Tale of 2 healthcares: Ours vs. rest of world’s

My purpose in writing my first response was to clarify the healthcare situation in the U.S. I tried to present the difficulties and challenges in both a private and public healthcare system, and I will do so again with reputable sources.

I’m not exactly sure how to begin to respond to the ramblings presented about “Best healthcare” so I will just start with the broadest picture.

The U.S. Constitution is written to limit what freedoms the federal government is allowed to take away from us (negative liberties). It is not defined by one phrase of “general welfare.”

One of the limits the Constitution is it allows the government to take our money in the form of taxes. The ACA/Obamacare was ruled constitutional because it is a TAX.

As far as costs are concerned, 6 million middle-class Americans will see an average tax INCREASE for their own healthcare costs come 2016 due to Obamacare (Associate Press, Sept 2012).

The “Commonwealth Fund” and a summary publication are cited as the source for most of the assertion that healthcare in the U.S. is lagging behind other countries. The organization’s writer asserts that in 2010, “4 out of 10 adults went without care because of costs.”

First and foremost, we must use common sense to evaluate any presented facts. Does 40 percent seem right? That includes all Americans — Medicare, Medicaid, private, and uninsured. How can that be?

Then we must look at who is running such an organization. The current president of the Commonwealth Fund is Karen Davis, who had served as Jimmy Carter’s undersecretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and has written editorials supporting universal healthcare for all before ACA/Obamacare was even passed.

The new president-elect is Dr. David Blumenthal. He is currently serving as technology director for HHS under President Obama. With this leadership can we truly believe this is a reputable, unbiased source?

The fact is that in every nation with socialized medicine, patient care is worse. It could be cancer survival, wait times for elective procedures, or ability to choose your doctor/hospital.

In the U.S. we are blessed with a diversity of people and geographies, both of which present challenges. If we compare apples to apples, the U.S. comes out on top.

For instance, comparing the country of Finland to the state of Minnesota (both have similar ethnic make-ups, population density, etc), the U.S. comes out ahead in mortality related to healthcare treatments.

The same is true when comparing Michigan to the Lorraine area of France (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Aug 2011).

When we look at America in all its wonderful diversity, we must account for the fact that different ethnicities have different healthcare challenges.

We know that the rate of diabetes and high blood pressure is higher among Hispanics and African-Americans. These conditions lead to more complications that can cause hospitalizations and surgeries for conditions such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and of course diabetic amputations.

Clearly these will affect any statistical comparison with the European countries with 92+ percent white populations.

Concerning cancer-related deaths, we see the U.S. comes out ahead in nearly all areas (which was correctly mentioned last week). If you would like to reference this, look at the Concord study in the Lancet Oncology medical journal (Lancet Oncology, August 2008).

To really get the grip of these numbers we must personalize them, however. In England (not Canada), breast cancer survival is 10 percent less than here in the U.S.

Think of every breast cancer survivor you know. One out of ten would have died if they were diagnosed in England. That is horrible. The results are similar for colon cancer (with about a 7 percent difference).

Please note again these numbers are BEFORE the financial crisis. England had large cuts and began rationing care in 2010 (The Telegraph, July 2010), and Ireland is set to cut 5 percent from its budget (Irish Times, January 2012).

In Canada, we see longer wait times. In order to make the statistic look better, the Canadian health service has set limits for “benchmark care” to six months for service for hip replacement and even cardiac bypass surgery (CBC News, June 2012)!

Locally, in the U.S., the same procedures are done within one month’s time (and bypass surgeries are typically scheduled within the same week as diagnosis in the catheter lab).

Our experiments in socialized medicine aren’t going well here either. Medicare will go bankrupt in 2024, according to Medicare itself (Medicare trustee board, 2012) and fewer doctors are accepting new Medicare patients.

Medicaid payments exceed the 20 percent mark of the entire state budget. In Massachusetts, the legislature just cut in spending for “Romneycare,” the model for Obamacare, by $200 billion dollars over 15 years (New York Times, July 2012).

In all cases socialized medicine is failing in both cost control and health benefits. Does anyone think you can make necessary monetary cuts and patient care not be affected even more?

It is often presented that U.S. healthcare is lagging. If that’s true, we must ask ourselves why people who have the means travel across the globe to get their care here.

In fact, the Newfoundland premier, Danny Williams, had his cardiac bypass surgery here in the U.S. two years ago.(CBC News, February 2010). Top university hospitals like Emory, John’s Hopkins, University of Miami, MD Anderson, etc. have entire wings of their facility to accommodate foreign dignitaries. Using common sense, we cannot believe a private healthcare system is worse.

We know our current private system does have problems for about 7 percent of adults in the country, but they will still get the care they need.

We know we can have problems with big insurance companies, but we can change policies or sue if we have to. We know it is expensive, but its costs are comparable to socialized system when benefits/retirement for socialized workers are included in the calculations.

In 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services will have the ultimate decision of what health services are covered, and we will be fully socialized. You cannot choose who to help or how to spend your money in a socialized system and you surely cannot sue the federal government for denying treatment.

I have cited as much pure research as I could and I have used truly reputable and verifiable direct reporting, not biased summaries.

We have to know what we are getting into as we proceed into the next election. You have two presentations of “the facts.” I once again challenge you to research and decide. Our lives depend on everyone being informed.

Anthony F. Lawson, M.D.

Fayetteville, Ga.

[Dr. Lawson is associated with Starr’s Mill Internal Medicine located on Ga. Highway 74 just south of Peachtree City.]

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