from The New York Times:
Being without health insurance is no big deal. Just ask President Bush. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said last week. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”Why do we continue to allow a for-profit system to determine who gets quality of life improving or even life saving drugs, surgeries, etc.? Why do we leave it up to callous corporations to determine who lives and who dies? Why do we make our doctors jump through extra hoops, instead of just treating us with all necessary care?
This is what you might call callousness with consequences. The White House has announced that Mr. Bush will veto a bipartisan plan that would extend health insurance, and with it such essentials as regular checkups and preventive medical care, to an estimated 4.1 million currently uninsured children. After all, it’s not as if those kids really need insurance - they can just go to emergency rooms, right?
A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: “In reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American people are already waiting as long or longer than patients living with universal health-care systems.”
A cross-national survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that America ranks near the bottom among advanced countries in terms of how hard it is to get medical attention on short notice (although Canada was slightly worse), and that America is the worst place in the advanced world if you need care after hours or on a weekend.
Besides, not all medical delays are created equal. In Canada and Britain, delays are caused by doctors trying to devote limited medical resources to the most urgent cases. In the United States, they’re often caused by insurance companies trying to save money.
This can lead to ordeals like the one recently described by Mark Kleiman, a professor at U.C.L.A., who nearly died of cancer because his insurer kept delaying approval for a necessary biopsy. “It was only later,” writes Mr. Kleiman on his blog, “that I discovered why the insurance company was stalling; I had an option, which I didn’t know I had, to avoid all the approvals by going to ‘Tier II,’ which would have meant higher co-payments.”
He adds, “I don’t know how many people my insurance company waited to death that year, but I’m certain the number wasn’t zero.”
On the other hand, it’s true that Americans get hip replacements faster than Canadians. But there’s a funny thing about that example, which is used constantly as an argument for the superiority of private health insurance over a government-run system: the large majority of hip replacements in the United States are paid for by, um, Medicare.
That’s right: the hip-replacement gap is actually a comparison of two government health insurance systems. American Medicare has shorter waits than Canadian Medicare (yes, that’s what they call their system) because it has more lavish funding - end of story. The alleged virtues of private insurance have nothing to do with it.
The bottom line is that the opponents of universal health care appear to have run out of honest arguments. All they have left are fantasies: horror fiction about health care in other countries, and fairy tales about health care here in America.
Powered by ScribeFire.