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