Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Email Propaganda in My Inbox

I received the following email message from two different people yesterday.
Definitely something to consider before you cast your vote this election!!!

A short, but poignant, independent film on government-sponsored healthcare systems. Anyone who plans to vote for our new President in 2008 must see this.
This is the independent film: A Short Course in Brain Surgery

That link explains the film is part of the Free Market Cure Video Series created to inform Americans about the dangers of collectivized medicine and the benefits of free markets in health care. In this particular case, "A Short Course in Brain Surgery" highlights the story of Lindsay McCreith, "a man with a cancerous brain tumor who crossed the border to the U.S. to get the medical care that is rationed in his home country." You can read more about McCreith here and here.

I never heard of Free Market Videos so I decided to do some digging and hit pay dirt right away. An entertaining blog called the Hillbilly Report already dug up information on them. Basically, the film is partly funded by the Moving Picture Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and one of their board members is Freyda Levy. Freyda co-founded the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity - the limited government, free market group that teaches grassroot activitists how to lobby legislators - and she also serves on the board of Club for Growth. You get the picture.

The film and its backers are trying to convince voters that government health care isn't the answer, and they're using this one example from Canada to make their point. The problem is that no one ever said Canada's health care was perfect. We've all heard the stories about patients waiting for hours in Canadian emergency rooms. But guess what? The average length of stay in U.S. emergency rooms in 2005 hit 3 hours and 42 minutes. And for every Lindsay McCreith in Canada, there's a Nataline Sarkisyan in the United States. Nataline is the 17 year-old girl from California who died five days after her insurance company refused to approve her liver transplant.

Actually, Lindsay McCreith is fortunate that he had government health care to fall back on at the first sign that something was wrong. That's not the case for thousands of uninsured Americans. Consider these facts from Families USA:
  • In 2002, the Institute of Medicine released a groundbreaking report, Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late, which estimated that 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. Subsequently, The Urban Institute estimated that 22,000 adults died in 2006 because they did not have health insurance.

  • Across the United States, in 2006, twice as many people died from lack of health insurance as died from homicide.

  • Uninsured adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease in an advanced stage. For example, uninsured women are substantially more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer than women with private insurance.
  • The bottom line is that other countries health systems have their problems, but each one seems to deliver a better total package than the one here at home. That point was made in a new documentary on PBS called Sick Around the World. The film is underwritten by The Kaiser Foundation and hosted by Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid. Jonathan Cohn says viewers will find this film has an evenhandedness viewers didn't find in "Sicko" (and I didn't find in "A Short Course in Brain Surgery"). This is what Cohn has to say:
    In England, the film notes, patients frequently wait for elective services; in Germany, physicians are unhappy that they don't get paid more; in Japan, the government's hyper-aggressive price controls have led to chronic underfunding. And yet the new film also puts these drawbacks in their rightful context. Every system the film portrays has its problems, but overall each one seems to deliver a better total package than the one in the U.S.

    The most interesting case study is probably Taiwan. A few years ago, when Taiwan decided to revamp its health care system, it studied other countries to determine which system might work best. Its conclusion? A single-payer system--one in which the government insures everybody directly--made the most sense.

    [...] Today, the people of Taiwan have guaranteed access to health care--and, according to the film, it's very good health care. There are no chronic waiting lists, like you find in Britain, and the care is very advanced. Among other things, Taiwan is among the world leaders in establishing electronic medical records--an innovation that should significantly improve care by keeping doctors and nurses better informed about patient histories and, no less important, avoiding potentially dangerous drug interactions.
    Cohn admits that politically single-payer is still a tough sell in this country, but "Sick Around the World" makes it clear that alternatives work well too.
    The reports from Germany, Japan, and Switzerland make it clear that it's possible to have everything Americans like about their health care system--quick access, choice of doctor and provider, high quality care--while covering everybody and spending less.
    That brings me back to that email I referred to at the beginning. I need to consider the candidates plans before I vote in November. Back to Cohn:
    The presidential candidates don't talk about other countries, except (for opponents of universal coverage, like McCain) to bash them.

    But both of the Democrats call for covering everybody--and for overhauling the system so that it can achieve the sorts of efficiencies the best systems abroad have realized. Their plans, if implemented as they've been drawn up, would make American health care look a lot like the Swiss version.

    Neither plan would accomplish that transition overnight... Still, that's a far cry from what McCain and much of his party advocates, which is essentially to fix the existing patchwork with even more patches. And that's a crucial difference of which viewers (and voters) should be aware.
    Hmm...patches or the efficiencies the best systems abroad have realized? No-contest. I'm voting Democrat.

    (Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)

    6 comments:

    K. said...

    When critics poke at weaknesses in other nations' health care systems, they make this unspoken argument that whatever the problems ours might, it's still better than anyone else's. You still hear this "best health care system" in the world stuff. And, I suppose it is for anyone with enough money to access all of it. But the rotten truth is that despite all of the wealth in this country, we've fallen behind most other developed nations when it comes to life expectancy. Of course, the Free Market Videos of the world generally forget to mention that.

    Hey, what the heck is wrong with the Tigers?

    Anonymous said...

    Dig a little deeper and I bet you'll find insurance companies help fund this video. Quite a racket they have going on at our expense.

    Kathy said...

    K, in addition to falling behind in life expectancy, we also have some of the highest infant mortality rates, and medical debt is one of the main reasons families file for bankruptcy.

    The Tigers? They're just toying with us. Just like the tortoise and the hare, they'll win the race. (We can dream, can't we?) :-)

    abi said...

    I wish everyone who buys the insurance industry's propaganda about healthcare would see Sick Around the World. It was a great sampler of practical alternatives to our sick system. But what really struck me is how some of the interviewees were all but laughing at us, and what we put up with.

    The Tigers? Aka the Kittens?

    Kathy said...

    Abi, it's incredible the way we've gone from being the envy of the world to laughingstocks in a just a few decades, eh?

    Kittens? Okay, I have to concede to the gentleman from the Boston area. :-)

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