To im­prove U.S. health care, look to the Cana­di­ans

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

By most mea­sures, we have the worst health care sys­tem in the in­dus­tri­al­ized world? If you doubt that, go talk to a Cana­dian cit­i­zen. They think we’re crazy … be­cause our health care sys­tem doesn’t cover all cit­i­zens, costs way more per capita than the Cana­dian sys­tem, pays a lot more for the ex­act same drugs, and lets peo­ple die be­cause they can­not af­ford U.S. health care. In the Cana­dian sys­tem (and ev­ery­where else in the in­dus­tri­al­ized world), if you’re sick, you go see a doc­tor. There is no baloney about in­sur­ance, de­ductibles, pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, etc.. that you get in the U.S. sys­tem. The sys­tem is run by the prov­inces, so they could opt out if they wanted to be voted out of of­fice. And as I said, cov­er­age is 100 per­cent and per capita costs are much lower than in the rick­ety U.S. sys­tem.

If a neigh­bor has a bet­ter sys­tem, we are stupid (or rather our politi­cians are) if we don’t adopt that sys­tem. But that would en­dan­ger politi­cians’ huge cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from health care “providers” and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies.

Just why is our health care sys­tem such a mess? Ba­si­cally, be­cause it de­pends on profit-driven providers who ben­e­fit from deny­ing you health care, even if you die with­out it. I am no fan of Oba­macare, but how many Repub­li­cans know that it was based on Gov. Mitt Rom­ney’s sys­tem, touted by the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion? That’s right, it was a con­ser­va­tive idea. If Oba­macare is al­lowed to fail be­cause of Repub­li­can ob­struc­tion­ism, it will be be­cause con­ser­va­tives are, at their core, hyp­ocrites. A re­cent study con­cluded that the Amer­i­can health care sys­tem is so byzan­tine that at least 25 per­cent of health care costs in the U.S. are eaten up by ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ever been to a hos­pi­tal? They try to keep track of ev­ery as­pirin they give you, and it ap­pears on your bill. No won­der ad­min­is­tra­tive costs are so high in the U.S.

All the other in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries have what is called sin­gle-payer health care. The gov­ern­ment uses cit­i­zens’ tax dol­lars (or francs, kro­ner, etc.) to pay for health care, much like Medi­care. Medi­care has much lower ad­min­is­tra­tive costs than the pri­va­tized sys­tem we’re sad­dled with. You will note that Medi­care is specif­i­cally pro­hib­ited by Congress from ne­go­ti­at­ing lower drug costs for Medi­care pa­tients. Big Pharma is get­ting what they pay for, Con­gres­sional suits with the politi­cians in­side them.

An­other fac­tor is that the U.S. has lower num­bers of physi­cians and nurses per capita than other in­dus­trial na­tions. Med­i­cal and nurs­ing schools have not ex­panded with our grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and sad­dle their students with crip­pling debt. That’s not a fea­ture of other ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems (for ex­am­ple, in Ger­many col­lege is free be­cause it’s an in­vest­ment in hu­man cap­i­tal). In ad­di­tion, there is an im­bal­ance in med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers. Spe­cial­ists make more money in the U.S. than gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers, so there is a short­age of GPs. So our health care sys­tem is a mess and we’re too stupid (or cor­rupt) to fix it.

MAL­COLM K. CLEAVELAND Fayet­teville

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