Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healthcare Follies

This is going to be a two-parter.  The first part focuses on ObamaCare and some generalized discussion on the differences between the US…shall we say…“Commercial”, privately-funded healthcare model and the socialized or single payer (government) model.  Part Two will discuss my own personal interaction with both systems earlier this year.

Part One

Any day now the US Supreme Court is going to rule on the constitutionality of the so-called “ObamaCare Law”, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It was signed into law in March of 2010 after a divisive battle featuring some unseemly political bargaining like the “Louisiana Purchase” and “Cornhusker Kickback”, both the blatant purchasing of votes.  Of course, that was just the beginning of the political maneuvering to get the bill passed and of the granting of exemptions to the provisions of the bill to supportive politicians.  If it’s so great, why do you need an exemption?
26 states joined together in challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare, which is essentially a federal takeover of the healthcare system and a giant step toward the “single payer” system currently used by the UK and Canada among others.  It had been a liberal/progressive dream for years and with a left wing Democrat in the White House and liberals in control of both the House and Senate, the perfect opportunity to cram it down the throats of a reluctant nation.  One of the more onerous provisions of this 2700-page monster was the forcing of every citizen to purchase health insurance from the Federal Government. That provision represents one of the principal sources of funding for the program and one of the pieces most likely to annoy the Justices.
The other major source of financing the program is the looting of Medicare, an already bankrupt program.  One half of the costs are provided by these cuts mostly from chopping $204 billion in funding to the Medicare Advantage Program, a highly popular and effective program enjoyed by some 12 million seniors.  Have not heard about this?  The Obama Administration and their allies in the media know that seniors vote in high numbers and when they figure out that they are the ones getting shafted by Obama, they could cost Obama his re-election. 

To help mitigate the bad karma, Obama spent millions of dollars in taxpayer bucks to run TV ads featuring Andy Griffith touting how great ObamaCare would be. Obama’s soldiers also came up with an $8.5 billion “demonstration project” sponsored by the Dept. of Health and Human Services designed to postpone the cuts until after the election.  The Government Accountability Office called this project a “scam” and said HHS should cancel the program.  In other words, the Administration is spending $8.5 billion of taxpayer money to help insure Obama’s re-election chances. Gee, does this sound like it might be a tad illegal?
Anyway, we’ll know soon when the Supremes weigh in. As a side bar, Obama insulted the Supreme Court yet again when the issue of ObamaCare came before them as he did once before in his State of the Union address.  I dunno, but I have never considered it wise to piss off people in a position to decide your future.
I have never been able to understand the liberal/ progressive obsession with government run healthcare.  It does not work very well, certainly not as well as the US system.  Statistics prove it.  For example:
               Breast Cancer:  US % fatal= 25%                      UK % Fatal= 46%
               Prostate Cancer:  US Fatal= 19%                      UK % Fatal=57%
               Heart Death    UK 19.5% higher than US

Canada has 1/3 fewer doctors than the OECD average.  You must wait an average of 17.3 weeks in Canada before you can see a specialist.  9.7 weeks for an MRI and 36.7 weeks (9 months) to visit an orthopedic surgeon.  Often Canadians will journey south of the border and pay cash rather than wait for their “free” homegrown healthcare.
And it’s really not free.  There are fees and, of course, taxes are high.  British Columbia spends 40% of its budget on health care demonstrating once again that the economic laws cannot be contested, this one being:  “When something is free, there is never enough of it.”  Financial pressure on the system in Canada has brought on cuts in housekeeping staff and increase nursing workload.  That and aging infrastructure has resulted in an increasing number of hospital-acquired infections (MRSA, VRE and C. difficile) killing hundreds.
Then too, there’s always the question of how the money is being spent.  Anything run by the government tends to get bureaucratic and top heavy with administrators.  The UK public health system, for example, has more bureaucrats than doctors.

Canadian hospitals spend a much larger percentage of their budgets on administrators than do their American counterparts.  ObamaCare has mandated whole new bureaucracies by the hundreds.

The flaws in the US healthcare system can easily be improved and corrected by some simple changes.  I have written about these in detail in the past.  That seems a much preferable solution than tossing out the entire system in favor of the single payer model with its demonstrable failures.

But, the political left instinctively favors the government solution and they refuse to learn from experience or accept facts that conflict with their group dogma.  They believe that once adopted that “free healthcare” will become another “third rail” of untouchable government largess and help keep the most generous party (them) in power.  How’s that generosity working out for European socialist economies right now?

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