Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Health care smorgasbord

The indefatigable Robert Bidinotto constantly unearthes new articles on the health care debate and shares them on Facebook. I’ve provided some of them below with selected quotes. The first item is one I found, coming from Investor’s Business Daily. It provides some interesting information comparing our health care system with Canada and England.

Health Care Here And Over There by Investor's Business Daily

[D]ata from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, hardly a right-wing organization, show that the U.K.'s heart-attack fatality rate is almost 20% higher than America's, and that angioplasties in Britain are only 21.3% as common as they are here.

Or it's easy to forget that in March, the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled against the use of two drugs, Lapatinib and Sutent, that prolong the life of those with certain forms of breast and stomach cancer.

So it's no surprise to discover that while breast cancer in America has a 25% mortality rate, in Britain it's almost double at 46%. Prostate cancer is fatal to 19% of American men who get it; in Britain it kills 57% of those it strikes. We are not making this up.

According to Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution, British patients wait about twice as long as Americans — sometimes more than a year — to see a specialist, have elective surgery such as hip replacement or get radiation treatment for cancer. In Britain, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.

The U.S. has 34 CT scanners per million citizens compared with eight in Britain. The U.S. has almost 27 MRI machines per million compared with about six per million in Britain. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40% higher than in America.

David Gratzer, a physician and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says the difference is that in the U.S., internists recommend that men 50 and older get screened for colon cancer. In the National Health Service in the U.K., screening begins at 75.

Avastin, a drug for advanced colon cancer, is prescribed more often in the U.S. than in the U.K., by some estimates as much as 10 times more.

As mentioned, British patients wait longer to see specialists. Gratzer notes that a clinical oncology study of British lung cancer treatment found that 20% "of potentially curable patients became incurable on the waiting list."

Firms with Obama ties profit from health push by Sharon Theimer, Associated Press Writer

President Barack Obama's push for a national health care overhaul is providing a financial windfall in the election offseason to Democraticconsulting firms that are closely connected to the president and two top advisers.

Coalitions of interest groups running at least $24 million in pro-overhaul ads hired GMMB, which worked for Obama's 2008 campaign and whose partners include a top Obama campaign strategist. They also hired AKPD Message and Media, which was founded by David Axelrod, a top adviser to Obama's campaign and now to the White House. AKPD did work for Obama's campaign, and Axelrod's son Michael and Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe work there.

How Free Health Care Got So Expensive By Steven Malanga

State government mandates and favorable tax treatment in Washington have so distorted the market for health insurance that a generation of Americans now look on medical coverage as something very different from other kinds of insurance that we buy. While we will pay several hundred bucks out of our own pockets to have a plumber come repair a leaky pipe, we'll balk at deductibles and a $50 co-pay for a doctor's visit. We've been schooled in this attitude by politicians who have mandated that health insurance do things that we'd never expect from other kinds of insurance, and by consumer advocates who will demand our legislators do something about a health insurance company that doesn't cover some optional procedure that has nothing to do with life and death.

ObamaCare Is All About Rationing By MARTIN FELDSTEIN

One reason the Obama administration is prepared to use rationing to limit health care is to rein in the government's exploding health-care budget. Government now pays for nearly half of all health care in the U.S., primarily through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The White House predicts that the aging of the population and the current trend in health-care spending per beneficiary would cause government outlays for Medicare and Medicaid to rise to 15% of GDP by 2040 from 6% now. Paying those bills without raising taxes would require cutting other existing social spending programs and shelving the administration's plans for new government transfers and spending programs.

The Ugly Truth of Obamacare by John Stossel

[T]here is good reason to worry about Obama's nationalization scheme.

The reason can be found in Econ 101. Medical care doesn't grow on trees. It must be produced by human and physical capital, and those resources are limited. Therefore, if demand for health care services increases -- which is Obama's point in extending health insurance -- prices must go up. But somehow Obama also promises, "I won't sign a bill that doesn't reduce health care inflation".

This is magical thinking. Obama, talented as he is, can't repeal the laws of supply and demand. Costs are real. If they are incurred, someone has to pay them. But as economist Thomas Sowell points out, politicians cancontrol costs -- by refusing to pay for the services.

It's called rationing.

Advocates of nationalization hate that word because it forces them to face an ugly truth. If government pays for more people's health care and wants to control costs, it must limit what we buy.

So much for Obama's promise not to interfere with our freedom of choice.

1 comment:

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