Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Battered, Not Broken

The March 24, 2008 Colorado Springs Gazette has printed a good editorial on the current health care "crisis":
Battered, not broken
Health system doesn't need more government

As was expected after Sen. John McCain locked up the Republican presidential nomination, media attention has shifted to the Democrats. Recent coverage has focused on whether Florida and Michigan would have new Democratic primaries, Sen. Barack Obama's troubles with his racist minister and the release of Sen. Hillary Clinton's White House papers. It's difficult to remember back to the days of the debates, when commentators would spend hours examining every little difference in the candidates' health care plans. Those plans might not be the lead story in the paper every day, but it's important voters don't forget they're out there.

Both Democratic candidates insist our health care system is broken and a little tinkering around the edges isn't going to bring about the necessary changes. Not surprising, each has a plan to revamp major portions of the U.S. system in an effort ensure every American has health care.

Neither candidate is proposing a National Health Service similar to what England has. That's good, because that system might make health care available to all in theory, but the reality is much different. All Britons are covered by the system, but getting in to see the doctor can mean waiting in line - for weeks. And rationing care is common, according to a Cato Institute policy analysis.

Those with serious conditions and those with diseases that are costly to treat are often shunted aside because of a lack of resources. The Cato analysis cites a London Observer report that said many colon cancer patients (almost 20 percent) who were considered treatable when diagnosed were forced to wait so long for treatment that by the time it was available, their cancer had progressed to the point it was incurable. Efficient, popular hospitals are forced by the government to institute mandatory waits of up to four months so they are not swamped with patients and run out of resources too soon. Democratic candidates aren't pushing such a plan, but activists such as Michael Moore like to trumpet the British program.

What the candidates are proposing, however, is more government intrusion and control of our health care system than what we have now.

The Cato report examined health care systems around the world that have more government involvement than ours, many of which are held up as examples of what our system could be. Cato found that in nearly all cases, after many years of government mandates and control, nations are loosening the reins and allowing more types of market-based policies to address the shortfalls of their health delivery systems.

This, of course, is lost on those in this country who wish to use government to force medical providers to care for everyone. Supporters of such action often cite World Health Organization statistics that rank the United States' health system far down the list of nations. They then use these statistics to argue for more government involvement in health care because, they say, the free market has failed to provide care for everyone. A Cato briefing paper says that's not surprising.

"To use the existing WHO rankings to justify more government involvement in health care is to engage in circular reasoning because the rankings are designed in a manner that favors greater government involvement," it said in the February paper. WHO rankings include variables outside the purview of a nation's health system, so the rankings can't be taken at face value.

When high-ranking officials in foreign governments need serious medical attention, they come to the United States. Doctors from around the world come here to have access to the best medical equipment available. That's because, in spite of the problems our system does have, it's still one of the best available. Pushing it toward more government involvement won't improve the situation. What we need is less government, not more.
I'm glad the Colorado Springs Gazette is injecting some common sense into the health care debate!