National Health Care Is Making Me Sick

My daughter had nursemaid’s elbow.  We sat in the “casualty” (ER) waiting room.  I glanced around.  Nearby sprawled a semiconscious man with a bloody battered head.  A woman hunched in a chair rocking in pain.  The doors opened and two ambulance cots were wheeled in; one was taken back immediately, the other had to wait just like the rest of us.  This was life in Britain: no priority for ambulance patients, no apparent triage, overcrowded, dirty, smelly, archaic healthcare facilities.

That’s why I get riled to hear people talking about a “single-payer system,” a.k.a. socialized medicine.  You hear these catchalls constantly; but what do they mean?  Take “no access to healthcare.”  That’s a fave of people who don’t know what they’re talking about.  According to one of them, “People get refused medical procedures because they cost too much so the insurance company denies them.”  Oh really?  The doctor says, “I’m just not willing to do this for you”, is that it?

Actually, NOBODY’S refusing to let you have whatever procedure you want, but they may refuse to PAY for it for you.  There IS a difference.  So if you absolutely must have that CT, go ahead and have it done.  You might get a bill later, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been REFUSED.

In a national system, however, actual, real refusal to do something for a patient occurs.  How’d you like to be diagnosed with cancer, and on a waiting list to get treatment, AFTER already waiting 3 years to see an oncologist?  How’d you like to be having a heart attack, to be told to go home from the ER… you go home, and promptly die?  How’d you like to be a patient in an ambulance, driving around for FIVE HOURS, to different towns, trying to find an ER that, literally, will allow you to be unloaded there?  None of these examples are hyperbole; they’re dead serious truth.  I know, I used to live in the UK, and these are personal examples.

Another sick phrase is “countless Americans don’t get basic care”.  First, if they’re uncounted, how does anybody know about them?  What do they mean, “not getting basic care”?  I guess if you’re too lazy (oops, “busy”) to keep your prenatal appointment, that counts as “not getting care”.  But if you decide later to come to ER, where we HAVE  to see you, due to EMTALA, then you are getting care, so that doesn’t count then.  And the taxpayers get to pay a bigger bill for you, than they’d have had to pay if you’d just kept that appointment.

There’s the money issue for some: they can’t afford to see a doctor in his office, but they have enough to splash around making an ER visit?  But, of course, they don’t INTEND to pay for that visit.  In fact, when we see “self pay” on a patient’s information, we can assume 90% of the time it’s “self” only and no pay; the hospital has to eat the cost.  There are, of course, responsible people who DO pay their bills, but they are sadly the minority.

Say you “don’t have the money” for your meds (because it all got used up on your flashy jewelry, your cell phone—I can’t afford one of those!–tattoos, beer, or cigarettes).   Just come to the ER so the working people can pay for you.  After all, why try to be responsible and actually PAY for your insulin, when you can let things go and end up in a diabetic crisis that we have to pay for?  Oops, again, that doesn’t count as “not getting care” because we just admitted you to ICU, even though you didn’t care for yourself.

Oh, I get it…you OD’d on narcotics (we won’t say how you got them), and your kids didn’t call 911 right away, as they’re so used to you passing out, not a biggie.  And if they called, the medics’d give you that nasty narcan and end the trip, and then you’d be mad at the kids for spoiling the fun.  So they leave you till the next day, THEN call 911.  There, that counts as “not getting access to care”!  (Real life examples from my ER)

Here’s another old hairy one: “The Swedes (or fill in country of choice) have better care than the US.”  Oh, really?  If Sweden was such an Eden, why is their suicide rate so high?  Why are there so many alcoholics that they have a special home insurance company for teetotallers only?  (With, of course, lower rates).

Who scores health-care systems? WHO! WHO scores nations on various aspects of health care, and brownie points are given for having socialized medicine, whereas penalties are awarded for daring to allow such things as medical savings accounts, or not having a high enough progressive income tax.  (See, all you have to do is take away any incentive to exert yourself and earn more money than your neighbors, and ta-dah! EVERYONE’S health improves!)  Of course, WHO couldn’t possibly have an agenda.

Then there’s the issue of life expectancy (different from lifespan).  According to OECD, the US is 18 out of 30 democracies.  But, they forgot to take out homicides and car accidents!  They probably have some reason for why homicides are an indicator of poor health care (as opposed to being an indicator of the criminal-to-unarmed citizen ratio).  If only we didn’t have those pesky old homicides, we’d have a MUCH better health system, number one in fact!

Oh, here’s another oldie (but not goodie):  “People can go bankrupt trying to pay their medical bills”.  Yes, there are people with integrity who DO end up in financial straits because of health bills, but Americans are the most generous people in the world, and we usually are pretty good at chipping in to help someone in a bind.  But in a social-medicine country, that doesn’t happen much…because you’d be DEAD instead of having bills to pay, having had to wait to see a specialist, then to get diagnostics, then to get treatment….

Every choice (whether to have private or socialized medicine) leads to other choices.  So if what the media tells us is true, that “most people favor socialized medicine,” then what they’re really saying is most people would rather be dead than bankrupt.  Huh?

One final item;” High health insurance costs is what killed the US auto industry.”  Right, the UAW didn’t have ANYthing to do with insisting on old outdated, costly factories that ensured more workers had jobs, (as well as non-competitiveness).  Or the fact that UAW expected bloated wages for doing as little as possible, couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with the problem.  Nope, what we have to do is just give-give-give to anybody that asks for anything, and tax the people that are too stupid to quit their jobs.

Taking the UK or Canada as an example, what will we have to look forward to when socialized medicine is imposed on us?

1.  A lot more foreign doctors.  US citizens may demur at having to invest in rigorous training for maybe $13 to $18/hr (what Medicare currently pays), whereas foreigners may still be drawn to the US as being better than where they came from.

2.  Long waits in ERs.  Canada has some ERs where people wait up to FIVE DAYS. Long waits for treatment, like a three-year waiting list (in Canada) to get an appointment at a pain clinic.  Long waits for diagnostics; two years or longer, as in both Britain and Canada.

3.  IF private insurance is altogether banned, expect to see black-market medicine or “health care brokers” as they have in Canada, who help you get an appointment to see a doctor for a fee.  Otherwise, as in Britain, where it is allowed, private health insurance will be a growth area, as people see through the “Beveridge fallacy.”  (Beveridge being the MP that pushed for Britain’s NHS.)  Expect also, numbers of American going to other countries for medical treatment, as 33% of Canadians now do.

4.  Fewer doctors overall; but the ones who are left will be more realistic about what they’ll get paid.
5.  Initial relief for some businesses in terms of not having to buy insurance for employees, followed by punishing tax burdens, which will crush  businesses.

6.  Stagnant economy (not taking anything else in the economy into account!) due to businesses having to pay such high taxes they cannot re-invest in themselves.  More businesses leaving the USA.

7.  Higher prices (again, not taking anything else into consideration), and lower wages for the jobs that are left, and nobody complaining about it as they’re just glad to be working.

8.  As things get tougher, there will be fewer rummage sales due to people not being able to afford things they don’t really need, or being able to replace/throw out things.  EBay would likely take a beating.

9.  Secondhand stores will still be around, but the pickings won’t be anything like what you see currently in US Goodwills.

10.  Expect more people to be permanently “on the dole”, as they say in Britain.  More who’d rather take what nanny gives them than stand on their own two feet.

Overall, the US will be a lot poorer, if we get socialized medicine, and that without even considering the rest of the economic mess we have.  And one day maybe NObody will be left working to pay for this mediocrity.   Try as they might, the tax-and-spend crowd will be faced with one certainty: no society ever yet TAXED its way to prosperity.

Emily Matthews

June 15, 2009

The Daily Reckoning