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Camels, government and health care

By E. Ralph Hostetter
web posted October 12, 2009

CamelWhat on earth could Americans learn from the combination of camels, government and health care?  Ask any Bedouin and he will answer quickly: "If the camel gets his nose in your tent his posterior will follow."

Comparably speaking, if government gets its nose into private health care a government health-care bureaucracy will follow, including the promise: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

America is rated, overall, as having one of the greatest private health-care systems in the world. People from many foreign nations, ranging from kings to ordinary citizens, flock to the United States for care.  The late King Hussein of Jordan spent a period of time each year at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, getting his annual health check-up.

One of the issues that has come forth is the cost of providing private health care for the elderly.  The last year of life is the most costly health-wise.  Today's elderly came of age in the late 1920s, '30s and '40s and are expected to cause a surge in elderly medical care.  Tom Brokaw, of NBC News, in his book The Greatest Generation, describes those Americans in this manner:

"They came of age during the Great Depression and the second World War and went on to build America — men and women whose every day lives of duty, honor, achievement and courage gave us the world we have today."

It would be inconceivable even to think about a national health-care system which would exclude or reduce benefits to any of those American patriots.

As an example of government-controlled health-care systems, we have only to look at the national health-care programs practiced by our neighbor to the North, Canada.
                                                                  
The Canadian Parliament enacted the 1984 Canada Health Act, which established the framework for its national health-care insurance system. It outlawed most private insurance for essential health care and provided the vast majority of Canadian citizens with free medical services.  Canada's health-care expense amounts to $172 billion a year.  Canadians pay about 33% of gross domestic product in taxes, compared to 28% for Americans.  The increased tax for Canada is mostly for free health-care.  In addition, the province of British Columbia charges residents an extra health premium of $54.

The main complaints against the national health-care system are the delays that citizens experience waiting for appointments, treatments and surgeries, some amounting to four to six months, even a year.

Canadians are availing themselves of American medical services just across the border. Many of these cases reach American television audiences.

A case in point is that of Canadian citizen Shona Holmes.  Shona was suffering from crushing headaches and vision problems.  Her family doctor recommended she see an endocrinologist and a neurologist.  It was going to take four months for one specialist and six months for the other.  She couldn't wait that long and sought medical help at the Mayo Clinic in the United States.  She was diagnosed as having a brain tumor which was pressing on her optic chasm that needed to come out immediately.  She was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where the operation was performed at a cost of $100,000.  A second mortgage and borrowed money from family and friends covered the cost.

The United Kingdom is facing "serious flaws" in its nation's health-care program, according to BBC News Reports.  A headline reads: "Babies born in hospital corridors and lifts."

Another report reads: "People in the U.K. face longer waits for non-emergency surgery and struggle to see GPs at out-of-hours compared to other Western countries."  This is worse than Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand, and comes amid mounting criticism of the arrangements within Britain's National Health Service.  The BBC says: "The U.K. also has the worst record of waiting times with 15% having to wait for more than six months for elective treatment.  "Canada was the next worst with 14% and the Netherlands was best with 2%."

Maternity units in the U.K. are particularly hard pressed.  "Thousands of babies are born in accident and emergency departments and along National Health Service corridors.  Almost 4,000 women in England (in 2008) gave birth in a location other than a designated hospital labour bed."

National health care has its own particular set of problems in different nations around the world.  The United States does not have those problems with its private health care system.  The Congressional Budget Office reported on October 7 that the present health-care legislation now before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee predicts that national health-care costs would cost U.S. taxpayers $829 billion over the next 10 years.  The Finance Committee is the last of the Congressional panels to consider health-care legislation before debate begins in the House and Senate.

Over the past few weeks, the Finance Committee has considered several hundred amendments to the extensive health-care bill. Committee members increased the bill's overall price tag by including an exemption for senior citizens from higher taxes on medical expenses.  This health-care measure is the only proposal being seriously considered that would cost less than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

There is an old, time-tested quotation that is very appropriate at this juncture: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." ESR

E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and publisher, also is an award-winning columnist and Vice Chairman of the Free Congress Foundation Board of Directors. He welcomes e-mail comments at eralphhostetter@yahoo.com.

 

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