Saturday, August 15, 2009

Unplugging Grandma Isn't The Problem

by Mark Steyn - August 14th, 2009 - Orange County Register

I had an elderly British visitor this month who's had a recurring problem with her left hand. At one point it swelled up alarmingly, and so we took her to Emergency. They did a CT scan, X-rays, blood samples, the works. In two hours at a small, rural, undistinguished, no-frills hospital in northern New Hampshire, this lady got more tests than she's had in the past decade in Britain – even though she goes to see her doctor once a month. He listens sympathetically, tells her old age often involves adjusting to the loss of mobility, and then advises her to take the British version of Tylenol and rest up. Anything else would use up those valuable "resources." So, in two hours in New Hampshire, she got tested and diagnosed (with gout) and prescribed something to deal with it. It's the difference between health "care" (i.e., going to the doctor's every month to no purpose) and health treatment – and on the latter America is the best in the world.

This is an example of the problem with our health care issues under socialized medicine. Gout is not a serious problem even if it is an issue that creates chronic long term pain. How can socialize medicine not deal with it?

What infuriates me about Democrats is that they make up their minds about some problem and then only look at data that supports their plans. That is why they reject the idea that their rationing boards are "death panels". They know that they don't want to kill old people and therefore they will not consider that the unintended consequences of their actions will be "death panels", even when everyone else recognizes that is the certain result.

There are three real problems with our current system that I find unacceptable and which I believe we can argue are inconsistent with a free market insurance system. These are; 1- jacking up insurance rates by exorbitant amounts if someone gets sick after they have bought insurance, 2- refusal to allow portability of insurance, and 3- denial of coverage for "pre-existing" conditions. There is also a recognition that those who are poor can't afford the same health care as those who are rich. (Then they can't afford as big a house either. Does that mean we should tax the rich to give everyone a mansion?) Finally there is a recognition that the current system allows for lawyers and some patients (or their families) to reap lottery type rewards for actions by doctors that are not mistakes. These problems need to be addressed.

However I don't see how we address them fairly until we accept the reality that most people don't get seriously ill until late in life unless they have a chronic illness. The vast majority of health financing problems are a symptom of the fact that 5% of the population needs 50% of the health care dollars. That 5% are the chronic seriously ill people in society, and those in the last year of their life. Pretending that health problems are equally shared just because most people get sick or have an accident at some point, is a delusion.

Turning our health care system into socialized medicine creates many more problems than addressing the existing problems and helping the poor and chronically ill somehow through other means. Socialized medicine will significantly reduce health care for many who currently have it without helping most of those left out by the existing system.


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