Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You got to help me, I can't do it all by myself

(Photo proudly stolen from the Heritage Foundation. Bite me.)

Sometimes it just writes itself. Corporate tool and über-mustache John Stossel says health care in the USA is really pretty good:
First let's acknowledge that the U.S. medical system has serious problems. But the problems stem from departures from free-market principles. The system is riddled with tax manipulation, costly insurance mandates and bureaucratic interference. Most important, six of seven health care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness. As Milton Friedman always pointed out, no one spends other people's money as carefully as he spends his own.

Even with all that, it strains credulity to hear that the U.S. ranks far from the top. Sick people come to the United States for treatment. When was the last time you heard of someone leaving this country to get medical care?

So what's wrong with the WHO and Commonwealth Fund studies? Let me count the ways.

The WHO, a United Nations agency, judged a country's quality of health on life expectancy. But that's a lousy measure of a health-care system. Many things that cause premature death have nothing do with medical care. We have far more fatal transportation accidents than other countries. That's not a health care problem.

Similarly, our homicide rate is 10 times higher than in the U.K., eight times higher than in France, and five times greater than in Canada.

When you adjust for these "fatal injury" rates, U.S. life expectancy is actually higher than in nearly every other industrialized nation.

Another reason the U.S. didn't score high in the WHO rankings is that we are less socialistic than other nations. What has that got to do with the quality of health care? For the authors of the study, it's crucial. The WHO judged countries not on the absolute quality of health care, but on how "fairly" health care of any quality is "distributed." The problem here is obvious. By that criterion, a country with high-quality care overall but "unequal distribution" would rank below a country with lower-quality care but equal distribution.

Jeebus, where to start?

As conservatarians are wont to say, the "free-market" will fix all. But then he goes on:
The system is riddled with tax manipulation, costly insurance mandates and bureaucratic interference. Most important, six of seven health care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness.
And life-expectancy isn't a good measure of health care? This is sophistry at its worst, an agenda-driven statement that overlooks fact. How unusual.
This is exactly what the "free-market" has given us. More about this in another post, but the free-market is about profit, not service.
The WHO judged countries not on the absolute quality of health care, but on how "fairly" health care of any quality is "distributed."

Again, this is "free-market" dogma: if you can afford it, you can get it. If you're poor, tough. And the loaded use of the word 'socialistic' is another giveaway that as usual, Stossel has an agenda and will bend any facts to fit.

Look, an agenda is OK, I have one too. I want single-payer health care for 2 reasons: We're theoretically the richest country on the planet and our citizens deserve health care, and the government-run Medicare system is teh most efficient was to deliver it with the least overhead.

Stossel doesn't give a crap about 47,000,000 Americans without health care, he cares about Blue Cross, Aetna, and all the other insurance companies making a profit.

Bastard.