Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let the Rest of the World Catch up with U.S. Health Care: Six Other Points of View

The next time you see one of these oh, so morally concerned politicians, academics or book-hustling authors preaching on TV that we really ought to catch up with the rest of the advanced world on health care, talk back to the to the set, shout out that it's mostly lies, and make the opposite case. The rest of the world ought to catch up with us.

Jay Ambrose, “World Should Catch Up with Our Health Care,” Scripps Howard News Service, October 12, 2009

Here we are, October 14, the day the Senate Finance Committee votes to set in motion a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health system, and in the process, have the government intervene more deeply into the patient-doctor relationship, possibly set up government “options,” and punish those “evil” private health plans.

In July, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California called insurers “villains” and “almost immoral.” Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, said insurers were “getting away with banditry,” and just yesterday he called them “the greatest impediment to real health care reform.”

What this all boils down to is a struggle for power between government and the private sector. To be effective in the political marketplace, government must make the health industry comply with the goals of politicians, namely, to stay in power.

To persuade the public that government control is necessary, the government must make promises, such as “affordability for all,” and “access for all.”

To retain and gain power, government impugns the motives of the private sector. Government says, for example, health care, is a “right” and should not involve “profit” or “fee-for-service.” Government sponsored health care, using your money, should be “free. ” a moral imperative.

In the midst of this moral posturing, it may be instructive to look at six other, frequently overlooked, points of view, which you will rarely if ever heard expressed by those on the left or the mainstream media.

One, the U.S. health care system is a job-creating machine. It employs 14 million Americans in doctors’ offices, hospitals, diagnostic and surgical centers, and, yes, in America’s private health plans and in the agents who sell for those plans. These plans and their representatives employ 400,000 people and are a $450 billion industry. Health care is, in fact, the only growing part of the U.S. economy, and in many communities, it is where the only jobs are.

Two, the U.S. high tech “medical-industrial complex” – drugs, medical devices, and research institutions – are the wonder of the world. From our shores come 80% of the Nobel Prize winners in physiology and medicine, new drugs, and technological advances sought by the rest of the world. Profit drives much of this complex, for profit is the major incentive that drives people to innovate, to develop new products, and to create new types of health care delivery systems. Although seldom said, major academic centers and integrated delivery systems – like Kaiser, Mayo, Marshfield, Geisinnger, and the Cleveland Clinic – could not exist without profit.

Three, the most disruptive change-agent in the world, the Internet, is centered in America. Eighty to 90% of the world’s websites are here, the language of the Internet is English is spoken here , the largest Internet and information-based system organizations are here, and the new driving force of consumer-based innovation, Health 2.0, is here. Most of the new Health Information Technology (H.I.T) systems are being developed here, and these developments are being adopted by countries around the world.

Four, if you exclude violence and accidents, the U.S. has the world’s longest longevity and the best results in cancer, heart disease, other major killer diseases, and rare disorders. Our serious disease treatments produce better outcomes than elsewhere in the world; everyone can get treatment at least in emergency rooms; nearly 90% of Americans are satisfied with their care; insurance net profits are a relatively low 3.3 percent and citizens without access to insurance is closer to 10 million than the 46 million number. We also know that Medicare and Medicaid have accumulated nearly $50 trillion in obligations to future recipients that we have no way of paying.

Five, U.S.citizens have the quickest access to specialists and their technologies than any other country in the world. In other countries, direct access to specialists is limited because of government policies and rationing for expensive technologies. Medical professionals from all over the world come to America for advanced training and to learn of new life saving and function restoring technologies. In no other countries are so many citizens restored to full function by hip and knee replacements, heart bypasses and stents, and preventing new heart attacks and strokes through statins and other drugs. Chances of surviving an heart attack are now 94% in the U.S. – the best survival rate in the world following an initial episode.

Six, then there’s the matter of freedom of choice – choice of doctors, choice of hospitals, choice of health plans, choice of treatment, choice of where and where not to spend one’s money. Here, through health savings accounts, you can choose to spend your own money wisely and save it for a rainy day. You can even choose to take your chances and not have health insurance. You can choose between treatment inside or outside the hospital.

You won’t hear these things from the Obama administration. Instead you will hear about lack of comprehensive treatment, how hard it is get any care at all, obscene insurance company profits, inexcusable numbers of uninsured, and the contention reform will make all these headaches go away. They will not go away. They will raise premiums and limit access for reasons of affordability. They will haunt our children and grandchildren.

Dr. Richard Reece is author, blogger, speaker, and innovation and reform commentator. Dr. Reece’s latest book, Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform (IUniverse.com) is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and booksamillion.com for $31.95 (hardcover), $21.95 (softcover), and $6.95 (electronic). For information on speaking fees and arrangements, call 860-395-1501.

No comments: