Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Would you take health care advice from this man?

Pumping away on the elliptical machine at Equinox, I had the choice of fourteen televisions, every third one tuned into The View. While watching ESPN, I noticed a portly sloppy guy walk on The View set and engulf Liz Hasselbeck. Michael Moore was there to plug his new movie, Sicko.

Moore's major point is that the health care system in America is “broken.”

From a film review by James Christopher at the Cannes Film Festival:

“Moore plays the small humble man in this villainous conspiracy against the public. He feels the aches and pains of the wronged, and lambasts company directors and government officials. He travels to London to show off the beauty and brilliance of the British National Health Service. He films empty waiting rooms and happy, care-free health workers.

What he hasn’t done is lie in a corridor all night at the Royal Free watching his severed toe disintegrate in a plastic cup of melted ice. I have. I’ve spent more hours than I care to remember in NHS hospitals vainly waiting for stitches or praying for the arrival of a midwife. There are no such traumas in Moore’s rose-tinted vision of our glorious NHS.”

Coincidentally, the LA Times ran a long article last Sunday titled “Care in need of a cure” that managed to bash the US medical profession while simultaneously promoting Moore’s movie. The story behind the article was a report by the Commonwealth Fund ranking the United States sixth out of six industrialized nations on “measures of safe and coordinated health care” while spending the most per person on that care. The US trailed, in order, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada while spending $6102 per person compared to an average of $2735 for the others.

Examples of our poor showing include the fact that the US life expectancy is 77.2 years compared to the average of 77.8 years (and Japan’s 81.8 years). The US also has higher average potential years of life lost due to diabetes (0.10 year compared to 0.04 year). These dramatic results are blamed squarely on the sad state of US healthcare, while the real causes (largely obesity - see Michael Moore) are discounted.

Fortunately, the article is balanced by other facts about the US healthcare system: We have the best breast cancer treatment and survival rates; the best preventive measures like Pap tests, mammograms and colonoscopies; the best treatment of heart attacks and drug-resistant tuberculosis; the premier medical research institutions; and America leads the world in the development of new drugs. The article admits that wealthy people from around the world come to the US for treatment of major diseases.

All that sounds pretty darn good. With all those firsts how did we wind up last? The key to that conundrum comes in the article’s twenty-fourth paragraph: “Probably the area in which the US uniquely falters by comparison with developed nations is in assuring that anyone who is sick can receive care.”
The thirty-first paragraph reveals the causal and the cure. Somewhere between 46 and 50 million Americans do not have health insurance. That means, of course, that between 250 and 254 million Americans do have private health insurance and are receiving top notch care. The question is what to do about the rest and the conclusion is obvious: give them health insurance at public expense.

Let’s use the lower number of uninsured for a calculation of how much that would cost at the average expenditure of $6102 per American. The result is $281 Billion – each and every year. That is the Democratic solution. It is not surprising when one remembers that the Dem’s presidential candidate John Edwards proposed that the US educate 100 million children in the third world. All Democratic social programs cost in the $100’s of billions.

Now what about all those who are uninsured? Who are they? One very large group must be the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens. They broke into our country and now use our services, including hospital emergency rooms. If the Democrats have their way, these will be joined by another 50-100 million family members if the absurd immigration bill passes. Another substantial group, probably several million, are homeless bums. Most will not even accept public housing if it comes with any conditions and wouldn’t go to a doctor if you paid them to do so. Perhaps the largest group is unmarried women with several children. Again it is act of faith that the large percent who are addicts are going to take themselves or their children to the doctor.

So what would I do about this issue? My compassionate conservative plan would rely on individual responsibility, low cost insurance and clinics. First, illegal immigrants who are allowed to stay would be required to purchase minimal health insurance policies that would cover catastrophic care and doctor’s visits in clinics. They would not be allowed to use the emergency rooms for non-emergencies.

The immigration bill must not be passed if it allows family members of illegals to come here ahead of immigrants who are standing in line. The bill should favor those immigrants who are able to pay for their health insurance. It should especially recruit doctors who would be encouraged via accelerated citizenship to practice in clinics for the poor. (The US has 20% fewer doctors per capita than the other industrialized nations.)
The homeless should be incarcerated (some) or institutionalized (most). Unmarried mothers on welfare should be allowed (encouraged) to take themselves and their children to the clinics at no cost.

This is a plan that deals with the problem while maintaining the excellent heath care system for the large majority of American who pay their own way. And don’t buy the blather that our health care is too expensive (although the excessive amount going to personal injury lawyers should be reduced by tort reform). When you need a heart bypass operation and your insurance pays for it, you will agree it’s a bargain at twice the price.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your impressions of what can and will happen if we have the government involved in so called "health care for everyone". One point that you did not bring up is being displayed locally at King Harbor Hospital, where the problems are currently insolvable. Mainly because of all of the political appointees running the hospital, and they in turn, hire those people who are incompetent as well as know how to use the system to go out on disability. Also there is "no accountabilty" which is absolutely necessary in running any institution.

The same problem has occured at D.C. General Hospital, where I interned 45 years ago, and now has been closed, probably for the same reason going on at King Harbor.

I don't think that you were living here at the time of the LA Riots. MLK was built to assuage the black community and gave the politicians. mainly the city council, a place they could hire their political friends. Also the money that went to the hospital came from a junior college that was going to be built in RPV at the intersection of Hawthorne and Crest Road, the previous Northrup company.

Thanks again in bringing up your astute views on the subject.


12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! Hmmmmmmmmm. So why is a liberal like me nominating you for Health Care Tzar too now?


12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much with Phil (altho I think Bill's math for extending coverage to all in the US is based on an unnecessary and avoidable assumption that the added coverees would average our same $6K+ addition to the annual federal budget -- and I would argue the long-term costs to our nation are greater by not shoring this up, but that's another debate for another day). As is, with Bill as Medical Czar and his plan as the Republican plan, I would agree the Republican plan is a lot better than the present situation. If passed (ha!), I would have found a Repub action to applaud because I think the only thing worse than choosing between the extremes of the Dem plan and the Bill/Repub plan or some wisely crafted in-between compromise, is doing next to nothing -- which has been the reality of US policy for too long.


12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I start with the social nightmare I saw every time I went or took someone to an ER for legitimate emergencies. "Dysfunctional" is inadequate to describe about 30% or so of our population. A miracle they live to be 16. And so often a curse to all for life - the pervasive trail of misery that follows the underclass through their daily affairs is difficult for us to imagine and overwhelming to try to embrace productively. Our hats should be off to all who labor in the social services, and you can start with those who staff way too many of our emergency rooms. Did I mention the waste and expense and treatment refusals or disruptions?

With medical privacy standards currently, it's disappeared behind closed doors also.


1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog!

I am terrified - absolutely terrified - about what will happen in this country if the Dems get elected.

I love how you point out that the media only presents the negative side of every political issue. No real, fact-based discourse, just negative sludge.

Bill is about to jump into Hillary's campaign and when I does I fear she just may get elected. I was convinced that she could not do it on her own. But he is so darned popular with the masses. Makes me ill, really.


1:27 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

You keep nominating me for these fancy jobs when all I want is to watch over the library, blog and debate with my friends.

ps. I can envision a TV show sponsored by Air America hosted by Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell. Mmmmm, tasty!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Thanks for your comments. We could argue about the cost but the lowest number I've heard is $2000 per person which approaches $100 Billion per year, and multiples of that when the family members arrive from South of the border.

I'm glad you think that the Medical Czar's plan is better than socialized medicine (although none of the plans by the Dem presidential frontrunners are as bad as MM's proposal) and a do nothing approach. I actually think that Reps and Dems could get behind such a compromise if it was discussed. It's a matter of providing reasonably for those in true need, not allowing the system to be burried by hordes of new immigrants while maintaining the best of what is in our current health system. I know for sure that if I became desperately ill I would not want to be out of the good old USA.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on. The "fat guy" lives in Michgan and his neighbors detest him. Fortunately he wears a MSU hat and not UM.


9:15 PM  

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