18 June 2007

War declared on Sicko

An editorial at Investor's Business Daily on Sicko and healthcare reform lays out a war strategy:
The Hillary Clinton-led forces that tried to socialize medicine in the U.S. 13 years ago are mobilizing for war. Stopping them requires knowing their strategy before the first shot is fired.

Michael Moore's new documentary, Sicko, which opens June 29, has been screened to the press, and it's powerful propaganda.

In it, America is a country where health insurers and hospitals kill people by denying coverage, make obscene profits charging outlandish sums for treatments and drugs, and even dump hapless, gown-clad patients who can't pay their bills on the doorsteps of other hospitals.

Meanwhile, Canada, Britain, France and even Cuba are portrayed as medical fairy wonderlands where doctors, hospitals and medicine are free or cost a pittance. Yet socialism doesn't prevent government-employed physicians from driving Audis or living in million-dollar homes.

Rep. John Conyers, the far-left Michigan Democrat, calls the Sicko release "one of the most important developments in the national debate on our health care crisis since the Clintons attempted to pass universal health care legislation in 1994."

Conyers and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, are co-authors of legislation to have the government take over the health system and provide "enhanced Medicare for everyone." Sicko producers Harvey and Robert Weinstein have even hired ex-Clinton White House mudslinger Chris Lehane to use the movie as a flash point for organizing political rallies.

Like the bullet that slew Archduke Franz Ferdinand and sparked World War I, Sicko"may one day be looked back on as triggering the great health care war. The next president will likely end that conflict with the momentous decision of replacing our faulty employer-based health insurance system with a reform that empowers one of two interests: the government or patients.

No doubt about the sickness of a current U.S. system that "smothers competition," according to John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

A Pennsylvania health care agency recently reported that the 60 hospitals performing heart-bypass surgery in that state showed little if any relationship between the price charged for the procedure — from less than $20,000 to nearly $100,000 — and quality of care or mortality rates.

Responding to the findings, Dr. Ronald Paulus, an executive with Geisinger Health System of central Pennsylvania, told the New York Times there's no current financial incentive in the present system for hospitals to provide care leading to better outcomes and lower payments.

Dr. David Gratzer, a Canadian physician, Manhattan Institute senior fellow and author of the new book "The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save Health Care," calls U.S. health care "an accidental system."

... "Federal subsidies enabled managed-care plans to attract customers by offering benefits that other insurers could not," said Regina Herzlinger, a Harvard Business School professor and author of the just-published "Who Killed Health Care?," which makes the case for a new consumer-driven health system.

Herzlinger added that "in its cruelest aspect," the Nixon-Kennedy HMO act "enabled physicians to be paid for not providing health care." The managed-care movement became, as she described it, "the worst kind of business — the kind that injures its customers."

... But is the answer socialism? Many Democrats think so. Chairing a health care panel in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., last month, freshman Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., a supporter of government-provided single-payer universal coverage, dazzled the audience with a story of how his mother once fell on the steps of a restaurant in the Czech Republic and received a free operation and two free weeks in a hospital....

Herzlinger offers as a model for reform Switzerland's long-standing, market-based, consumer-driven health system. "Individuals in the Swiss system can safely and effectively buy insurance from a large number of competent firms," she said. Universal coverage is required and prices for consumers are not risk-adjusted.

"A sick 60-year-old man pays the same price for insurance as a healthy one," Herzlinger said.

In addition, the Swiss system directly subsidizes the poor. The overall result is that costs and inflation rates are 40% lower as a percentage of the economy than in the U.S....
Interesting. They like the Swiss system, the most expensive system other than our own.

The Swiss generally agree that their system needs major reform — but they've been assaulted by the same barrage of fear-based appeals to scare them off from single-payer that we have. But this is an interesting strategy on the part of the right — to promise a system like Switzerland's, which is indisputably better than ours. It's just not up to par with its neighbors in terms of equity or cost-effectiveness — and does not have better statistics on quality and outcomes.

The only problem with this strategy is that it's hard to imagine the insurance industry money really getting behind it. Switzerland's system depends on regulation that the insurance industry here would never agree to. There are far too many insurance CEO Marie Antoinettes who believe that the peasants can eat cake a while longer — at least until their own own golden parachute comes through.

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