Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What to expect when your doctor is a government employee

Note: A shorter version of this appeared as the weekend op-ed in the Times-Record. It had to be shorter, I could have gone on at consdierably greater length just on examples from people I know personally.

The president and congress seem determined to pass nationalized health care just as quickly as they can, despite 89 percent of Americans saying they like their current health care just fine.

Make no mistake about it, nationalized health care is what they intend, despite claims they only want to “create competition” or a “government option.” Go to YouTube and search “Obama,” and “single-payer.” You'll get videos of Obama speaking at public meetings two and six years ago, in favor of a single-payer health care system.

It is possible the president has changed his mind since then. So why hasn't he said so?

Now search “Barney Frank,” and “single payer.” You'll find Congressman Frank, quite frankly stating that creating a tax-subsidized government insurance plan is the best way to get to a single-payer system by driving private insurance out of business.

Here's just one which excerpts Obama on a number of occasions speaking in favor of a single-payer system.

“Single payer” is what they used to call “socialized medicine,” before the catastrophic collapse of socialism around the world starting in 1989.

There are arguments for socialized medicine articulated by honest, well-meaning people. But what we're getting is a dishonest attempt to pass it without first convincing us through that messy democratic process.

You've heard both sides. Perhaps you'd like to hear from people in countries where doctors and nurses are government bureaucrats?

In Poland a few years back, a lady friend was in a car wreck with her father and grandmother. Her father was dead of a heart attack at the scene. My friend was taken to the local hospital (minus her wallet and watch which mysteriously disappeared somewhere along the way) and treated.

Her grandmother, old and overweight, was left lying on a gurney in a dreary hospital corridor for hours. Finally someone passed by and reacted, “Oh, you're still alive? Maybe we should do something after all.”

She took her two months to die. There's no telling if quicker treatment would have saved her – it's just the sheer callous indifference that's shocking.

A dear friend of ours, a mother with three children, died in a ghastly Soviet-era hospital in Lithuania after eating poison mushrooms. The doctors ignored the pleas of her desperately sick husband to pump her stomach. He tried to tell them she had a life-long inability to vomit and her body wasn't expelling the poison.

Atropine is sometimes given for neurotoxins such as the amanita phalloidia mushroom. Perhaps atropine wouldn't have saved her. We'll never know. The hospital had none on hand and couldn't be bothered to send to town for any, “because then we'd have to do it for everyone.”

When my wife was a child she broke her leg in a playground accident. Her leg was set by a drunk doctor who didn't lay gauze down and screwed up the bone setting. When it had to be rebroken, the cast was taken off with a drill which cut to the bone on her ankle.

Fortunately, quality low-cost medical care is becoming available in the former Soviet bloc countries, as the competent medical personnel abandon government service for private practice.

But that was the communist system. We're told we should look at England and Canada.

Our son's late godmother suffered treatment by Britain's National Health Service on two occasions.

After treatment for a broken wrist, she asked if she could impose on my father (a retired orthopedic surgeon) to look at her X-rays and records. After examining them, my father wrote a scathing letter to the NHS bureaucrats about their “stone-age” treatment methods and “that rag” (the wrist brace) they supplied her with.

A few years later, following an operation for bowel cancer, she lay in the NHS hospital wasting away. They said she, “had no appetite,” and what could we expect, she was nearly 90?

It turned out she was too weak to sit up and eat. She got better after we sent a Polish friend to feed her and look after her at home. That for certain gave her the extra year-and-a-half of life the NHS didn't think she needed.

There are people who think the NHS is just fine. My own sister, a long-term resident of the UK, is one of them. Sis is healthy and rarely uses the service. But with her family history she should have a mamogram every year. NHS rations her to one every three years.

Canada? Ninety percent of their population lives within 100 miles of an American doctor. New York city alone has more MRI machines than all of Canada. Heck, Valley City, North Dakota, population less than 7,000 has an MRI parked outside of the local hospital right now!

Some believe we can create a nationalized health system that corrects all the defects of such systems around the world, despite all experience to the contrary.

Maybe so, but do you think they can do it in six months?


  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger Ted Amadeus said…

    Why, don't you understand that the reason it's failed everywhere else it's been tried is that the "right" people weren't in charge? We got Oba-Messiah in office and his largely-Papist "Democrat" chorus and lobbies cheering this on...
    What could possibly go wrong *ahem*?
    Just like all Empires eventually collapse from their own gross internal rot, but not ours; it'll last forever and ever!

  • At 4:14 PM, Blogger Cori Faklaris said…

    I don't understand why your sister couldn't just pay for a mammogram the other two years that the NHS won't pay. Is that somehow forbidden in the UK? The government should provide the minimum care as part of our social contract, I believe, but individuals should also take responsibility for paying for the maximum level of care they want.

  • At 5:00 PM, Blogger Steve said…


    As I understand it, yes. Private medical practices are forbidden.

    I still find that hard to believe, does anyone know different?

  • At 6:02 PM, Blogger Karoly said…

    It's interesting that just as Eastern European countries are struggling to get out of the "free, universal and high-quality" health care, the U.S. is preparing to take a headlong plunge into it. It's been two decades since Communism collapsed, but socialism still rules in health care. Not because it's so wonderful (almost everybody agrees it's a disgrace -- the closer they can/must observe it, the more they're appalled), but there are very powerful special interests that keep it that way. Some politicians also like scoring points by telling people that free health care is their birthright. (Who doesn't like to hear that?) Of course, they will fix it, they promise, there's nothing wrong with the basic idea, it's just those corrupt, incompetent people in charge that are to blame. And so they've been fixing it for decades...

    The system actually works reasonably well until one really gets sick. Then something curious happens. Say, your mom broke her leg, or a tumor was found in your wife's breast. She's taken to hospital, and you hurry to her doctor to learn how serious it is, what intervention (s)he suggests. But first you must pass by the bank. What? It's free health care! Yes, in principle it is (apart from the fact that you have already paid for it in your taxes). In practice, however, no loving son or husband would turn up without an envelope stuffed with money ready to slipped into the doctor's pocket. You may get lucky and meet an honest and enthusiastic doctor who refuses to accept it. You don't want to take chances, though. You know your mother or wife won't get even a semi-decent treatment if that's not the case. And it's usually not the case. Some doctors are quite open about it. With others you must go and ask people around about the going rate. Of course, you can never be certain about the amount, so you want to err on the plus side.

    If you think health care is expensive, just wait until it becomes free.

  • At 8:10 PM, Blogger Steve said…

    I remember when my editor in Warsaw showed up at the pub with his arm in a cast. He said he got served at the emergency room right away - but he'd taken the precaution of showing up with two bottles of cognac.

  • At 9:33 AM, Blogger togo said…

    The best discussion I've seen on health care reform:


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