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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Health Care Reform

With all the talk the H1N1 virus, the issue of health care reform has popped up again. I agree we do need to reform the health care costs but a single-payer, government run health care plan is not the answer.

Let’s review what a nationalized, government run health care system will look like. Let’s say you have back problems. Currently you arrange an appointment with your doctor and after discussion, your doctor says you need surgery so you schedule it within a 4-6 week period. With nationalized health care, you may have to wait up to 2 years before you can get that same surgery. Let’s say your 90 year-old grandma needs her pacemaker replaced. Under the current system, she would have no problem going to the hospital and getting the pacemaker replaced. Under a nationalized health care system, the government would tell her “I’m sorry but you’re too old and this procedure is a waste of time and money so enjoy the time you have left” (Nice uh). Let’s say you were recently diagnosed with breast cancer. In our current system, the doctor would throw everything including the kitchen sink to treat your cancer. In Britain (where they have nationalized health care), they recently refused medication to some women, why? Because the cancer was to far gone and they had little chance of surviving. Is this what we want?

In researching this topic, I went to one of my favorite websites and came across an article about health care policies. We always seem to bring up Canada and Britain as examples of nationalized health care systems that don’t work. This article discusses a health care system that works and is not nationalized. The country where this system is enacted is Singapore. While we spend a robust 15.4% of our GDP goes to healthcare (the highest in the world), Singapore spends a tiny 3.7% of their GDP. The article written by Robert Herbold, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, states that it is stupid for the liberals to throw $634 billion plus for health care when we don’t know whether it will work or not. He argues that we should get spending under control before borrowing more money from the Chinese or taxing the rich. Here’s how it works: “Singapore has a very unique system that requires the individual to be responsible for his or her own health; even more importantly, it makes people responsible for managing the spending associated with their medical care. Singaporeans participate in a mandatory savings program that sets up a "Medisave" account for each individual. The individual is required to pay a small percentage of his or her income each month into that account, and employers also make a contribution. For individuals who are unemployed, there is a government subsidy. Singaporeans also engage in a "Medishield" program, which is a national catastrophic illness insurance plan. Premiums for the Medishield program are small, because it is government subsidized; as a result, the premiums are paid for out of an individual's Medisave account…When individuals in Singapore feel the need to go to a physician, they select the doctor based on the quality of the care they believe they will get and the cost associated with going to that physician…Individuals select carefully since it's their Medisave account money that's used to pay for the chosen physician…These accounts grow steadily over time because the government invests these funds for the individual in a safe and modestly performing investment fund…the money is not the government's. It's the individual's money and, at retirement age, people actually have access to these funds. That's why individuals use the funds wisely. As Congress takes up healthcare reform…it's essential that members of the House and Senate go slow and hold back on writing another big check for a bloated and ineffective government program that probably won't improve the quality of life for our citizens.”

In contrast, the Obama administration is doing everything possible to not only save money but control your doctor’s decisions. The doctor’s Hippocratic Oath states that they are “to use their power to help the patient to the best of their ability and judgment as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost of effects on others.” This is of course what we want doctors to do but if the Obama administration has its way, forget it. Ezekile Emanuel, policy advisor in the Office of Management and Budget (and brother of Rahm Emanuel) thanks that the use of the hippocratic oath is a factor driving “overuse” of medical care. Included in the stimulus bill which no one read, was a goal that “every individual’s treatments will be recorded by computer, and your doctor will be guided by electronically delivered protocols on appropriate and cost-effective care.” Yikes! The national coordinator of health information technology, Dr. David Blumenthal, actually favors limits on how much health care we can receive. He states that “government controls are a proven strategy for controlling health care expenditures.” The disadvantage he contends is “longer waits for elective procedures and reduced availability of new and expensive treatments and devices.” You think! Blumenthal does admit that there are problems ahead. “If electronic health records are to save money, doctors will have to take advantage of embedded clinical decision support (a euphemism for computers instructions doctors what to do). If requirements are set too high, many physicians and hospitals will rebel – petitioning Congress to change the law or just resigning themselves to accept penalties.”

While the use of electronic records might be save time and money, many people did not foresee that it would also be putting bureaucrats in charge of their health care.

Let's hope that those supporters of a “single-payer, government run health care system” who try and get medical care for themselves or family members will change their minds.

1 comment:

  1. The idea of "free" healthcare appeals to the masses who do not want to be bothered with the details or considering the ramifications you mentioned.