Editor's Page


By Daniel Houck

Medical Reform Or Medical Ruination?


Let’s face it. The U.S. medical system is in serious trouble. It suffers from runaway costs and uneven delivery. It is about to be inundated with a demographic Tsunami, the Baby Boom. The system of providing insurance through employers is breaking down and will likely have to be repaired and/or seriously supplemented soon.

Some Canadians are full of advice for Americans about health care but don’t seem to see that the U.S. is not Canada. Canada’s population is little more than one-tenth that of the U.S. and far more homogeneous.   Canadians take better care of themselves on the whole, cutting health care needs.

The Canadian health care system is based at the provincial level and thus is smaller in scale, closer to the people and more manageable. Canada in general seems to be able to govern itself more efficiently and without a lot of red ink.

In the U.S., no one knows what Mr. Obama is proposing since he has yet to put forth a detailed or coherent plan. What we do know is that he wants another gargantuan government program run from Washington D.C. He wants this despite the dismal performance of Medicare/Medicaid which loses billions annually to waste, fraud and overcharging while trying to serve only a fraction of the U.S. population. Medicare/Medicaid is hardly a reassuring demonstration of the Federal government’s ability to finance and manage health care.

If the Feds can’t operate this program effectively, how can they provide medical care to 300 million people? If they can’t manage their own budget without trillion dollar deficits, how can they manage the health care budget of the entire nation?

A measured repair of the U.S. medical system starts with addressing the cost-push problems caused directly by government. For example, physicians and hospitals spend billions on liability insurance and billions more on defensive medicine and hiring lawyers to defend themselves from our runaway tort system.

The patient and the taxpayer end up stuck with the bill from uncontrolled ambulance chasing by trial lawyers. Canada to its credit does not allow this sort of legal raiding on its health care system. Nor should the U.S. and no restructuring can succeed without serious legal reform.

And what would hospitals cost if they were constructed by medical professionals and investors without years of wading through red tape and second guessing from state and local government bureaucrats? What would drugs cost if, like here in Mexico, prescriptions are only needed for dangerous or addictive drugs? And if drugs followed a more streamlined and less costly approval process based on the European model?

What if doctors could get an education without piling up hundreds of thousands of personal debt which has to be repaid from inflated fees? What would health insurance cost if insurers were free to sell policies and compete everywhere and there was a reasonable and consistent set of standards for all? What if small businesses could join large insurance pools and reap the cost savings thereof?

Conservatives know that the U.S. medical system needs repair. We also know the Federal government needs to fix its own house first.

A government that is fiscally and managerially bankrupt cannot be trusted with our health care. That’s what those angry crowds at Town Hall meetings and the recent mass march on D.C. are all about. Those are real people and they are really up in arms over the mess in Washington.

“Physician heal thyself” is the right prescription now for Mr. Obama, the Congress and the government. After that is done, let’s talk about what’s next for health care.

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