06 April 2007

Right resorts to lies

A couple of Cato Institute directors have resorted to half-truths and lies in an op-ed piece for the LA Times. The piece is titled "Universal health care's dirty little secrets" — those "secrets" evidently being foremost that preventive care doesn't make for healthier populations.

Ezra Klein does a good job of rebutting this, saying that the Cato guys distorted the study that supposedly proved this — and ignored the many studies that show positive correlations between preventive care and better health.

The other "dirty secrets" are similarly deceitful — beginning with the "fact" that the uninsured in the U.S. do get care in emergency room hospitals and via docs, who don't turn away patients just because they're uninsured. And there are physicians who take on an uninsured friend. But those instances hardly make for a "medical home" for a county's uninsured — especially for the uninsured with chronic conditions.

The Cato guys, of course, fell back on the right's frantic claim that there are waiting lists for elective surgery in countries with universal care. The right screams this so often that it's hardly a secret. They never mention the fact, of course, that there are also waits here in the U.S. — and that waits are hardly a secret in Canada. It's a public system that was underfunded and is now doing far better. Their problems are far more publicized than ours are, because it's public. People got mad about it, and they're fixing it. This is a "secret" only in the upside-down world of libertarians.

So will the Canadian system then be perfect — after they work out the waits? Give me a break. What system is perfect? The point is that the U.S. can do much, much better — and that Canada, Great Britain, Sweden and all the others already do much better. Unless you think that paying more and getting less is better. They have better outcomes for less money in a more transparent (and therefore amenable to improvement) system than ours.

Are we really such idiots that we can't do that too? Are we really so wedded to an inefficient, unjust, and uneven system just because it makes some people a lot of money? And employs — at the expense of lives — thousands of clerks, administrators, and marketing managers? Whatever happened to the joy of creative destruction that the right loves so much when it comes to outsourcing factory jobs? Whatever happened to the concept of retraining people whose skills become obsolete in a new, fast-moving economy that supposedly has to be as efficient as possible in order to compete globally?

Is that true in every sector except healthcare?

At least Amy Ridenour has come up with something new in her never-ending quest to ignore our own crisis and instead focus on the problems of others. Kind of like someone in the Philippines ignoring the hillsides of people living in squatter settlements made of cardboard an discarded mattress springs, saying that these folks are sheltered, after all — but look at the problems in Paris! Where so many people don't have air-conditioning!

Ridenour has dug up a nasty op-ed from the London Times about "mixed-sex wards," that makes it sound as though the British regularly share hospital rooms with sex fiends of the opposite sex. It is a scary story, but hardly, as Ridenour says, the one story you should read about single-payer, if you read nothing else this year. And in fact, a more balanced story from the BBC points out that most "mixed-sex wards" are actually emergency rooms. And I can tell you from recent experience that ours are mixed sex too — and that there is the occasional view of an octogenarian's butt. Big deal.

More recently, the scandal in the British papers about their hospital care is that the telephone charges have been increased. Evidently, it's now possible to spend 60 pence on a call before you're even connected. "It's outrageous!" thundered one letter writer. Indeed. I wonder if Ridenour is aware of that one.

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