Your Turn: Give us real data, not rhetoric, on health care

During her recent announcement of candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Susan Wagle stated that “Socialized medicine, which leads to long waits, poor care, lack of choice and health care rationing, is never the answer.” I would like to know how she supports those claims about this very important issue, as most of the evidence I can find points to quite the opposite.

Universal health care, which generally means some degree of government control, is the answer in every wealthy, industrialized nation other than our own. I could find no significant interest by any of the citizens of these other countries for repealing these plans or any interest in changing to a private industry controlled system like our own.

Although there are longer wait times (average 8%) for elective and nonemergency appointments, emergencies are handled efficiently (perhaps more so than our own due to decreased administrative hurdles). Taking into consideration the 28 million uninsured people in the United States, many of whom can only access emergency care due financial concerns, that 8% does not seem terribly prohibitive.

As for quality of care, a 2018 study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund compared health care in 11 wealthy nations. We scored last in “health care outcomes” and “health care access.” Another study showed infant mortality rates in the U.S. are higher by far than other nations, ranking 12 out of the 12 wealthy countries compared. If you compare all nations, our average life expectancy is also lower. We come in at No. 31, right below Cyprus and Chile.

I am not sure what Wagle means when referring to lack of choice. Perhaps the right to choose which private insurer determines what health care we receive for how much money, or whether we can afford insurance at all, versus everyone receiving straightforward care without frustrating paperwork and hours spent on the phone trying to find out what is and isn’t covered, or trying to get an explanation for denied coverage.

Health care is definitely rationed in the U.S., based on one’s ability to pay. Who receives care, who lives, who dies is often dependent on one’s ability to purchase a “quality” health care plan.

The U.S. spends considerably more per capita than most other countries, 28% more than Switzerland and more than double that of France, Canada, Belgium, Australia, Japan and the U.K.

Two-thirds of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to health care costs, a situation unique to the United States. Meanwhile, insurance profits are booming. The top eight insurers earned $3.3 billion in the third quarter of 2018 alone. The average insurance company CEO made $18 million annually, while ordinary citizens forgo medications they cannot afford.

It seems to me there is pretty strong evidence that we are paying more for less quality, with more inefficiency, more frustration, more paperwork. Meanwhile, CEOs and insurance corporations are amassing significant wealth, while leaving many of our citizens un- or under-insured. Many people are unable to consider career changes or retirement based solely on health care insecurity. The pharmaceutical / health care lobbies spend more than any other lobbies, over $4 billion last year, with the primary goal of defeating any government health care plans.

If you are not just playing into their hands, Ms. Wagle, by spreading misinformation, then please explain the above statements with facts and data, not rhetoric. Your potential constituents deserve real information.

— Christi J. Jarrett is a Lawrence veterinarian.


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