Thursday, May 7, 2009

Obama: Wrecking US Health System

Barack Obama's efforts to "fix" the American health care system are destined to fail. He will be taking the best medical system in the world and making it resemble the poorer quality variety found in other industrialized countries. (Second in a series)

Paul Krugman, far-left economist and columnist for the NY Times says “Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. . . . But it isn’t true.” I have news for Dr. Krugman: when it comes to evaluating health care, he’s an idiot.

The problem is that people like Obama and his left-wing colleagues in Congress tend to believe individuals like Krugman. They know that many people in the US (although not as many as they think) lack adequate health insurance, so they assume our country must be doing a poor job treating people. But in contrast with care in other advanced nations, the US is doing an outstanding job.

By every relevant measure, the U.S. has the best health care system of any developed country. Doubt that? Well, consider the following points from Dr. Gratzer’s marvelous book The Cure:

Women with breast cancer in Europe are four times as likely as women in the U.S. to be diagnosed after the tumor has spread and thus are much less likely to survive the disease; for example, the survival rate for first-stage breast cancer in the US is 97% but only 78% in Great Britain;
Cancer patients in the U.S. have much higher survival rates than their European counterparts. US doctors and hospitals catch 70% of prostate cancers in the, while their British counterparts catch only 58%; Germany and France are better than Britain but well behind the US; and,
The US consistently beats Europe in survival rates for cancer – with the American survival rate for leukemia being 50%, while Europe’s average rate is 35%.

The statistics are similar with heart disease and stroke. On both, the US is well ahead of Canada and Europe. Our system dramatically outperforms the care provided in the national health systems. The second and third best systems are Canada and Australia. The worst performers are Great Britain and New Zealand.

A friend wrote me yesterday saying that Germany and Switzerland had good health system. Small, relatively homogeneous countries (Switzerland, the Scandinavian nations) aren’t really comparable to large, diverse countries like the US.

As for Germany, Dr. David Gratzer doesn’t give it high marks.

He says, “If French health care appears shaky, the house of German health care sinks on its own unsustainable foundation. ‘The German health care system is facing bankruptcy on an unprecedented level,’ states The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal. Faced with rising pressures, the German government has to various methods of cost containment, such as global spending caps [e.g., “you can spend this and no more”]. One colorful result: large-scale doctor strikes.

Gratzer adds about Germany, “Some say the quality of care suffers. ‘Not even half the patients who have suffered a heart attack are treated according to the medical state-of-the-art,’ observes Ulla Schmidt [former federal minister for health and social security]. ‘Health care for women – especially precautions against breast care – is so bad that it results in unnecessary amputations and late diagnosis.’”

The government-dominated health systems Obama and his political allies are holding up as models for us . . . aren’t systems we want to imitate. Yes, we pay more for health care than other advanced countries, but we also get much more.

(Note: I'm not saying the US health system can't be improved, and later in this series I'll give some ideas on how to do so. What I am saying is that Obama's efforts will harm the system much more than they will help it.)

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