I've been reading reviews of Michael Moore's new film, "Sicko", which extols the virtues of a universal health care system, funded and run by the government.
The best of the reviews comes from Helen Evans, director of Nurses for Reform, a pan-European network of nurses dedicated to consumer-oriented reform of European health-care systems, and can be found in the Chicago Tribune
. Another good, though not online review was in the News Sun, a local affiliate of the Chicago Sun Times.
Evans, and the News Sun critic both point out the missing pieces of Moore's film, the waiting lists in virtually every country with a nationalized health care system and the lack of many modern treatments and drugs available here.
Need an MRI in Canada, it's about 6 months. If you are too large, or claustrophobic for a standard machine, they have TWO open MRI systems now operating in the country (I know of 6 in the county I live in). Want to get some Aricept to help your father combat his Alzheimer's? Well, if you live in Britain, sorry, it's not an approved drug due to the cost.
As Evans points out, Britain has been loosening the reigns of government control on it's health care system because it's one of the worst in the industrialized world. Patients die after waiting days for "emergency" surgery in the NHS hospitals, or wait years for treatments that are routine in the US.
The other thing Moore misses is cost, which shouldn't be hard to figure, we spend $350 billion a year on Medicare and Medicaid. To think that somehow we'll increase the federal health rolls by over 1000 percent and not raise costs accordingly is foolish. The idea that Moore floats that "universal care" is free is a joke anyway, ask anyone in Europe or Canada paying a VAT or GST to cover it if that tax is "free".
As an example of the cost, Wisconsin's State Senate just passed a universal health care bill
that would cost about 15.2 BILLION per year to cover about 5 million people. Using that rate as an example, a federal system to cover 350 million would then be about 1 TRILLION dollars a year
! That equates to a 25% increase in federal spending per year (if you subtract Medicare/Medicaid's budgets) to fund the program.
The idea in Wisconsin is that by covering everyone medical costs will go down, since there will be less sick people. The problem with the idea is that it hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried, they still go up, it just comes out of your pocket in a different way.
The second problem with the Wisconsin model, and most of the one's floated by presidential candidates is that they attract people, but not the businesses they want to
tax to fund them. While such a plan may attract a lot of new residents, it will drive away a lot of existing businesses, leaving those that remain to try and pick up the cost. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how long they'll stick around.
Keep this quote from Helen Evans in mind when you are thinking that Universal Care is going to bring utopia to medicine:
"... the British government has found it hard to cover its expensive obligations. So in addition to waiting lists, substandard care and increased outsourcing, the government has adopted outright rationing to control costs."
When your kid has leukemia, what you want to hear is what treatment is available, not which one's aren't too expensive, to cure them. When your wife has breast cancer you don't want to be told that Herceptin costs too much, and a masectomy will have to do. But if you live in Britain those are the answers.
There is one positive thing that Moore probably sees in the British system, it allows for the owning of private insurance, and operation of private hospitals. So rich guys like him don't have to worry about those pesky lines and rationed drugs. That option is coming soon to Canada, too, as they've had their system declared unconstitution for restricting private insurance. Still want Universal Care?
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, Michael Moore
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