Letters to the Editor

Comparing plans

March 24, 2009

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To the editor:

In his March 8 letter, Stephen Crockett asks, “Why can’t we have that kind of affordable care (meaning Canadian) here in the USA?” The answer is that Crockett’s father paid a low cost because of the tax dollars of the Canadians, not because their system is so much better.

Perhaps we should look at the British model. According to Investors Business Daily, drugs like Lapatinib (which slows breast cancer) and Tarceva (which has been proven to extend lives of lung cancer patients) have been banned by Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. We’ve had angioplasties in the U.S. for almost 20 years. The British government introduced it last year. Why? It was too expensive, despite their enormous taxes.

OK, so what about Sweden? The service isn’t much better, and even if you can afford to pay for these expensive drugs yourself, that’s illegal too. According to an article from Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the bureaucrats in Sweden feel that “would set a bad precedent and lead to unequal access to medicine.” There we go. It doesn’t matter if you’re hard working and thrifty, or lazy and wasteful. Your health shall be treated equally. That’s fairness for you.

The fact is that a government isn’t going to make the best choices for what patients require. The escalating cost of health care in the U.S. is a real problem. But unfortunately, replacing our system with a model from Europe or even Canada will only replace current problems with new ones.

Isaac McPheeters,
Lawrence

Comments

Left_handed 6 years ago

My 82 year old mother has a former Canadian doctor (she lives in Oklahoma City). He said that he left Kanuckistan because his older patients were dying off while they were waiting for tests and other procedures. The Canadian medical system is not the panacea that these hope and change Obama Kool-Aid drinkers would like to say that it is.

Chris Ogle 6 years ago

Hi Liberty.... Merrill will be here before you know it.... his mouse is sleeping....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"Perhaps we should look at the British model. According to Investors Business Daily, drugs like Lapatinib (which slows breast cancer) and Tarceva"

Do we know why these medications are banned? Isaac doesn't tell us-- probably because he doesn't know. And should cost be considered? Doctors here regularly prescribe expensive new medications, at the urging of the pharmaceutical companies who make them, despite the fact that there are older drugs that are cheaper which are just effective, and whose safety and contraindications are well known.

"We’ve had angioplasties in the U.S. for almost 20 years. The British government introduced it last year."

Source? But while we're talking about angioplasties, the latest research indicates that a very high percentage of those who get this treatment here don't get any real benefit from it. So why are so many performed? Primarily because it's so profitable, but it's also because we've set up so many facilities to perform this procedure, and the hospitals who have made such a huge investment need to get a return. If you buy a really expensive hammer, you're going to be inclined to look for a lot of nails.

"It was too expensive, despite their enormous taxes."

Are their taxes higher? Yes. But this is very disingenuous if you don't also include the fact that they also don't have the ridiculously high insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays we have here. When you add it all up, they pay much less for healthcare than we do, and the access to and level and quality of care is NOT appreciably different.

" OK, so what about Sweden? The service isn’t much better, and even if you can afford to pay for these expensive drugs yourself, that’s illegal too. "

No better? Better than what? By what criteria? Which drugs are you referring to? Was expense the only consideration?

Sorry Isaac, but this is just sloppy. It does nothing to further the discussion.

jafs 6 years ago

Perhaps the Canadian system also reduces costs.

I seriously doubt that your somewhat Libertarian free-market views are the ones responsible for lower health-care costs in Canada.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years ago

My friend is a physician at the University of Washington hosptial. She constantly treats Canadian citizens who's illnesses simply will not allow them to wait for their government's health care system to actually work.

Good gosh, people! No government health care!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"She constantly treats Canadian citizens who's illnesses simply will not allow them to wait for their government's health care system to actually work."

Constantly? Really? And what is her field? What conditions do these patients have?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"Certainly, but I think as some of the other comments illustrate, they reduce costs by delaying or denying coverage."

This is a common practice here, as well. And from what I've read, most of the delays there are for either elective procedures or when the condition is non-life-threatening. Here, if you've don't have the money, elective procedures are not available at all, and your income level also is the major determinant in how fast you receive treatment for non-life-threatening conditions.

"As of now, the FDA does not allow these imports, ostensibly because they aren't safe, but in truth because American pharacuetical companies demand this sort of protectionist regulation."

Prices for drugs in the US are jacked up in many ways. Eliminate those, and we wouldn't even need to import Canadian drugs.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Win-Win : Healthcare-NOW! Win-Win Campaign. HR 676: Healthcare Savings for Healthier Cities. We want YOU for a new campaign targeting local government entities – cities, towns, ... www.healthcare-now.org/campaigns/win-... ============================================== All taxpayers need coverage, taxpayers need relief and big time reduction in cost.

HR 676 is the only equitable approach that includes all of us.

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, and long term care.

A family of four making the median income of $56,200 would pay about $2,700 in payroll tax for all health care costs.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years ago

She specializes in pulmonary disease, bozo. She consults or treats one or more Canadians weekly. Don't pretend this exodus to the quality care here in the States doesn't happen constantly.

I guess I'd counsel you with this. It's all right if you just admit that your desire for socialized medicine is less about quality healthcare alternatives and more about your wish to make as many voters dependent upon the government as possible.

When the people need government for everything, their pretty easy to lead, aren't they?

Isaac McPheeters 6 years ago

Bozo,

Due to word count, I only included the specific sources. You can look up the history of angioplasty easily.

You also say the quality of care is not appreciably different. Really? What about access to dialysis? What about quality of surgeries?

When I say better, I mean better than what's mentioned in the previous paragraph (i.e. British Healthcare). And as to them being banned, yes, cost was the reason. The government can only pay for so much. And even if you work hard, you aren't allowed to pay for it yourself.

There's a lot of information out there. I quote from an article from the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. If you would like it in full, here it is. Read about the quality of Sweden's healthcare.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6878/is_1_13/ai_n28501064

Confrontation 6 years ago

I have 10 friends from Canada who have at least 25 grandparents who flew to the U.S. for treatment. No, wait, that's 25 friends who had 10 grandparents who flew to the U.S. to have treatment by one of 8 doctors that I know who came from Canada because they wanted to get rich by overcharging just like American docs. Yeah, and maple syrup can cure anything.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

"Richard 'Give me all your money' Heckler (Anonymous) babbled (again)… Win-Win : Healthcare-NOW! Win-Win Campaign. HR 676: Healthcare Savings for Healthier Cities. We want YOU for a new campaign targeting local government entities – cities, towns, …"

Three hours from the first post to Richard's Asperger Syndrome-ish spam. He's slipping.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"Due to word count, I only included the specific sources. You can look up the history of angioplasty easily."

Well, Isaac, there isn't a similar word count limit here, so I'm wondering why you still don't list your source-- I spent a little time looking and didn't find it. Doesn't mean it's not there, but if you have source, why not provide it?

I went to your link--

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6878/is_1_13/ai_n28501064

which began with this strawman argument--

"You cannot buy anew Lexus for $20,000. Small budgets cannot buy first-class medical care either. Yet one of the most persistent arguments for single-payer health insurance is that it will somehow give everyone gold-plated care at little or no cost."

No one is making any such argument. The most common contention is that more people could be given better access to decent healthcare at considerably lower cost, and the simple fact is that single-payer and other national healthcare plans throughout the world do exactly that.

Your article proceeded with nothing but anecdotal evidence that the system in Sweden isn't perfect. But no system is. There is absolutely no shortage of horror stories about the US system, and statistically speaking, there are many more to be found here than in any other industrialized democracy in the world, despite the fact that we throw twice as much money at it as anybody else does.

Isaac McPheeters 6 years ago

"I have 10 friends from Canada who have at least 25 grandparents who flew to the U.S. for treatment. No, wait, that's 25 friends who had 10 grandparents who flew to the U.S. to have treatment by one of 8 doctors that I know who came from Canada because they wanted to get rich by overcharging just like American docs. Yeah, and maple syrup can cure anything."

And Confrontation sums up a lot of the problem. Health care in Canada is lacking, and people come here. Here, we have great health care, but it's too expensive. My letter doesn't offer a solution, but it does point towards the dangerous roads we don't want to take.

Although to be fair to American doctors, one of the reasons their salaries are so high is because of malpractice insurance. So one of the causes of high cost is the risk of getting sued. How do we fix that? I'm not sure. It seems that more of it stems from a victim mentality that people have today where they sue over small things. That's not something any government can just fix.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"And Confrontation sums up a lot of the problem. Health care in Canada is lacking, and people come here. "

I think Confrontation was being sarcastic. Lots of Americans go abroad for healthcare, including to Canada. Do you take that as proof that the Canadian system is better than ours?

"Although to be fair to American doctors, one of the reasons their salaries are so high is because of malpractice insurance. So one of the causes of high cost is the risk of getting sued."

Malpractice payouts account for only 2% of overall medical expenditures. The main reason for high malpractice rates is that insurance companies have been using that money to finance their bets on all the stupid investments that have been crashing all around us.

kmat 6 years ago

STRS - explain to me why my father had to fight to be covered to have a heart monitor used for 24 hours and then have 6 stints and a pace maker put in? He's 76 and had blocked arteries and an irregular heartbeat. He has insurance and medicare. Once he won the battle, he had a heart attack while wearing the monitor.

So, explain to me how we have such great health care and don't have to fight to get treatment, tests and drugs??? While the insurance company was fighting it, he could have died of a heart attack. He really needs a bypass surgery, but they won't cover that because he has alzheimers. He is only early stages and could live for quite some time. But the insurance company decided that he shouldn't get to live too long and could just have stints and a pace maker.

Great health care here in the USA.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years ago

kmat,

Because in America we're free. You're free to pay for the healthcare you want. You're also free to purchase the health insurance policy that covers more of the procedures you want covered.

And I'm free not to pay for your care through you taking my income. Sound good?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"He really needs a bypass surgery, but they won't cover that because he has alzheimers. He is only early stages and could live for quite some time."

I'm sorry to hear about your father's difficulties, kmat. We should be able to do better.

Still, no matter what sort of system we have, there has to be some amount of rationing done. We'll never have the resources to make the most advanced and expensive treatments available to all people, regardless of their age or likelihood of survival.

Has the right choice been made in your father's case? I'm not qualified to say, but what I do know is that it shouldn't be based primarily on what's best for his insurance company's quarterly profit/loss statement.

jafs 6 years ago

I trust that all of you who are so opposed to any kind of a national health insurance plan on the basis of "I don't want to pay for your care" are equally opposed to all subsidies and most taxes?

And government bailouts, of course.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years ago

jafs,

I am opposed to bailouts. I also believe all levels of government could fuction in a manner consistent with the Constitution with 40% less of the current rake. I don't know what you mean by subsidies, but if you mean government programs which turn free people into wards of the State, then I am opposed to most subsidies.

average 6 years ago

Even on the malpractice/lawsuit situation, it's usually the insurance companies instigating the suits. The John Edwards style ambulance chasers make the news, but it's far more often an insurance company trying to avoid paying bills by trying to assign blame to some other doctor down the line.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

"HR 676 is the only equitable approach that includes all of us."

Would it be so. As costs go up governments start to ration care. Look back on the British model. It started out with great promise and got real expensive as people started to do what we desire - they used it.

VA, TRICARE, Medicaid, et al are all rationed either directly or indirectly. More inportantly, if you are important you get to go to the head of the line because politicians can make it happen. Harder in our current system.

There is no way I know to make politicians keep their promise. If we go to a single payer government system, quality and timeliness will suffer - and so will we!!!

Just why is our system so expensive? Greed? Responsiveness? Quality? Timeliness? Anybody really know?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"va, tricare, Medicaid, et al are all rationed either directly or indirectly."

So is the rest of our system.

"More inportantly, if you are important you get to go to the head of the line because politicians can make it happen. Harder in our current system."

The Congress has the absolute best healthcare plan. They are most certainly at the head of the line.

"Just why is our system so expensive?"

It's primary purpose is to deliver profits, not healthcare. And it succeeds fabulously.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Health Care Is a Human Right!

A law has been introduced into Congress that would give everyone the right to see the doctor or dentist of their choice when needed and without any payment. That proposed law, HR 676, national single payer health care, had 93 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives in the 110th Congress.

We can make healthcare a right for everyone in the USA by passing HR 676. It would be publicly funded, similar to Medicare. It would cover all necessary care including dental, vision, doctor, hospital, nursing home, mental health, home health, hearing aids, prescription drugs, etc.

This law is strongly opposed by the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies who make billions through high premiums and prices and denial of care. We must speak out so that our voices are stronger than the political influence the big corporations can buy.

“We the people” have to organize to make democracy work!

Bring Health Care to All! Pass HR 676.

Call or write your US Representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor and pass HR 676.

Call or write your Senators and urge them to introduce HR 676 in the Senate.

Other things you can do:

Learn about HR 676, national single payer health care:

p>www.pnhp.org or

http://unionsforsinglepayer.org/ , or

p>www.healthcare-NOW.org .

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years ago

My right to freedom from Merrill's utopian healthcare debacle trumps his invented "right."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

When do we get our freedom from your very real healthcare debacle, STRS?

deskboy04 6 years ago

Socialized medicine causes right wing backlash.

Jim Phillips 6 years ago

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says… ...Do we know why these medications are banned? ...Source?"

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says… ...Constantly? Really? And what is her field? What conditions do these patients have?"

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says… ...Well, Isaac, there isn't a similar word count limit here, so I'm wondering why you still don't list your source"

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says… ...Lots of Americans go abroad for healthcare, including to Canada. Do you take that as proof that the Canadian system is better than ours? ...Malpractice payouts account for only 2% of overall medical expenditures. The main reason for high malpractice rates is that insurance companies have been using that money to finance their bets on all the stupid investments that have been crashing all around us."

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says… ...It's primary purpose is to deliver profits, not healthcare. And it succeeds fabulously."

I didn't see the documentation for your claims. Do you have sources for these statements or is it good because King Barack I says it is?

Brent Garner 6 years ago

The reason health care costs continue to rise is because of constraints on supply. In a market economy price tells producers that there is either rising or falling demand for their product/service. If prices rise, producers will produce more, if possible, in order to meet demand. IF THAT is not happening then there is something constraining the ability to do so. One of those constraints is the the Federal government. The single largest consumer/payor of health care is the Federal Government. Between Medicare, Medicaid, and all the federal employees, the Feds consume the most health care dollars. They also, through Congress, have the unique ability to arbitrarily tell the producer how much they are willing to pay for each and every service. As a consequence, the government essentially caps prices(price controls) which any economist will tell you forces costs to rise to the maximum allowed. Price controls do not limit cost, they exacerbate it. How? First, prices rise to the maximum. Then, as demand continues to outstrip supply, the producers start pulling back the supply because they are not being properly compensated for their efforts. This increases the disparity between supply and demand and ultimately forces a slow ratchet up as the government is forced to slowly relent. If you doubt this go look at the history of Medicare. Each and every year Congress raises the deductible and increases the premium. Evidence of what I just wrote. The solution is to end the constraints and allow true market forces to work. But I won't hold my breath for that to happen.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

"Richard 'CutnPaste' Heckler (Anonymous) says… Health Care Is a Human Right!"

If your health care is government subsidized, does that mean you will be able to afford your medication and we'll all be spared your OCD cut-and-paste outbursts?

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