"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt

One of Salem Oregon's Unofficial Top 1000 Conservative Political Bloggers!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Universal Health Care: the Left's Smug "Gift" Pt. 1

Socialized Medicine, this time in the guise universal health care, is once again making the political rounds. Obama openly calls for it saying "This time, there is no debate about whether all Americans should have quality, affordable health care. The only question is how." He has signed S-CHIP into law supporting it, ironically and stupidly, on the impermanent and shrinking source of cigarette taxes. Of course, as cost overruns multiply and the greater administrative costs begin to spiral while cigarette sales diminish, the government will be forced to look elsewhere for S-CHIP's funding, equalling higher taxes for all.

The idea of universal health care is appealing for many. Shuffling off the financial burden onto the backs of anonymous tax payers sounds great to a lot of people. After all, why pay for something that the government will provide for "free?" While some more thoughtful people may realize that "free" or greatly reduced cost health care is simply a matter of reshuffling costs into higher taxes, there's a blithe assumption that somehow the benefits will outweigh the costs. Britain's health care system offers stark evidence contrary to such assumptions.

Universal health care is a costly boondoggle, that has resulted in horrific care for the majority of those under its benevolence. Britain is a prime example of such a poorly thought out system. Despite being in place since 1948 (WWII being a necessary component for its implementation) and despite the relative low population of Britain (compared to the US), Britain's health care lags far behind that of other nations.

A list of its shortcoming is both long and tragic. Well known is the mix-ups of sperm and sometimes eggs during artificial insemination. Lesser known is the "hospital of death" reported by British newspaper The Independent. Widely ignored by the smitten MSM the "scandal was exposed [in Britain] after monitoring of mortality rates showed that Stafford Hospital, in the West Midlands, had between 400 and 1,200 more deaths than the national average in the three years to 2007-08." Illustrating the "appalling standards of care" were incidents that included a "patient who later died was left for three days with a fractured thighbone. Another who died after becoming infected with the hospital bug C. difficile was earlier left in a soiled bed for four hours."

A daughter of one of the patients had this to say within the article. "Julie Bailey spent 14 months campaigning for an inquiry into Stafford Hospital following the death of her mother, Bella Bailey, in November 2007. Ms Bailey, 47, from Stafford, was so concerned about the standards of care being given to her 86-year-old mother that she and her relatives slept in a chair at her hospital bedside for eight weeks.

"'What we saw in those eight weeks will haunt us for the rest of our lives,' she said. 'We saw patients drinking out of flower vases they were so thirsty. There were patients wandering around the hospital and patients fighting. It was continuous through the night. Patients were screaming out in pain because you just could not get pain relief. They would fall out of bed and we would have to go hunting for staff. There was such a lack of staff.

"'It was like a Third World country hospital. It was an absolute disgrace.'"

Danny Huddleston's informative article in American Thinker provides a list of grievances in Britain's health system (among them the "hospital of death"), a few of which I will repeat here.

Britain's National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)-- great acronym, huh?-- decided to not to offer some drugs to NHS kidney cancer patients. "It concluded that the drugs - bevacizumab, sorafenib, sunitinib and temsirolimus - did not offer value for money [bang for the buck in American bailout jargon]." This prompted some of the "UK's top cancer consultants warn that NHS drug 'rationing' is forcing patients to remortgage their homes to pay for treatment."

NICE's response? "Andrew Dillon, the NICE chief executive, and Sir Michael Rawlins, NICE's chairman, told the Sunday Times the NHS did not have unlimited funds to provide all available treatments.

"'There is a finite pot of money for the NHS, which is determined annually by parliament,' they said.

"'If one group of patients is provided with cost-ineffective care, other groups - lacking powerful lobbyists - will be denied cost-effective care for miserable conditions like schizophrenia, Crohn's disease or cystic fibrosis.'"

Health care is degraded into a matter of lobbying the government for funds. This is what the Left and Obama want for America?

NICE also has banned life prolonging cancer drugs due to cost. "Thousands of patients with terminal cancer were dealt a blow last night after a decision was made to deny them life prolonging drugs.

"The Government's rationing body said two drugs for advanced breast cancer and a rare form of stomach cancer were too expensive for the NHS [National Health Services]. "

Bureaucrats' cost-benefits models are shortening people's lives. This sort of cruelty (if you wish to call it that) is inherent in rigid government bureaucracies. They have no customer base. While bad press, poor service, bad word of mouth can and does affect private health insurers and inspires a degree of flexibility, the government bureaucracies feel no such pressures. Does the DMV care about your grievances?

The NHS doesn't seem to feel much human sympathy either. It suggests that a man lose his sight in one eye, before it'll treat his disease.

"An ex-serviceman is being left to go blind in one eye before the National Health Service will consider treating him for a condition affecting 250,000 people in the UK.

"Leslie Howard, 76, noticed problems with his right eye in November and was diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration two months ago.

"His sight could be saved by a course of treatment involving new drugs which could cost more than £6,000 a year.

"But the local Primary Care Trust has told him it will only considering funding in his case once he has gone blind in one eye and developed wet AMD in the other.

"The condition, developed by 26,000 a year in Britain, can cause blindness in as little as three months and needs prompt treatment.

"Mr. Howard, who retired 17 years ago, said: 'I can't believe I'm being left to go blind in one eye. I've spent most of my working life devoted to public service, I was in the Army, police and prison service and I've never failed to pay my dues.

"'I've paid literally tens of thousands of pounds in taxes and to know I will lose my sight because I can't afford private treatment is diabolical.'

"'Has the Government lost all sense of compassion as well as economics? Is there no way I can get help to save my sight?'"

Are incidents such these indicative of the "quality, affordable health care" that Obama espouses? Why not? He lauds government health care, and Britain is a wonderful example. The NHS touted itself as "the envy of Europe" not so many years ago. Obama himself has no record of any accomplishments in the health field, nothing to demonstrate his belief of what good health care should be.

Ah, but his wife does. While the First Lady should not be the target of political ire, neither should her status be used as a shield. Michelle Obama has publicly inserted herself into this argument on many occasions, not just as First Lady but on the campaign trail as well. Therefore I feel it is perfectly reasonable and fair to address her past record as a $317,000-a-year job as a vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

It was under Michelle Obama's well-paid tenure as Vice President for Community and External Affairs that University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) began the practice of patient dumping-- shuffling lower income patients covered by Medicaid, uninsured, or likewise unprofitable patients to other community hospitals, while making room for higher income, well-insured patients requiring more profitable procedures.

This illegal practice skirted by Mrs. Obama's programs under the guise of "South Side Health Collaborative" and then "Urban Health Initiative" was examined, in detail, here at American Thinker by David Catron. "Mrs. Obama first hatched the UCMC program as the 'South Side Health Collaborative,' which featured a gang of 'counselors' whose job it was to 'advise' low-income patients that they would be better off at other hospitals and clinics. The program was so successful in getting rid of unwanted patients that she expanded it, gave it a new name, and hired none other than David Axelrod to sell the program to the public. According to the Sun-Times, 'Obama's wife and Valerie Jarrett, an Obama friend and adviser who chairs the medical center's board, backed the Axelrod firm's hiring.' Axelrod helped the future First Lady formulate a public relations campaign in which the 'Urban Health Initiative' was represented as a boon to the community actuated by the purest of altruistic motives.

"The resultant PR campaign was a study in Orwellian audacity. Chicago's inner city residents soon began hearing that UCMC's patient dumping program would 'dramatically improve health care for thousands of South Side residents' and that the medical center was generously willing to provide 'a ride on a shuttle bus to other centers.' Likewise, the people who ran the community hospitals to which these unwanted patients were being shuttled began to read claims in local media to the effect that the Urban Health Initiative was good for them as well. Dr. Eric Whitaker, the Blagojevich crony who succeeded Mrs. Obama as Director of the program, repeatedly assured gullible reporters that the financial impact on these hospitals would be positive: 'The initiative actually is improving their bottom lines.' The CFOs of those hospitals were no doubt relieved to learn that treating Medicaid and uninsured patients is profitable."

Unfortunately, Mrs. Obama's less than sterling legacy at UCMC is not terribly unlike the situation now found in the United Kingdom. While private insurance does exist in the UK, high premiums restrict those who can afford it to the wealthy. People like retired policeman Mr. Leslie Howard (going blind in one eye) cannot afford private care and is forced, like 92% of the population of Britain to make due exclusively with the government's NHS. In other words, the wealthiest 8% can afford high quality private health care, and the rest are shuffled off to the mercies of government bureaucracies. It's patient cherry-picking on the grandest of scales.

Canada has fared a bit better, but it has the US nearby to make up for a great deal of the shortcomings of its system. A Canadian acquaintance of mine works in the Canadian health care industry and spends an inordinate amount of his time in California. The reason being that almost all medical innovations, technological, pharmaceutical and organizational, occur in the US and then are exported to Canada and other nations. This is the case, not because Americans are inherently superior or smarter or any other such nonsense, but because the US system allows for, and encourages, progress. By rewarding successful innovation, by making medicine and the technology that supports it profitable, industries, researchers and doctors are given incentive to excel-- and they do. To ignore this and to recreate Britain's cartoonishly unresponsive and ineffective medical system in the US-- just multiply it by a factor of about 10 to account for American population and geographic differences-- would have a great and negative impact on Canada's already flawed system.

Canadian hospitals are lightly populated with expensive diagnostic equipment, expensive to purchase, operate and maintain. This cost saving measure costs lives, as possibly illustrated by the recent and tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson. While I hate to exploit the death of the actress, the problems of government bureaucracies deciding in advance what diagnostic equipment is available and to what degree they are to be used, as this case illustrates, should not be ignored.

The southern migration of Canadian patients to US hospitals is no myth. Lisa Priest of the Canadian Paper Globe and Mail reports "More than 400 Canadians in the full throes of a heart attack or other cardiac emergency have been sent to the United States because no hospital can provide the lifesaving care they require here.

"Most of the heart patients who have been sent south since 2003 typically show up in Ontario hospitals, where they are given clot-busting drugs. If those drugs fail to open their clogged arteries, the scramble to locate angioplasty in the United States begins."

The Canadian Medical Associations' response, "Canadian Medical Association president Brian Day said he couldn't speak about the Ontario problem, but noted this country is the last in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to finance hospitals with global budgets.

"Under that model, patients – and often doctors – are sometimes viewed as a financial drain.

"'We keep coming back to the same root cause,' Dr. Day said in a telephone interview from Ottawa. 'The health system is not consumer-focused.'"

With Britain's NHS demonstrably in tatters and Canada's system slow, with long waits (with a population of merely 33,500,000-- the US contains more than 9x that number over 307,000,000 citizens) and reliant on the US for technological, procedural, pharmaceutical innovation, one must ask why is the Left so insistent upon change?

Continued in Part 2 of Posting...

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post!

    The Left seems unable to think things through to a logical conclusion. It is one thing to wish that everyone had access to the finest medical care and quite another to devise a system that will provide it.

    I'd like everyone to have excellent health care too, as I'm sure you do. But my experiences with government programs offering "something for nothing" is that there is a great hullabaloo offering the "something" to nearly everyone, but--in reality--only a tiny percentage of those needing that "something" can make their way through the labyrinth of paperwork and deadlines needed to secure the benefit. In fact, the people with the greatest need for whatever "free something" is on offer are the least likely to get it.

    Witness a type of socialized medicine already available in the U.S.: Medicare for the elderly: a blessing if you have kept and continue to keep good financial records and are reasonably well educated and independent or have access to a paperwork-savvy family member with time on their hands, access to various technologies, and an understanding of how to plug into social agencies; but if you are a weak, ill, house-bound elderly woman or gent with failing hearing and eyesight, a fading memory, and no one around who gives a damn or has enough smarts to help you out, your chances of getting through the Medicare paperwork maze (A, B, C, & D) are about equal to your ability to climb Mount Everest.

    The folks most in need of whatever help is supposedly on offer are not the ones able to show up for (or even hear about) a 4-hour government-agency course on how to fill out the application forms for any given benefit.

    So the socialized medicine panacea won't be helping many of the people who do need help, but it will be shoving the rest of us into paperwork purgatories and long lines to see doctors who got their medical degrees in third-world countries with very different views of diagnostics and what medicine can achieve.