By Raymond Freeman 10/17/2013
“Doc Martin” is a British TV import. The good doctor’s a general practitioner in a remote village. He solves most problems himself, doing house calls and even emergency operations. Certain problems are conspicuously absent.
These villagers don’t worry about outrageous insurance premiums, enormous application forms, limited-time “open enrollment,” incomprehensible insurance policies, deductibles, co-payments, out-of-network coverage, exclusions from coverage, claim forms, claims denied, pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps, employers without insurance, employers changing insurance, loss of insurance from loss of job, bogus cancellation of insurance, religious bigots restricting women’s insurance, “managed care” nightmares, overflowing emergency rooms, and emergencies not covered due to some “gotcha.”
If you started with a blank sheet of paper and designed the worst medical delivery system possible, you’d come up with America’s. Healthy profits come before healthy people. It’s super-expensive, consuming around 18 percent of the entire economy (gross domestic product or GDP). But it leaves 84 million people uninsured or underinsured (Commonwealth Fund). Hence, most bankruptcies (62 percent, Harvard study) are caused by medical bills (even with health insurance). Emergency room treatment is not “free.” So, to that list of problems, let’s add bankruptcies, homelessness, depression and suicide. Great system!
But doesn’t Britain have that evil “socialized medicine”? No. Republican propaganda is entirely false. Britain’s National Health Service is emphatically not government-run medicine. It’s a “single-payer” system based on nonprofit medical insurance. Doctors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacies, etc., are in private practice. People can choose any provider they like, whenever they like. Drug prices are low due to bulk purchase. Doctors don’t spend hours hassling with insurance companies. They practice medicine.
Hospitals are run by nonprofit foundations. Everyone has free access to world-class teaching hospitals in London (popular with Arabs). Emergency rooms are for actual emergencies, not expensive care for the uninsured. There are mental hospitals, so the mentally ill don’t live on the street.
If you started with a blank sheet of paper and designed the best medical delivery system possible, you’d come up with something like Britain’s (and Canada’s). It covers 100 percent of the population. It’s seen as social protection, like police or defense. The British see it as a benefit of being in “Club UK.” They aren’t afraid of getting sick and losing everything. They love their freedom from fear.
It’s not perfect. Waiting lists for cosmetic surgery are long. Wrong-headed reforms led to dental treatment problems. But it’s hugely popular. Not even Margaret Thatcher dared to touch it.
There are also private treatment and private hospitals. Patients can get private insurance if they pay; about 12 percent do. Doctors don’t have to treat National Health patients if they don’t want to. Either way, doctors seem to do OK, judging from the Rolls-Royces in hospital parking lots. The whole system, public and private, consumes around 9 percent of the GDP (Canada’s around 11 percent). The British are amazed that we’d rather pay double for “Club USA,” yet get miserable results and less freedom.
Why do Americans get less freedom? They’re brainwashed. Republicans have spent millions perfecting propaganda techniques based on subconscious brain manipulation. (Read George Lakoff’s The Political Mind.)
Health care and profits don’t mix because insurance companies have only one goal. It’s to maximize profit by charging high premiums and denying claims. Much effort is therefore given to preventing health care, with administrators denying claims and fighting lawsuits. So-called “administration” is unbelievably wasteful. Obamacare attempts to cut it down to a mere 20 percent. In contrast, Medicare’s administration costs are around 3 percent. So America’s good news is … its “socialized medicine!”
Health care and profits don’t mix because individuals have no bargaining power. Doctors, hospitals and insurance companies hold the aces. Comparison shopping is difficult, and impossible in emergencies. Hospital bills are incomprehensible and wildly inflated. A “mucous collection system” may cost $39. That’s a $2 box of tissues.
But isn’t Obamacare a “government takeover of healthcare”? Hardly. Have you checked health-care stock prices lately? We’ll still have the same system of for-profit insurance and for-profit hospitals, with “managed care” rationing health care for extra profit.
But won’t there be “death panels” in Obamacare, deciding who’ll live and who’ll die? No. This whopper, courtesy of Sarah Palin, was debunked as Politifact’s “Lie of the Year.” Republicans take lying to an art form. And the so-called “liberal media” let them, as NBC’s Chuck Todd has actually admitted.
But aren’t people healthier in America? No. The results are abysmal. According to the World Health Organization, Britons are healthier than Americans in terms of measurable outcomes such as infant mortality, life expectancy, sick days, etc. Worldwide, we’re No. 38. Bloomberg’s recent study puts us even lower, at No. 46.
Cheer up. There’s a happy ending. It’s the Veterans’ Administration and the armed forces’ hospitals (as used by Dick Cheney), again costing around 3 percent. Yes, it’s more … “socialized medicine”! Republican propaganda is curiously silent about the good news. Hypocrisy? Nah, couldn’t be.