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Front Page » September 1, 2009 » Opinion » Letter to the editor: Maybe national health care not so bad?
Published 2,735 days ago

Letter to the editor: Maybe national health care not so bad?

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By Spencer Wright
Salt Lake City


Having been raised Republican, I've heard all of the European-Socialized-Medicine boogeyman stories. Europeans pay half of their income for that system, people can never get the care they need, government just doesn't run anything as efficiently as free enterprise, our US system is the envy of the world. I decided to do what no Republican I know has done...I decided to check the facts out for myself. I'm not talking about checking the facts by asking your Republican neighbor if they agree with you that socialized medicine is akin to Communism. I have one guess how that conversation turned out. No, I'm talking about actually getting the numbers that either verify the belief that our system is the envy of the world or it isn't.

What has been troubling to me for the longest time is the incentive of our system to deny coverage. It is as though the people who get to decide whether I can get the care I need are more concerned about making money that taking care of my health. I see this as a major flaw, as the European systems do not have this same issue. Their incentive is driven by the health of the patient, not the need to make money. I don't think I'm wrong for also wanting a system that cares about me and not my money.

Now of course, if you have to pay half of your income to create a system that has huge waiting lines, I would be very wary of that system as well. But I found out that the US spends approximately $7,400 per year per capita on healthcare, while citizens of the UK spend approximately $2,900 per year per capita. Germany and France pay a little more, but still under half of what we pay here in the US. The average lifespans in each of these countries is greater than ours as well, but that's beside the point. Although the long wait horror stories might have been true 30 years ago, the average wait time in the UK is now 6.1 weeks. As a comparison, my wife waited about that long here in the US for an outpatient surgery she had a while back. My friend Sarah, from the UK, stated that she has "heard of long waiting times for surgeries, in some cases, but when my dad was diagnosed with cancer, they operated within days". As a country by country comparison, my friend Andres, from Germany stated, "We are 'socially' insured, and have always gotten the best treatment. The British health care seems to be one of the worst in Europe. Don't use them only as a comparison." So even though the UK system is cheaper, by half of what we pay, their wait times are comparable, and the doctors are incentivized by the patient's health and not the patient's wallet, they are still laughed at by other systems in Europe. I'm still having a hard time seeing the problem. So maybe we should attempt to model the best systems in Europe and not the worst systems? Our best qualities versus their worst qualities is not a real comparison. We call that a straw man argument. But I'm just not seeing the downside to their worst qualities.

As a side note, my friend Andres' father is a brain surgeon in Austria. He told me that he would never work in America as a surgeon because he would have to turn away people unable to pay. Guess where I'm going if I ever need brain surgery.

A very large percentage of the waste of our current system comes from filing the paperwork to the insurance companies, a problem virtually non-existent in the European systems. And Republicans state that government just can't run anything as efficiently as private enterprise. Hmph.

I have to be entirely honest...anyone who wants to make the claim that universal healthcare leads to Communism is delusional. The Europeans have been using their systems for more than 50 years. If you're going to try to prove that socialism leads to Communism (via healthcare), you need to explain why countries that have been using socialized medicine for 50 years still haven't become Communist.

I wouldn't even begin to claim that I have all the answers on the current state of the healthcare dilemma. But maybe we could all drive down our socialized roads and meet at a socialized school somewhere, both socialized systems we have used for years, and figure some of this out.

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