Thursday, July 5th, 2007
To the editor:
Canadian Lindsay McCreith doesn’t think too highly of Canada’s “universal” health care system that many presidential candidates want to emulate. He would have had to wait for four months just to get an MRI, then months more to see a neurologist for his malignant brain tumor. He had no choice but to visit a Buffalo, N.Y. hospital for lifesaving surgery. Now he's suing for the right to opt out of Canada's government-run health care, which he considers dangerous. He’s not alone. Long delays for critical surgery are common, and in hospitals one in ten patients wait more than a dozen hours for treatment. The Wall Street Journal notes that a, “Canadian government study recently found that only about half of patients are treated in a timely manner, as defined by local medical and hospital associations.”
In his anti-American care film “Sicko,” Michael Moore declares we could learn from Cuba’s universal health care system under Fidel Castro. What does Castro himself think about his miracle system? During his time of critical illness, he turned not to his own socialized doctors, but instead brought in capitalist doctors and equipment from Spain. Accordingly, Madrid’s regional president scoffed at Castro’s hypocrisy and failed socialist system.
Perhaps the most well known proposal in America is Senator Clinton’s “HillaryCare.” It depicts the current system—correctly—as being broken. A current system featuring a myriad of federal and state regulations that drive up costs, a tax code that provides few options in employer-provided coverage, and no room for individual coverage competition. However, she doesn’t advocate positive reforms such as less government regulation and more viable options for individual choice, perhaps through measures such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) or tax breaks to make private coverage more affordable to low-income citizens. Instead, she proposes that governmental bureaucracy handle all of it through a single-payer, taxpayer-funded format. Uninsured Americans are depicted as lost and forgotten—supposedly forty six million of them.
In fact, David Gratzer, M.D., a physician licensed both in Canada and the United States and fellow at the Manhattan Institute, paints a different picture. Dr. Gratzer explains that in a 2003 report, a third of the uninsured have family incomes of more than $50,000 a year, and for 16% of the uninsured, incomes exceed $75,000 a year. A Health Affairs study of non-poor uninsured Californians pegs their average annual health spending at $200 per person. Many people have done the math and decided not to pay for the coverage. Additionally, one third of the remaining Americans qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and another third are without coverage for extremely brief periods, usually less than a few months. While approximately six million Americans slip through the cracks, it’s a far cry from forty six million.
Reform should be focused on providing maximum liberty, promoting the autonomy of individuals, and create more options to increase viable health care choices. The classic economist Adam Smith was correct in asserting, “Every man…is first and principally recommended to his own care; and every man is certainly, in every respect, fitter and abler to take care of himself than of any other person.”