A few weeks ago I went to a local computer store – they had advertised a free case of printing paper with the purchase of any two ink-jet printer cartridges. I needed ink and paper, so I drove over.
I was at the store 90 minutes after they opened, and they were out of “free” paper. Of course, the fine print says “while supplies last” and for all I know they had only one case of free paper.
I wasn’t pleased, but I left (without buying anything) and I had forgotten all about the incident.
Until I found this post, which I first think is extremely well-written – but it also reminded me of the ink and the paper.
When considering government supplied health care it is important to keep in mind that “free” isn’t free and that “free” doesn’t equate to “available”. Canada has a lack of supply and an abundance of demand. Why?
There are probably a lot of reasons that I haven’t considered – but I do know that when I worked in the US healthcare system I worked with a LOT of Canadian Doctor’s and health care specialists. I learned from them why they chose to practice medicine in the US instead of in Canada and it was mostly related to either salary/opportunity or availability of equipment, procedures and adequate infrastructure (lab technicians, X-Ray tech’s, etc).
In the years I spent in civilian medicine I actually met very few people that were in it strictly for the money. Most were deeply caring people that honestly wanted to help others – and healthcare is a way they could do that and still feed their families. We were always deeply disappointed if we couldn’t provide a patient with the best care because we didn’t have the right equipment/people. It happened, but rarely. And if we didn’t have the greatest new CT-Scanner then the chances were that another hospital in town did. The patient rarely did without treatment due to lack of equipment/people.
I also worked in the US Military Healthcare System. I worked at Navy Hospitals, Army Hospitals, an Air Force Hospital AND a Veteran’s Administration hospital. I didn’t see much difference between the civilian and Military health care systems – with one exception: the Military Healthcare System is funded by tax dollars and was not expected to make a profit. So no test was left undone; no serious concern was paid to the cost/benefit ratio and when in doubt (no matter how slim the doubt) a complete battery of tests was run. Usually this was done by an intern or resident who didn’t want to chance missing something.
On the face of things, this sounds like the diligent thing to do. In reality it is mostly wasteful. Routinely these tests (and the associated expense) can be avoided by waiting and measuring. Most civilian for-profit hospitals would have simply monitored the patient before ordering a bunch of “let’s rule this out” tests. When money matters you run the tests that make sense. When it doesn’t, you run everything.
So what’s wrong with running everything? That sounds like a GREAT health care system! Wrong – running everything takes time, and people and money. Running everything means delays to get results back even for those patients that are really critical and need results ASAP. Running everything creates a shortage of everything. And a shortage of anything raises the cost, increases the delays and ultimately eliminates availability.
Not to mention that it is just extremely expensive.
When Social Security was designed, it was designed for the minority of Americans that were unable to care for themselves in their old age. But since it was “free” everyone started to claim their benefits. So the benefits go out to those who are truly impoverished, and to those who own 250 foot luxury yachts. If you paid in, and you are of age, you can “claim what is yours”. Do you think there is an abundance of Social Security money now? How about in ten years? Why is Social Security broken? Because everyone thinks it’s theirs – like a birthright. People are taking far more out of Social Security than they ever put in – whether they really need it or not. “Free” created a demand that cannot be met. “Free” has virtually eliminated the availability of Social Security even to the truly needy – unless we cut “benefits” dramatically or increase taxes significantly.
Medicare is another example that illustrates this “free is not the same thing as available” argument. Look at the current and projected costs of Medicare – either people will have to do with less (across the board) or we will all have to pay more. Forget the fact that Medicare was also designed for the truly needy – it is being used even by people that are quite wealthy.
What makes anyone think that a “national healthcare” plan will work any differently?
And I haven’t even made arguments based on studies I was involved in where charging Active Duty Military even a very nominal fee to utilize their “free” Health Care reduced Emergency Room and Doctor’s Office visits dramatically (with no corresponding increase in mortality rates).
“Free” is too easy to abuse. If you think your local Emergency Room is busy now – wait until that visit is “free”. We will quickly overburden our health care system and “free” will eliminate “available”. And then everyone loses.
You’ll have completely free access to non-existent services – or by the time your turn comes up it will be too late.