Yesterday, I had the 'opportunity' to examine America's healthcare system (and don't forget-- we now have the Republican system of 'managed care,' -- HMO's, PPO's, and other 'choices' that they pushed for in 1994 as an alternative to Universal Healthcare) from the inside. My wife had to go the emergency room. We got there at about 12:00 noon. We got out just before 7:00. And the majority of that time was spent in the waiting room (not fun since we had a nine year old with us).
Now, I don't begrudge the hospital for the wait, since just like you I would prefer that they do it right rather than quickly, but just a rhetorical question: When arguing against universal healthcare in 1994, didn't Republicans argue that it would produce long waiting lines in hospitals (at least we were in Flagstaff-- there have been reports of people coming into emergency rooms in large cities and waiting fourteen hours to be seen)? So it looks like they've got that one down.
They also argued back then that Universal Healthcare would restrict your choice of doctors and other healthcare providers. Well, speak again-- as one who has been forced to change providers at least once rather than 'go outside the system,' and pay an arm and a leg. And we haven't even gotten to what happens if you need a prescription which is not in the formulary-- a prescription which I need is not covered, so I pay over $80 for a month's supply-- and that's a bargain relative to what some people have to pay, for drugs that cost hundreds of dollars a month. Looks like they nailed 'restricting your choice' down with their system just fine.
Then, there was an argument that a bureaucrat, rather than a doctor, would decide whether to approve a procedure. Hmmm, my wife was denied a procedure (under our old healthcare plan) several years ago, by a bureaucrat, not a doctor, which contributed to her being in the emergency room yesterday. And in other cases, people have been denied care that led directly to their deaths--- so Congress and President Bush, in their infinite wisdom, 'fixed' that problem-- by fixing what few loopholes there were in existing legislation that protects your HMO from the consequences if they make that kind of decision (remember the President preferred a 'Texas plan,' but then never sent a bill to Congress to rectify the problem after the 'Texas plan' was thrown out in court). So, if you are denied coverage, you can appeal their own decision to your HMO (that'll be a fair unbiased review, won't it) and then that is the end of the line. Yes, they've nailed down the worst nightmare scenario under their opposition to Universal Healthcare, we have that today too.
And then, there was the question of cost. I posted some on this here, but the fact is that our healthcare system, far from saving money, is now the most expensive in the world, where we spent 15.3% of our Gross Domestic Product on healthcare in 2003 (the most recent year for which figures are available) and it is increasing at a double digit clip, while countries with Universal Healthcare systems spent substantially less (under 10% in a number of countries, including France and not much over it in places like Canada and Germany) in the same year, with lower rates of growth. So the idea that it would cost more, well you see what happened to that one (just wondering, their governments are not running it to make a profit, while our system is managed by for-profit companies, you don't suppose that might have something to do with why it costs more?)
Oh, yes. And taxes. Well, right now, I pay the full premiums for my wife and kids (my own is paid by my employer). This amounts to about 16% I pay and about 6% my employer pays of my contract (i.e. gross, not counting overtime, which is unpredictable), including health, dental and vision. So overall, that comes out to 22% of my contract (and that doesn't even take into account even a penny of co-pays, deductibles or percentages of payments). You will note above that healthcare costs 15.3% of the GDP of the U.S. and generally about 9-13% in countries, so it is hard to argue that Universal Healthcare would make taxes go up more than what we are already paying (by local standards here, I make more than most people). Very likely the overall combination of taxation, health premiums and other payments to providers would go down, way down for most people.
Finally, there is quality. They have argued that we had the finest healthcare system in the world. And it is true, that IF you can afford it, you can get it here. However, even that is changing-- recently we saw the first face transplant in France. Now, the point isn't that it happened in France, but that it did not happen in America-- it used to be that the first ANYTHING technological was done in America (especially involving medicine). And as far as healthcare for ordinary people-- well, if the system is so bad in places like Canada and western European countries, then why do they live longer than we do? Maybe it's the balmy climate? Or is it that people go to the doctor when they need to, instead of when they can afford to?
Maybe it's time to give another look at Universal Healthcare. Because every argument they bring up, we will have a great response: That is what we have now.
UPDATE: Dorsano over at Night Bird's Fountain put up a great post on The Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition.