we have sustained.

    Uninsured non-citizens are a separate problem, best addressed through immigration policy, not health care policy. World-wide, there are billions of uninsured non-US citizens, and our problem is not that our health care system doesn’t cover them, but that we let too many of them into the country.

    Then, a sizable number of the remainder of the uninsured are people who are simply practicing “just-in-time” insurance. From the SCI cited above, we also are told that only an estimated 50% of the people who are eligible for Medicaid coverage are enrolled in the program. (This sounds improbable to me, but that’s what they claim.)

    The number enrolled in Medicaid is 37.5 million (of whom 2.7 are non-citizens), so presumably another 37.5 million people qualify and are not enrolled. But enrollment when no health problem is on the horizon, while it might be the responsible thing to do, is probably not worth the trouble for many of those people.

    Overall, it seems that the vast majority of the uninsured are either non-citizens or could be insured if they chose to enroll in Medicaid. People in the latter group can obtain coverage when they decide they need it. Allowing for some overlap, this accounts for well over 40 million people.

    Although not addressed by the SCI statistics, I seem to recall than 10-15% (or it might even be higher) of the uninsured have annual household incomes over $50,000. While some of those may lack coverage because they deem it “unaffordable,” when a household with that kind of income finds something unaffordable what it often means is that its members prefer to spend their money on other things – better housing, newer cars, education, etc. Although somewhat risky, those are not necessarily irrational choices. If I were a healthy young high-income, no-asset (judgment-proof) person, I might choose a snazzy car over health insurance myself.

    While it suits politicians from both parties to characterize the number of uninsured as a crisis, because that’s how politicians get people to give them more power, I see no reason to surrender the fantastic benefits I get from our current health care system to solve a manufactured problem.

    Comment by AnnJ — May 14, 2006 @ 3:26 pm

  6. #5, thanks for the valuable info. I will remember it (or more accurately, the blog will remember it for me!).

    Comment by TBlumer — May 14, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

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