Take Your Medicine

Sally Pipes looks at the 45 million “uninsured” and trashes Barry’s health care program:

…The president’s budget repeats the popular claim that 45.7 million Americans are uninsured. The figure is taken as proof positive that the current system is failing – and that the government must step in to provide a remedy.

But that misleading number includes millions we can hardly call uninsured. About 18 million of the uninsured make more $50,000 a year – and almost 10 million have yearly incomes over $75,000. More than 10 million aren’t US citizens. And as many as 14 million are already eligible for government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP – but haven’t signed up…

… look at the failure of existing government health programs – both here and abroad. Many Medicaid patients have a difficult time finding a doctor. According to a 2003 study by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, doctors are five times more likely to turn away Medicaid patients than those with private insurance.

The situation is even worse in countries like Canada and Great Britain – whose government-run systems Obama’s health braintrust has cited approvingly.

More than 725,000 Canadians languish on months-long waiting lists for surgery and other necessary treatments. Doctors are in short supply – thanks largely to the government takeover of the health sector. In the early 1970s, when Canada launched its “universal coverage” system, the country ranked second among 28 developed countries in doctors per thousand people. Today, it’s 24th.

Further, Canadians often lack access to the advanced medical technology that Americans take for granted. Canada ranks 19th among 26 reporting OECD nations in access to CT scanners and 14th out of 25 reporting OECD countries in access to MRI machines.

In the UK, the government-run health system explicitly rations medical treatments through the publicly chartered National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. NICE evaluates data from clinical drug trials to decide if newer medical treatments are more effective than older, cheaper alternatives. It then makes recommendations to Britain’s state-run National Health Service about which treatments are worth paying for.

Last summer, British patients with kidney cancer were denied access to four lifesaving drugs. NICE’s clinical and public health director said of the drugs at the time, “Although these treatments are clinically effective, regrettably the cost to the NHS is such that they are not a cost-effective use of NHS resources.”

In other words, the British government admitted that patients would likely die without these treatments – but refused to pay for them anyway.

This could happen here. Obama’s stimulus package includes $1.1 billion for NICE-style comparative-effectiveness studies.

As the costs for his health reforms mount, Obama will be forced to employ the same strategies that Canada and Britain have to cut spending. That means the rationing of care (and significantly higher taxes).

Obama’s budget represents a major effort to transform the US health-care system. Patients should ask themselves whether they’re ready for his medicine.

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