Following up on Melissa’s post below…
Paul Krugman on the myths of health care:
Being without health insurance is no big deal. Just ask President Bush. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said last week. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”
Yes, where you pay $300 to have a cut sewn up if you get treated at all before dying. It’s not the fault of the emergency rooms, however; they’re just not ready to be the first responders for the health care needs of the nation, and it’s also one of the reasons why health insurance is so expensive; someone has to pay for all those people who can’t pay when they show up at the E.R.
The claim that the uninsured can get all the care they need in emergency rooms is just the beginning. Beyond that is the myth that Americans who are lucky enough to have insurance never face long waits for medical care.
Actually, the persistence of that myth puzzles me. I can understand how people like Mr. Bush or Fred Thompson, who declared recently that “the poorest Americans are getting far better service” than Canadians or the British, can wave away the desperation of uninsured Americans, who are often poor and voiceless. But how can they get away with pretending that insured Americans always get prompt care, when most of us can testify otherwise?
A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: “In reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American people are already waiting as long or longer than patients living with universal health-care systems.”
The myth that the British and the Canadians wait longer for health care is persistent and pernicious; someone will always come up with an anecdote about a friend who had an aunt or a cousin or some such that waited three years for a hip replacement in Sault Ste. Marie and finally ended up going to some place in Michigan where they got surgery the next day. And Saddam Hussein bought significant amounts of uranium from Africa.
On the other hand, it’s true that Americans get hip replacements faster than Canadians. But there’s a funny thing about that example, which is used constantly as an argument for the superiority of private health insurance over a government-run system: the large majority of hip replacements in the United States are paid for by, um, Medicare.
That’s right: the hip-replacement gap is actually a comparison of two government health insurance systems. American Medicare has shorter waits than Canadian Medicare (yes, that’s what they call their system) because it has more lavish funding — end of story. The alleged virtues of private insurance have nothing to do with it.
Of course Mr. Bush can take a “let them eat cake” approach to health care; he’s never had to worry about it himself. Given his family’s history going back to his grandfather, he’s been on government-paid-for health care since he was a kid.
Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.