Friday, September 5, 2008

Follow Up On Universal Health Care

I decided to post a few clips from SiCKO that I found particularly moving and thought provoking. I still suggest watching the documentary in its entirety to get the full effect that moved me. I want to make it clear however that I am not an advocate of universal health care. I am simply an interested citizen, curious about what the future of health care can potentially become here in the U.S. My opinions are still undeveloped. These posts are simply thoughts to put on the table. Your feedback is very helpful if not critical to helping me see both sides and form an opinion.

Here's a doctor in London who is extremely satisfied with their system.

Here's an interesting confession .

Interesting words of Tony Benn

There's a few other concepts portrayed in Moore's film but I can't find them on youtube. One is an interview with a room of Americans living in France talking about how they almost feel guilty that they enjoy benefits (5 weeks payed vacation a year, 6mos paid maternal leave, health care, etc.) that their parents in the U.S. have worked their entire lives and have yet to attain completely.

These clips and the movie overall was persuasive, BUT it so so obviously bias that it almost makes a thinker like myself sick. It shows the worst sides of american health care and portrays a utopia-type atmosphere elsewhere. I'm positive that universal health care has its flaws just like any other man-made system (man-controlled) and I intend to do more research. I just want more substantial/reputable sources, right now its just Michael Moore v. Fox News.

Here's two clips opposing Moore's video:

Also here's a speech by President Ezra Taft Benson on Socialism which my cousin Brad sent to me which I found to be extremely insightful. I STRONGLY suggest reading it:


Clinton said...


I came across your blog rather randomly and have bookmarked it. I've seen what you have posted concerning universal healthcare and I have tried to take it all in and consider it.

I'm actually a Canadian that moved to the United States due to marrying an American woman. I'm currently being trained to be a physician here in an American school, so I have a limited bit of knowledge about the subject. Furthermore, I'm also finishing my degree in Public Health, which discusses healthcare extensively.

Now, concerning the Canadian, single-payer system, I'm actually a huge proponent of it. Many people refer to it as "socialized medicine," but it actually is not. "Socialized" means that the government owns the hospitals, employs the nurses and physicians, and oversees everything. Canada, though, has private hospitals and private practices, but all hospital and doctor's bills are just billed to the government. This is referred to as a "single-payer" system.

When I was young, I had a lot of scrapes and bruises as most boys growing up tend to get. I had a friend who had a brain tumor when she was fourteen years old and I helped her get through that period of her life. I also have some friends back in Canada who are physicians whom I talk to about this. In their opinion, they are actually quite glad to be in the Canadian system. Their ideal in practicing medicine was to be able to help the patient in any way they can. In the Canadian system, there are no limits to what the patient can afford-- you are basically free to treat the patient and bill the government later. So, for my friend who had cancer, they got her in for a brain scan within about two weeks, began surgery and then chemotherapy, and she was back in school about two months later. As well, my friend's mother just was diagnosed with a cancerous growth in the spine last year. She was at a small, local hospital for a while and was given free wigs and those types of little luxuries during her chemotherapy to help her cope. Unfortunately, she had an infection during the chemotherapy, so the hospital contracted a helicopter to get her to a large university hospital in a city four hours away. Total cost to her: $0. She got the care she needed quickly, efficiently, and she didn't have to worry about going bankrupt or how she was going to pay her bills-- she just had to worry about whether or not she was going to beat the cancer. So, when you take money out of healthcare, you really eliminate stress, which helps on your road to recovery.

Now, some of the American side of the story. I know of many seniors who are now on Medicaid because they couldn't afford America's system of "universal healthcare", otherwise known as Medicare. Prior to Medicare, over half of all people over 65 had no medical insurance. Luckily, all seniors are covered by it, but the deductibles are too high for almost all seniors living on social security cheques. Furthermore, Medicare only covers a total of 60 days of hospital stay and 20 days of nursing home expenses. After that, you're expected to spend all of your savings and liquidate your assets until you have no money left so that you can then apply for Medicaid: the insurance for the poor. It's really quite terrible because I see many seniors working at low-income jobs so that they can have prescription coverage, but then that low-income job disqualifies them for Medicaid coverage.

I've also met other Americans who needed to have an MRI done, but the insurance company said there wasn't a valid reason why the patient should need it, despite the fact that it was the patient's physician who recommended it! So, we blame insurance companies, but it's not entirely up to them. Many uninsured people use emergency rooms in America (since it's the only doctor they can see who will not ask for payment up front). Since those uninsured people are using an emergency room, a bill of more than $5000 is not at all unusual. Since the uninsured probably cannot pay that bill, the hospital accountants try to make up for the lost income by making other services more expensive (an idea called "cost-shifting") since those other services are being used by people who probably have insurance and, therefore, the hospital will probably be paid for. So, hospital and doctor's fees are rising all the time due to the huge number of uninsured people using those emergency rooms. Furthermore, due to new technologies and new procedures being introduced all the time, hospital fees are becoming more and more expensive. This translates out to increased premiums, higher deductibles, and higher co-pays in your insurance plan. Since health insurance costs are rising (over 70% in the past five years alone), more and more people are not being insured by their employers and fewer people are buying their own insurance. Thus, the number of uninsured is not going down anytime soon! Things will continue getting expensive and premiums will become increasingly unaffordable by the lower to middle-income families.

In Canada, we view healthcare as a basic right and I was shocked when I moved to America and found out that I would have to pay for my health from now on. Many Americans try to rationalise the healthcare provided in other nations by saying that "in Canada, they pay incredibly high taxes!" Well, I wouldn't agree with that, either, because my cost of living here (a relatively affordable city, by American standards) is much more than it was when I was living in Vancouver (an expensive city, by Canadian standards). Furthermore, an analysis done in 2006 actually showed that Americans could actually expect a lowering of taxes if healthcare were nationalised in the U.S. Yup, you read that right. Insuring every American would only increase healthcare spending in this country by about 3%, but that assumes that healthcare costs would remain the same in this country. However, healthcare costs would most likely drop, providing that the legislators know what they're doing (unlikely, though).

America has some of the lowest indicators for health status. Life expectancy, infant mortality, and cancer rates are all worse in the U.S. In fact, the WHO placed the U.S. in 37th place on their list of the top health systems in the world. Canada, the UK, France, Cuba, and Australia all ranked much higher than the U.S. This is because, as a cost-saving measure, countries with universal healthcare work harder to ensure that citizens are trying to maintain or improve their health.

So, sorry for the ten page essay, but I feel very strongly about this issue and hope that you see that a market-based system of healthcare is not working and will never work unless the price of healthcare drops significantly (which will not happen). Although some Canadians do wait an extensive period of time for a hip replacement or for coronary bypass surgery, the MAJORITY of people are able to withstand the waiting times. Don't get me wrong-- some people do die while waiting for surgery, but I have never heard of this happening-- although I'm sure it does occasionally happen. However, realize that in America, two people die per hour because they're not insured. Also, just because one is insured, that doesn't mean they're going to get care, either. People die while transferring from their local hospital to the nearest "in network" hospital for their insurance plan.

It's been obvious to me that propaganda against universal healthcare is deeply-rooted in America, so I'm so glad when somebody asks about it. I can't say enough that while universal healthcare has its drawbacks, I would still much rather have a universal system than America's market-based system.

*Steps off soapbox*

Aaron said...

Hey clinton thanks for your response, I love getting opinions from people who have first-hand experience.

Could you by any chance link me to that 2006 analysis you mentioned that states taxes would decrease if universal health care were implemented. That's very interesting.

Clinton said...


I wasn't sure if anybody would ever see my comment!

I do need to make a correction to my post, though. Firstly, the U.S. was actually ranked slightly higher than Cuba in the ratings of healthcare systems. Secondly, that analysis was actually done in 2002, I just got my dates mixed up. I didn't get that off the internet, though, I got it from a book that I was reading for a class called "Our Unsystematic Health Care System". If you're really interested, you should be able to find the book on Amazon.

Anyway, please let me know if you have anything else you would like to know.

Thanks for your great blog! I'm a member of the Church living in Oregon and I find it difficult to get the point across to strictly Republican members of the Church that universal healthcare does not have to equal Communist healthcare. I was very surprised to read Elder Benson's talk given at BYU, and I'm glad some of those policies that he mentions have changed because I would have a very difficult time trying to rationalize shunning such helpful programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and specific government welfare programs. Many Americans (but not ALL Americans) tend to have the belief that everyone should look out for themselves, and this is extremely evident in the American healthcare "system". I've heard some critics say that maybe we should rename universal healthcare into "Christian healthcare", then maybe more Republicans (and Mormons) would actually consider it without their strong stereotype against it. Universal healthcare can actually function very well, and I think it would function really, really well here in the United States. However, the small incremental changes to the healthcare system that Obama has been proposing will never work, medical costs will continue increasing unless the government can be the main bargainer of healthcare prices. In contrast, McCain's healthcare policies could not have been more poorly thought-out-- a tax credit for $3,000 would help very few people actually obtain health insurance. Many American families that are privately insured are paying upwards of $9,000 a year on health insurance, copays, and coinsurance. If I had the choice to keep the extra $3,000 or to fork out an additional $6,000 for health insurance, I would probably choose to keep the $3,000 and try to keep my home from being foreclosed upon.

Anyway, I didn't read over my comment, so hopefully it all makes sense. The figures I've listed came from the book I mentioned previously, which was published in 2004 (I believe). Other more recent figures that I may have mentioned came from some notes my professor gave us.

Thanks for reading my ramblings! I think I've been inspired by your blog to maybe begin my own in order to vent a little. Although I may sound like I detest the American government, I don't. The Canadian government has problems, too, they just don't punch me in the face every day!

Aaron said...

yeah, let me know if you start a blog, I'd love to read it.