Monday, June 29, 2009

Horror Stories are the Tip of the Rationed Care Iceberg

Americans have been discussing concerns about rationed (or government driven) health care for years. In the early 1990s, when Bill Clinton pursued such a program, we heard daily about the problems of long lines and lack of doctors that were common in government programs. Now we are hearing stories about the much lower success rates in countries with government care when it comes to combating major diseases. This goes against one of the fundamental reasons people argue for government care -- without fear of cost, people will go to the doctor quicker, get diagnosed earlier (or better still do the things that will prevent disease), and live longer and healthier lives. The facts are not supporting this hypothesis:

  • The average time frame between a general practitioner and treatment in Canada's socialized health care program is more than 4 months (17.3 weeks) according to the Frazier Institute.

  • 20% of curable lung cancer patients in the UK die due to long waiting lists, according to the Manhattan Institute. This is also the case in other conditions as I can speak from my own personal circumstances in which I lost my grandfather and an aunt due to Britain's famous lines.

  • According to Investors Business Daily: "In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August 2003 heat wave — when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity — 15,000 elderly citizens died."

  • According to Forbes Magazine, the prostate cancer survival rate in the US is 80 percent, in the UK it is 44 percent.

These areas are huge in and of themselves, but the bigger issue is the impact rationed care will have on the development of new drugs, technology, and other innovations in health care. The poor quality of service seen in socialized systems cited above are largely would be even worse if not for the innovations created by the US system. Imagine how much more difficult quality care will be to achieve when all but the most altruistic incentives for improvements disappear. The profit driven health care system of the US drives innovation.

The Federal Reserve Bank did an evaluation of the ten leading innovations of 2001. These included improvements and discoveries in several areas, such as changess in MRIs, development of drugs for high blood pressure and heart disease, cholesterol reducing drugs, innovations in breast cancer diagnosis, surgery for heart failure, eye surgery, and more. In the ten different major areas of discovery, the United States dominated the list with its involvement in eight. The only other countries that played a role were the United Kingdom and Japan, each having only two innovations each.

Self interest has always driven innovation. The US has stood alone as a country that has made such a primary driver in changes in health care. It makes sense to wonder what the effects of worldwide health care socialism has already had on health care. Imagine what it will be like when the last bastion of innovation, the United States, loses the profit motive that has made this country the leader in health care discoveries for decades.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on AM 650 (M-F at 11 am) in Houston, Texas and on AOL Radio. His articles often appear in Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, USA Today, and other national media. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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