Saturday, August 15, 2009

The toothless lion roars

British leftists are being stung by all the attention that is being paid to their crappy and dysfunctional health care system and are trying to hit back.

From The Independent we have an article called The Brutal Truth About America's Healthcare:

They came in their thousands, queuing through the night to secure one of the coveted wristbands offering entry into a strange parallel universe where medical care is a free and basic right and not an expensive luxury. Some of these Americans had walked miles simply to have their blood pressure checked, some had slept in their cars in the hope of getting an eye-test or a mammogram, others had brought their children for immunisations that could end up saving their life.

In the week that Britain's National Health Service was held aloft by Republicans as an "evil and Orwellian" example of everything that is wrong with free healthcare, these extraordinary scenes in Inglewood, California yesterday provided a sobering reminder of exactly why President Barack Obama is trying to reform the US system.

The LA Forum, the arena that once hosted sell-out Madonna concerts, has been transformed – for eight days only – into a vast field hospital. In America, the offer of free healthcare is so rare, that news of the magical medical kingdom spread rapidly and long lines of prospective patients snaked around the venue for the chance of getting everyday treatments that many British people take for granted.

Thousands of people stood in long lines in order to be herded like cattle into a large impersonal medical facility in which they would have no choice about which doctor they saw and could take or leave whatever treatment they would offer because there would be no chance to obtain a second opinion or seek alternate treatment.

And none of it free, just paid for by their fellow taxpaying countrymen.

Sounds like a bunch of American citizens got to pretend they were British subjects for a few days.

Because, you see, this is what it is like not just for the poor in the United Kingdom but for every British subject. Unless they are members of Parliament or the royal family.

Or can afford to go to a place like America or India which still have free market medicine - which thousands do every year.

In the first two days, more than 1,500 men, women and children received free treatments worth $503,000 (£304,000). Thirty dentists pulled 471 teeth; 320 people were given standard issue spectacles; 80 had mammograms; dozens more had acupuncture, or saw kidney specialists. By the time the makeshift medical centre leaves town on Tuesday, staff expect to have dispensed $2m worth of treatments to 10,000 patients.

Notice that the dentists pulled 471 teeth but there is no mention of how many cavities they filled. If they pulled that many teeth then they would have filled thousands of cavities but it would undermine the purpose of The Independent's hatchet job to mention that.

This is because in the UK dentists no longer routinely fill cavities. They just pull the teeth because that is faster and cheaper. Reminding middle class Englishmen that even the dirt poor seeking care in giant cattle call charity events in the US receive better care than the NHS is capable of giving British subjects who earn enough to drive BMW's might not be good for British self esteem.

Along the hall, Liz Cruise was one of scores of people waiting for a free eye exam. She works for a major supermarket chain but can't afford the $200 a month that would be deducted from her salary for insurance. "It's a simple choice: pay my rent, or pay my healthcare. What am I supposed to do?" she asked. "I'm one of the working poor: people who do work but can't afford healthcare and are ineligible for any free healthcare or assistance. I can't remember the last time I saw a doctor."

We should point out here that the reason health insurance costs so much is that the California legislature has loaded down the insurance industry in that state with mandates that they provide coverage for a large number of services that only a few people would ever want to use. This is not unique to California, in various states across the Union acupuncture, marriage counseling, aroma therapy, non reconstructive breast implants and, for all we know, past-life regression therapy are all things that one's health insurance must pay for.

This is what drives up the price so much that the working poor can't afford to pay. That and the hidden cost of physician's malpractice insurance due to the predatory behavior of trial lawyers looking for a paycheck and the defensive testing that doctors are required to preform to give themselves a defense in the frivolous malpractice suits they will inevitably have to face.

Let us also take note of the fact that this lady says that she must choose between rent and insurance premiums. We can point out here that every month's rent this woman pays also includes the property tax her landlord must pay. If that tax were lower then her rent would not be so high. We can also note that if there were not so many left-wing regulations on land use and building codes that there would be more new construction and more inexpensive housing available in California.

Although the Americans spend more on medicine than any nation on earth, there are an estimated 50 million with no health insurance at all. Many of those who have jobs can't afford coverage, and even those with standard policies often find it doesn't cover commonplace procedures. California's unemployed – who rely on Medicaid – had their dental care axed last month.

The 50 million uninsured number has been debunked so many times that I won't bore you by doing it here. I'll just point out that the real number is closer to 12 million. You can see my comments above for ways to cut both the costs of medical treatments and health insurance.

We should also notice that the state that just cut dental coverage from Medicaid is California, a state that has been a playground for every harebrained liberal scheme for decades. They have run their state's economy into the ground and are now so broke that they are issuing IOU's to state workers.

Julie Shay was one of the many, waiting to slide into a dentist's chair where teeth were being drilled in full view of passers-by. For years, she has been crossing over the Mexican border to get her teeth done on the cheap in Tijuana. But recently, the US started requiring citizens returning home from Mexico to produce a passport (previously all you needed was a driver's license), and so that route is now closed. Today she has two abscesses and is in so much pain she can barely sleep. "I don't have a passport, and I can't afford one. So my husband and I slept in the car to make sure we got seen by a dentist. It sounds pathetic, but I really am that desperate."

If she can afford the car to sleep in she can also afford a tooth brush and a tube of toothpaste. I feel for this woman because I know how much an abscessed tooth hurts but problems at this level almost always indicate a lack of preventive care.

I also don't believe that she can't afford a passport. This is taken from the blog

If you’re over age 16, submit your application person, and order a passport card, you’ll pay a $20.00 application fee and a $25.00 execution fee, for a total cost of $45.00. However, passport cards are are only valid for land and sea travel to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean.

You car verify that with the State Department here.

I think that she could scrape up $45.00 if she needed to. And I also wonder how much shopping around she has done in this country for a dentist. My dentist routinely makes financial arrangements with uninsured people who cannot afford to pay full price. I find it impossible to believe that there are no dentists in Southern California who will not do the same.

Julie Shay goes on to comment:

"You'd think, with the money in this country, that we'd be able to look after people's health properly," she said. "But the truth is that the rich, and the insurance firms, just don't realise what we are going through, or simply don't care. Look around this room and tell me that America's healthcare don't need fixing."

I don't want to be too hard on this woman but with all due respect I think that "fixing" her idea of personal responsibility would go a lot further to improving her life than all the handouts in the world.

President Obama's healthcare plans had been a central plank of his first-term programme, but his reform package has taken a battering at the hands of Republican opponents in recent weeks. As the Democrats have failed to coalesce around a single, straightforward proposal, their rivals have seized on public hesitancy over "socialised medicine" and now the chance of far-reaching reform is in doubt.

Most damaging of all has been the tide of vociferous right-wing opponents whipping up scepticism at town hall meetings that were supposed to soothe doubts. In Pennsylvania this week, Senator Arlen Specter was greeted by a crowd of 1,000 at a venue designed to accommodate only 250, and of the 30 selected speakers at the event, almost all were hostile.

The majority of the American people are opposing this attempt by our Marxist president to take over a significant part of the American economy because we have educated ourselves on what it wold mean. We have heard the warning sounded by one of your own parliamentarians, Daniel Hannan:

The packed bleachers in the LA Forum tell a different story. The mobile clinic has been organised by the remarkable Remote Area Medical. The charity usually focuses on the rural poor, although they worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Now they are moving into more urban venues, this week's event in Los Angeles is believed to be the largest free healthcare operation in the country.

Doctors, dentists and therapists volunteer their time, and resources to the organisation. To many US medical professionals, it offers a rare opportunity to plug into the public service ethos on which their trade was supposedly founded. "People come here who haven't seen a doctor for years. And we're able to say 'Hey, you have this, you have this, you have this'," said Dr Vincent Anthony, a kidney specialist volunteering five days of his team's time. "It's hard work, but incredibly rewarding. Healthcare needs reform, obviously. There are so many people falling through the cracks, who don't get care. That's why so many are here."

It is a good thing that Dr. Anthony and the other physicians are doing here but I feel compelled to ask why is the opportunity to treat patients at little or no cost so "rare"? In America doctors are not employees of the government. They are free to treat patients for free or at reduced cost any time they want. In fact most do offer their services pro bono to needy patients as a matter of routine.

Ironically, given this week's transatlantic spat over the NHS, Remote Area Medical was founded by an Englishman: Stan Brock. The 72-year-old former public schoolboy, Taekwondo black belt, and one-time presenter of Wild Kingdom, one of America's most popular animal TV shows, left the celebrity gravy train in 1985 to, as he puts it, "make people better".

Today, Brock has no money, no income, and no bank account. He spends 365 days a year at the charity events, sleeping on a small rolled-up mat on the floor and living on a diet made up entirely of porridge and fresh fruit. In some quarters, he has been described, without too much exaggeration, as a living saint.

Though anxious not to interfere in the potent healthcare debate, Mr Brock said yesterday that he, and many other professionals, believes the NHS should provide a benchmark for the future of US healthcare.

"Back in 1944, the UK government knew there was a serious problem with lack of healthcare for 49.7 million British citizens, of which I was one, so they said 'Hey Mr Nye Bevan, you're the Minister for Health... go fix it'. And so came the NHS. Well, fast forward now 66 years, and we've got about the same number of people, about 49 million people, here in the US, who don't have access to healthcare."

Without a doubt Mr. Brock is a nice man who does good work but someone who chooses to live like a mendicant monk is not really the role model that America needs. You see Mr. Brock would have all Americans, and indeed all people everywhere, get their medical care in the kind of environment that he has created here at this charity clinic.

To people like him and other proponents of socialized medicine there is something shameful about the fact that the vast majority of Americans don't stand in long lines in dirty uncomfortable taxpayer financed clinics. The fact that most Americans are treated in comfortable doctor's offices where they retain their dignity while receiving their health care is wrong because everyone can't have the same level of care.

Americans have traditionally rejected that kind of reasoning. From the look of the polls it seems that Americans still reject that kind of thinking. I just hope that our elected leaders are still willing to listen to the voice of the people.