Universal Health Care

Nine Myths About Universal Health Care

Myth 1: The uninsured get no care.

Fact: Many of the uninsured could afford insurance but choose not to buy it. Hospitals and doctors frequently serve the uninsured without charge. Medicaid pays. The uninsured get care.

Myth 2: Single payer advocates know how much America’s health bill is “to take care of everybody”, and how much it will be in the future.

Fact: This figure cannot be known by any one person or entity. Planners are not omniscient. What the government would cover is not known. How demographics, health technology and politics will change is not known. Would the plan cover- • Hip replacement? Cornea transplants? Organ transplants past 80? Sex change operations are included in Brazil’s plan. Would the US plan cover them? • Dentistry? Orthodontics? Only once per lifetime? • Eyeglasses? Lost eyeglasses? • Abortion? HIV? • Stomach stapling? Weight loss drugs? • Physical Therapy? Chiropractic? • Home care provided by a family member? • Hearing aids? • School sports physicals? Boy Scout camp physicals? • Addiction treatment? Smoking cessation? • Seasonal allergy relief? • Fertility treatments and IVF? • Bicycle helmets? Medicare and Medicaid do not cover everything. For example, hearing aids are not paid for. Medicare and Medicaid constantly revise the list of covered services and drugs. “Medicare for all”, as advocates for single payer prefer their plan be known, would not supply all demands. The impression held by many supporters of social medicine is that budgets would be unlimited. Bob Putsch, a member of PNHP, Physicians for a National Health Plan, says that by reducing administrative costs, “we can take care of everybody”. The marketing slogan for PNHP is, “Everybody In. Nobody Out.” Does this sound ominously like herding people into rail cars like cattle, with no right of exit? Like captivity? Funding all health needs without exclusion will short something that tax revenues presently pay. What are single payer advocates willing to give up? National security? Schools? The real world is not static. Basing program decisions on present spending is vain.

Myth 3: The US health care system is a free market system. (And that’s why “it is so bad”.)

Fact: the US system is 60% socialized. John Nordwick, CEO of Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, stated that 60% of all medical bills are paid by government agencies; Medicare, Medicaid, Indian Health Service and the Veteran’s Administration. Bob Putsch concurred. These programs’ large presence distorts decisions and incentives, raises costs for some participants, creates billing nightmares, and creates moral hazard. 60% of our system’s problems must be attributable to socialized health care. The free market remains untried.

Myth 4: The administrative costs of dealing with private insurance and government programs are 31% of system-wide costs, money better spent on providing care.

Fact: Considerable disagreement exists about this figure. “The General Accounting Office projects an administrative savings of 10 percent” (PNHP website.) Bureaucracies such as those envisioned by a single payer plan entail significant costs. If those costs could be diverted to care, they would still fall short of matching the likely increased demand. No one knows how much, if any, administrative cost would be saved by seizing the entire US health care system.

Myth 5: The government is good at cost containment.

Fact: Government program spending escalates. Medicaid is breaking state budgets. When Medicare began in 1965 its planners estimated that in 1990 it would cost $9 billion. Instead, it cost $66 billion, seven times as much. Consider Amtrak, the United States Postal Service and military procurement. MassCare, the recently adopted Massachusetts “everybody in” plan, is over budget 85% in its very first year.

Myth 6: European social health systems are universally admired.

Fact: Citizens of countries with social medicine are not entirely satisfied. The cost of their programs swells unsustainably. The tax burden inhibits economic growth, and increases unemployment. Germany’s unemployment rate averaged 9% over a recent 9 year period; the US employment rate averaged 5% over the same 9 year period. Maurice Williams, a 55-year-old construction business owner, said he turned to an Internet company called Treatment Choices because he faced a wait in England for heart bypass surgery, which his doctor said he needed immediately to live. The company gave him a list of places where he could get the surgery right away. “I felt pretty let down,” he said while convalescing at a cardiac center in Lahr, Germany. “Living in England all those years, paying all that money into the system … Now I’m sick, knocking at death’s door, and I can’t get help.” “50,000 surgeries closed as GPs threaten to desert Germany and head for Britain, reports our correspondent THOUSANDS of German doctors threatened yesterday to desert Europe’s most modern health system and work in Britain, rather than put up with declining wages and longer hours.” People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed. More than 70 percent of German, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British adults say their health system needs either “fundamental change” or “complete rebuilding.” It is ironic that US citizens are preparing to adopt more social medicine programs while Canada and European countries are backing away due to exploding costs. But Bob Putsch asks, “Why be afraid of single payer when it works so well all over the world?” Because who wants to live in Western Europe’s moribund economies or under the heavy hand as in Cuba or North Korea?

Self-portrait of a young, obese male. Wikimedia.

Self-portrait of a young, obese male. Wikimedia.

Myth 7: US health care costs are higher than other countries’ primarily due to the administrative costs of private insurance companies.

Fact: Many differences exist between the US and other countries. The US is not Switzerland. We have large high-cost populations such as African-Americans, Native Americans and at least 13 million illegal aliens. Our citizens’ obesity radically increases costs. Our tort system forces defensive medicine, doctors performing duplicate and unnecessary tests to protect themselves from lawsuits. This adds perhaps 20%. Our pharmaceutical research benefits the whole world. European nations free-load; the US pays. The US is not like Iceland, Sweden, or Taiwan.

Myth 8: Universal coverage is universal.

Fact: Even universal coverage nations have people who lack “access” to medicine. In Brazil, health care is free, but “most of Brazil’s hospitals are considered substandard, with long waits for procedures.” I personally know a Brazilian woman who was told to wait 8 months for cancer treatment. A Sao Paulo newspaper reported that 14% of Sao Paulo residents lack access.

Myth 9: Health problems are accidental things that befall people unawares.

Fact: Most health problems are self-inflicted and predictable. When people bring upon themselves health problems, should they not pay? Why should others pay? Deepak Chopra wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and obesity account for 75% of health-care costs, and yet these are largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle.” The costs of over-eating, slothful inattention to exercise, sexual promiscuity, smoking, drinking, drug use, and partaking of high-fat and high-calorie foods, are costs that should be borne by the person himself or herself. Why should a thin exerciser have the same taxes taken out for the National Health Service as an inactive glutton that is 200 pounds overweight? Why should Coloradans, of which 16% are obese, send money to heal Mississippians, of whom 29% are obese?

Why should virgin young adults pay the same taxes as sexual profligates with Chlamydia rates eight times as high?

Proponents of a single payer system are operating under false assumptions and myths.

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