Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Book Review: Health Reform: The End of the American Revolution? by Lee Kurisko, M.D., Alethos Press, St. Paul, Minnesota

This is a timely book. President Obama has said repeatedly he would favor a single-payer Canadian type health system if he could ”start from scratch.” He cannot, of course, start from scratch. He must start from the fact that the United States has a capitalistic system based on employer-based insurance since World War II. Canada meanwhile has evolved its own socialistic single payer approach, which varies by Province but covers all Provinces.

Before Americans. the Obama administration, and Congress lunge too far left, they could benefit by reading this book. Its author, Lee Kurisko, MD, a diagnostic radiologist, left Thunder Bay, Ontario in 2001 to practice in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He says he fled to escape the stifling time consuming bureaucracy of Canadian Medicare, to find time to apply his hard-earned skills, and to practice in a country that still offered its citizens the benefits and freedoms of timely access to doctors, hospitals, and modern technologies.

Doctor Kurisko is more than a diagnostic radiologist. He is an apostle of the wonders of imaging technologies, and he is a well-read moral and political philosopher on the relative merits of socialism and capitalism. He is fond of quoting Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Ayn Rand, and other conservative politicians and economists. He is distraught that socialism has failed to deliver on its promises in his beloved Canada and cites a series of anecdotes on the tragedies of rationing and waiting too long or being denied care.

In essence, based on his personal experiences in practicing on both sides of the border, Kurisko is firing a warning shot across the bow of American would-be medical socialists. As I read this well-written and carefully edited book, I was reminded of another book, Continental Divide: The Values and Institutions of the United States and Canada, in which Seymour Lipset (1922-2006), an American based in Toronto for a number of years, who wrote “Americans do not know but Canadians cannot forget that two nations came out of the American Revolution.”

And, inevitably, two relevant quotes of Winston Churchill, an admirer of both Canada and America, came to mind.

· ” The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Let us keep this in mind.

· “You can always trust the Americans. In the end, they will do the right thing, after they have eliminated all the other possibilities.” Let us hope so.

5 comments:

John said...

Dr. Reece, I think we both know that the single payer option is off the table in America now and forevermore. Medicare (our first and last single-payer experiment) slipped in with LBJ and has become nothing but a tax teat for politicians and the medical-industrial complex. The current debate shows that fact if nothing else. Recapitulating the Red Scare may sell books and teabags, but it really isn't a credible threat.

Twenty-first Century medicine is about to be hit with a sea change that will make both sides of the border obsolete. Take a look at the new Health 2.0 site and watch a twenty-minute video, Clay Shirky's keynote address to last year's conference.

Of the many voices I read opposing the current congressional proposals, yours is among the most rational. I respect your opinion. What are your thoughts about Health 2.0?

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