National Medical Malpractice -- The Government's Plan to Socialize Medicine

Ever have a Charlie Brown moment? Aggggggh! That perfectly describes my reaction to the arrogant, elitist, political response to the Town Hall forums currently being held throughout the country to discuss the proposed National Health Care program. “How dare you question OUR decisions?” The TV coverage shows politicians caught as though they were deer in headlights. They don’t know what to make of the resistance, so they once-again blame right-wing extremists.

Aren’t we the folks who at a ratio of 90 to 10 told our so-called Representatives to vote against the Bail-Out Bill? Aren’t we the folks who have responded on an 85 to 14 basis telling our Representatives we want “In God We Trust” to remain on our currency? Aren’t we the folks who said we didn’t want the likes of Chrysler, GM, AIG, Fannie and Freddie rescued? Notice how well they listen?

National Health Care as proposed by the Government will be an absolute disaster. I can make that statement from personal experience. While traveling throughout Europe in 1974, I broke my ankle. I then had the “pleasure” of partaking in the English version of Socialized Health Care. You might find the following helpful in your understanding what is being proposed.

About three hours after arriving at the hospital in Newcastle, England. a doctor looked at my foot (from behind his desk mind you, and not up close and personal as you would expect) and said he didn’t think it was broken but that I should still get an X-ray. I would have to come back the next day for the X-ray, however, because the Radiologists were on strike that day. That is when I began to learn about socialized medicine first hand. In the meantime, a nurse gave me a temporary strap-on splint to support my ankle.

The next day, I sat in the waiting room at the hospital from 8 AM until five minutes after twelve Noon. The Radiologists were still on strike and at least 100 patients had now gathered along with me waiting for something to happen. Finally, the hospital brought in one technician on an “emergency” basis. She reviewed the files of the 100 or so people all of whom were waiting for an X-ray and then called five names. I was name number five. The rest were sent home and told to try again the next day. I actually felt guilty as an outsider having displaced someone local getting proper medical treatment.

My X-ray showed that I had indeed broken my ankle, and the doctor said I’d need a “plaster” on my foot. However, I would have to come back tomorrow because the plaster technicians were also out on strike. Swell. I then checked with a few private doctors but they all told me they could only refer me back to the hospital. That is when I began to think of the hospital as the end-result of my grand tour.

I did, indeed, get my plaster the next day, and so to make amends, they added the walking heel pivot at the same time. Highly unusual, I was told. However, I now had to stay off the plaster cast for a minimum of three days to let the plaster cure. I had hoped for a small plaster cast but wound-up with one that extended from my toes to just below my knee. Then the pressing matter was to learn to ride a pair of crutches.

I did learn to use the crutches and I did keep my weight off the plaster for the three days as stipulated before resuming my tour. Within the first day back on the road, the plaster started to crack and I was again experiencing severe pain.

I thought I’d better have my ankle re-checked. By that time plaster was badly cracked on the bottom, and I was experiencing sharp pains shooting up my right leg every 15 to 20 seconds. I went to a Hospital in London and told them what had happened and what was now happening to my ankle. They acknowledged that I should have my ankle re-examined but the Radiologists were still on strike. When I did finally get to see a Radiologist, the tech had to take at least 5 separate X-rays due to her incorrect settings during the first four tries. Surprise, my ankle was still broken.

The doctors at St. Thomas Hospital in London elected to remove the original plaster and replace it with a new design. However the plaster technicians were still on strike. When I finally did get to see a plaster tech, he cut-off the old plaster and replaced it with a new one. Instead of a heel walking pivot, he simply reinforced the bottom of the new plaster cast and then gave me an oversized boot to wear over the plaster. The boot had a curved bottom and I found I could walk almost normally. The boot also served to camouflage the more obvious plaster. Now, I simply looked like I had a deformed right foot. However, the new plaster meant that I’d have to spend a couple more days waiting for the plaster to cure. In the meantime, I had become a pro with the crutches.

I was supposed to keep the plaster cast on my leg for at least six weeks. By the fifth week, the plaster was again disintegrating and was now cutting into my Achilles tendon. Rather than chance blood poisoning or permanent injury, I got out my handy Swiss Army pocket knife and removed the plaster. Thus ended my personal socialized medicine experience.

I was a relatively young man and a broken ankle was not exactly a life-threatening situation. What if it had been life-threatening? Care to guess how many folks I’ve spoken with over the years that have had much more harrowing experiences with socialized medicine? Their stories are really frightening. Yet that is exactly what we have to look forward to if this nonsense is put into law in the United States. Can you say “rationing?” Can you accept “No” when you believe you need an operation and a government bureaucrat refuses to authorize your procedure? Can you accept the fact that you will be forbidden from seeking medical assistance elsewhere?

This is just another case of the “Government Do Something” mentality instead of truly correcting the problem. If the problem is correctly identified – that health care costs are too high – then why not simply correct the way health care providers are paid? How, you ask, might we do that? I’m glad you asked.

If you consider how health care professionals are currently paid, you’ll quickly realize that the sicker you become, the more they make. Doesn’t sound like a win-win to me. How about you? Wouldn’t we all be better-off if the medicos were paid more on the basis of keeping us healthy rather than keeping us sick? I for one would gladly pay more to remain healthy than to be treated for sickness. Of course the “designer” drug companies wouldn’t be very happy. Their full page ads for the latest drug they’re pushing would probably disappear making the newspapers and magazines unhappy, too. But when you walked into a doctor’s office, you wouldn’t have to wait that extra half-hour while the doctor schmoozed with the drug company representative in the back office. Some win, some loose. I prefer that the patient win. By the way, I consider my self to be a customer; not a patient. I’m not patient and I don’t like the thought of being a guinea pig. I want professional treatment based on proven methodologies.

One way to accomplish this turn-around would be for every individual to take control of his/her medical costs and treatments. Instead of an HMO deciding what costs they will pay, you would decide directly. This system already exists in the form of Medical Savings Plans, MSPs. You get immediate treatment and the doctor gets immediate payment. No forms to send to the HMO or Medicare nor a wait for months to then get reimbursed. Cash and carry works.

But wait, you say. “I don’t know enough about medicine to be able to make my own decisions.” Then I suggest you learn. And the very, very sad fact is that very few in the medical profession “know” either, but that’s a topic for another article. Suffice it to say that when competence is demanded by the customer, the medicos that survive the scrutiny will become the best choices for medical services. No one is instant-smart and there will be a learning curve, but the effort will be well worth time allocated.

Recently, I read an in-depth article describing the treatments and costs-of-treatments between the cities of McAllen, TX and El Paso. The McAllen costs were virtually double those of El Paso yet the patient (read customer) results were almost identical. If the results were comparable, why spend twice the money for the same results? Again I submit that government mandated single-payer programs will double the costs even though they initially claim they will reduce costs. Can you say Post Office? Can you say Medicare? Can you say any government program in competition with a privately-run program?

Every article I write seems to be based on having to refute the claim that capitalism has failed. Private medicine has “failed” so now big government has to step-in and make it work is the basic message now being promoted. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I continue to maintain, we’ve never even had pure capitalism so how would we know whether or not it’s failed? Big government has had their sticky hands in every facet of our lives with rules upon restrictions upon laws upon mandates that contradict common sense. I would argue that no one has a higher interest in your health and well-being than you, no matter how sincerely others try. That being the case, why don’t you just trust your instincts and take charge of your health?

Tex Norton

September 8, 2009

The Daily Reckoning