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John Simkin

Medical Treatment in your country

70 posts in this topic

In the UK, surveys show that the way people vote is determined by three major factors: health, education and the economy. The age of the person determines what order they place these factors in.

In most advanced economies, countries have a National Health system (what the Americans rightly describe as “socialized medicine”). In the UK it was one of the main rewards provided for the sacrifices made during the Second World War.

In 1942 a large percentage of the British population wanted to negotiate an end to the war. This was understandable as we were getting a terrible beating on the battlefield and the civilian population had to endure the Blitz. Under pressure from the Labour members of his cabinet, Winston Churchill, the leader of the Conservative Party, commissioned a Liberal member, Sir William Beveridge, to write a report on future welfare provision. Given his political background, it was no surprise that is report published in December, 1942, that all people of working age should pay a weekly contribution. In return, benefits would be paid to people who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed. Beveridge argued that this system would provide a minimum standard of living "below which no one should be allowed to fall".

It has to be remembered that before the war the British people had endured the Great Depression. This proposal played an important role in giving the people something to fight for.

In the 1945 General Election all three major parties promised to implement the Beveridge Report. However, the people did not trust Winston Churchill and the Conservative Party to deliver this pledge. They still remembered the broken promises made during the First World War (“a land fit for heroes”) and the way they were treated during the 1930s. The Labour Party won a landslide victory and its most left-wing leader, Aneurin Bevan, was given the job of implementing the Beveridge Report. In 1946 Parliament passed the revolutionary National Insurance Act. It instituted a comprehensive state health service, effective from 5th July 1948. The Act provided for compulsory contributions for unemployment, sickness, maternity and widows' benefits and old age pensions from employers and employees, with the government funding the balance.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUbevan.htm

The government also announced plans for a National Health Service that would be, "free to all who want to use it." Some members of the medical profession opposed the government's plans. The British Medical Association (BMA) mounted a vigorous campaign against this proposed legislation. In one survey of doctors carried out in 1948, the BMA claimed that only 4,734 doctors out of the 45,148 polled, were in favour of a National Health Service. The reason for this is that they feared that their income would fall as a result of the NHS. The doctors were supported by the Conservative Party as they saw the NHS as “socialized medicine”.

This is what one Conservative paper, the Daily Sketch, said about the proposed NHS: “The State medical service is part of the Socialist plot to convert Great Britain into a National Socialist economy. The doctors' stand is the first effective revolt of the professional classes against Socialist tyranny. There is nothing that Bevan or any other Socialist can do about it in the shape of Hitlerian coercion.”

Doctors and dentists threatened to boycott the NHS. Aneurin Bevan was forced to make compromises in order to win the support of the high-income members of the medical profession (nurses and young doctors tended to support the idea of the NHS). This is what he said in a speech in the House of Commons on 9th February, 1948: “We have provided paid bed blocks to specialists, where they are able to charge private fees (Labour MPs shout "shame"). I agree at once that these are very serious things, and that, unless properly controlled, we can have a two-tier system in which it will be thought that members to the general public will be having worse treatment than those who are able to pay.”

As a result of these compromises that severely undermined the principles of the NHS, the National Health Service Act was passed in 1948. As a result people in Britain were provided with free diagnosis and treatment of illness, at home or in hospital, as well as dental and ophthalmic services. As Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan was now in charge of 2,688 hospitals in England and Wales.

Although the NHS was extremely popular with the British people, the Labour government came under great pressure to water-down the system. In April 1951, Hugh Gaitskell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that he intended to introduce measures that would force people to pay half the cost of dentures and spectacles and a one shilling prescription charge. As a result of this measure Bevan resigned as Minister of Health. As he pointed out: “It is wrong (to impose national health charges) because it is the beginning of the destruction of those social services in which Labour has taken a special pride and which were giving to Britain the moral leadership of the world.”

We now know that Gaitskell was one of those Labour leaders who was in the pay of the CIA. The money came via Tom Braden, head of the International Organizations Division (IOD) of the CIA. In this way, so-called left-wing politicians supported policies favoured by the ruling elite. See Braden’s confession in 1975:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKbraden.htm

The NHS has remained popular with the British people. Although Churchill and the Conservative Party were back in power in 1951, it was politically impossible to remove the NHS. Instead, they tried to undermine it with the constant under-funding of the system, tax changes to encourage people to buy into private health systems and the privatization of parts of the service. It was these actions that helped Tony Blair to be elected to office in 1997.

It is true that the Blair government has greatly increased spending on the NHS. However, they have also continued on the path of privatization and brought in reforms that favour high-paid doctors. They also have done nothing to deal with the absurd prices demanded by the multinational drug companies.

I have been blessed with good health and I have only experienced a short stay in a hospital once when I was eleven when I needed to have my tonsils out. However, my wife developed cancer seven years ago and so I now have first-hand experience of the workings of the NHS.

The main failing of the NHS seems to be that because of under-funding and the high costs of treatment, the service has to be rationed. The key to getting the best treatment concerns your ability to make your voice heard. For example, my wife was rushed into hospital on Tuesday morning. Although we had a letter from the doctor stating what the problem was (severe dehydration brought on by an infection that caused violent vomiting) it took three hours to receive the required treatment. This was much better than most people waiting in the “Accidents and Emergencies Department”. She only got treated as quickly as this because I spent the whole time advocating her case. The staff did what they could but they had too many people to deal with. It took 45 minutes before a doctor examined her. Although we had a letter from the doctor explaining what the problem was, the doctor insisted in carrying out her own tests. It therefore took over two hours before these test results confirmed that she was suffering from dehydration. However, it was now worse than that, her kidneys had stopped working.

The nurse asked to arrange for my wife to have an intravenous drip was incompetent. It was her first day in the hospital (a bank nurse) and did not know where anything was kept. She also gave me the impression that she had never done one before.

Judith was being treated in a cubicle. I could hear the young doctor pleading over the phone for a bed. It took another two hours before she was taken to a bed in the Emergency and Accidents Unit. Soon afterwards we were told by a senior doctor that she might not survive the night.

From that point on the quality of treatment has been excellent. However, I suspect that is because my daughter and I have played an active role in her medical care. This included meetings with doctors to discuss the nature of her treatment. This is vitally important as treatment is clearly rationed. For example, we were told that the only thing that could save her life was to be put onto a haemofiltration machine. During hemofiltration, a patient's blood is passed through a filtration circuit via a machine to a semipermeable membrane where waste products and water are removed. Replacement fluid is added and the blood is returned to the patient. In other words, it does what the kidneys usually do. The hospital only has one of these machines. It also needs a nurse to permanently monitor the equipment. We were told that people suffering from terminal cancer of retirement age are not usually put on this machine. We therefore had to convince them that Judith’s life was worth saving. The consultant eventually agreed that she should be put on the machine.

Judith’s treatment in the Intensive Care Unit has been superb. She spent three days on the machine and we are now anxiously waiting to see if her kidneys start working again.

My feelings about the NHS are mixed. It seems to receive the best treatment you need to negotiate your way through incompetence and an over-stretched service. Rationing is clearly taking place. The most important factor in this is not wealth or class but of education. Each patient seems to need an advocate who has researched the various different treatments available. Without one, the patient will receive second-class treatment. This to me is clearly the main weakness of the system.

However, the great strength of the system is that very expensive treatment is available to people who could not afford to pay the market price.

I am interested in hearing about other member’s experience of the health care system. Have you been satisfied with the treatment you or family members have received?

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In the UK, surveys show that the way people vote is determined by three major factors: health, education and the economy. The age of the person determines what order they place these factors in.

In most advanced economies, countries have a National Health system (what the Americans rightly describe as “socialized medicine”). In the UK it was one of the main rewards provided for the sacrifices made during the Second World War.

In 1942 a large percentage of the British population wanted to negotiate an end to the war. This was understandable as we were getting a terrible beating on the battlefield and the civilian population had to endure the Blitz. Under pressure from the Labour members of his cabinet, Winston Churchill, the leader of the Conservative Party, commissioned a Liberal member, Sir William Beveridge, to write a report on future welfare provision. Given his political background, it was no surprise that is report published in December, 1942, that all people of working age should pay a weekly contribution. In return, benefits would be paid to people who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed. Beveridge argued that this system would provide a minimum standard of living "below which no one should be allowed to fall".

It has to be remembered that before the war the British people had endured the Great Depression. This proposal played an important role in giving the people something to fight for.

In the 1945 General Election all three major parties promised to implement the Beveridge Report. However, the people did not trust Winston Churchill and the Conservative Party to deliver this pledge. They still remembered the broken promises made during the First World War (“a land fit for heroes”) and the way they were treated during the 1930s. The Labour Party won a landslide victory and its most left-wing leader, Aneurin Bevan, was given the job of implementing the Beveridge Report. In 1946 Parliament passed the revolutionary National Insurance Act. It instituted a comprehensive state health service, effective from 5th July 1948. The Act provided for compulsory contributions for unemployment, sickness, maternity and widows' benefits and old age pensions from employers and employees, with the government funding the balance.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUbevan.htm

The government also announced plans for a National Health Service that would be, "free to all who want to use it." Some members of the medical profession opposed the government's plans. The British Medical Association (BMA) mounted a vigorous campaign against this proposed legislation. In one survey of doctors carried out in 1948, the BMA claimed that only 4,734 doctors out of the 45,148 polled, were in favour of a National Health Service. The reason for this is that they feared that their income would fall as a result of the NHS. The doctors were supported by the Conservative Party as they saw the NHS as “socialized medicine”.

This is what one Conservative paper, the Daily Sketch, said about the proposed NHS: “The State medical service is part of the Socialist plot to convert Great Britain into a National Socialist economy. The doctors' stand is the first effective revolt of the professional classes against Socialist tyranny. There is nothing that Bevan or any other Socialist can do about it in the shape of Hitlerian coercion.”

Doctors and dentists threatened to boycott the NHS. Aneurin Bevan was forced to make compromises in order to win the support of the high-income members of the medical profession (nurses and young doctors tended to support the idea of the NHS). This is what he said in a speech in the House of Commons on 9th February, 1948: “We have provided paid bed blocks to specialists, where they are able to charge private fees (Labour MPs shout "shame"). I agree at once that these are very serious things, and that, unless properly controlled, we can have a two-tier system in which it will be thought that members to the general public will be having worse treatment than those who are able to pay.”

As a result of these compromises that severely undermined the principles of the NHS, the National Health Service Act was passed in 1948. As a result people in Britain were provided with free diagnosis and treatment of illness, at home or in hospital, as well as dental and ophthalmic services. As Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan was now in charge of 2,688 hospitals in England and Wales.

Although the NHS was extremely popular with the British people, the Labour government came under great pressure to water-down the system. In April 1951, Hugh Gaitskell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that he intended to introduce measures that would force people to pay half the cost of dentures and spectacles and a one shilling prescription charge. As a result of this measure Bevan resigned as Minister of Health. As he pointed out: “It is wrong (to impose national health charges) because it is the beginning of the destruction of those social services in which Labour has taken a special pride and which were giving to Britain the moral leadership of the world.”

We now know that Gaitskell was one of those Labour leaders who was in the pay of the CIA. The money came via Tom Braden, head of the International Organizations Division (IOD) of the CIA. In this way, so-called left-wing politicians supported policies favoured by the ruling elite. See Braden’s confession in 1975:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKbraden.htm

The NHS has remained popular with the British people. Although Churchill and the Conservative Party were back in power in 1951, it was politically impossible to remove the NHS. Instead, they tried to undermine it with the constant under-funding of the system, tax changes to encourage people to buy into private health systems and the privatization of parts of the service. It was these actions that helped Tony Blair to be elected to office in 1997.

It is true that the Blair government has greatly increased spending on the NHS. However, they have also continued on the path of privatization and brought in reforms that favour high-paid doctors. They also have done nothing to deal with the absurd prices demanded by the multinational drug companies.

I have been blessed with good health and I have only experienced a short stay in a hospital once when I was eleven when I needed to have my tonsils out. However, my wife developed cancer seven years ago and so I now have first-hand experience of the workings of the NHS.

The main failing of the NHS seems to be that because of under-funding and the high costs of treatment, the service has to be rationed. The key to getting the best treatment concerns your ability to make your voice heard. For example, my wife was rushed into hospital on Tuesday morning. Although we had a letter from the doctor stating what the problem was (severe dehydration brought on by an infection that caused violent vomiting) it took three hours to receive the required treatment. This was much better than most people waiting in the “Accidents and Emergencies Department”. She only got treated as quickly as this because I spent the whole time advocating her case. The staff did what they could but they had too many people to deal with. It took 45 minutes before a doctor examined her. Although we had a letter from the doctor explaining what the problem was, the doctor insisted in carrying out her own tests. It therefore took over two hours before these test results confirmed that she was suffering from dehydration. However, it was now worse than that, her kidneys had stopped working.

The nurse asked to arrange for my wife to have an intravenous drip was incompetent. It was her first day in the hospital (a bank nurse) and did not know where anything was kept. She also gave me the impression that she had never done one before.

Judith was being treated in a cubicle. I could hear the young doctor pleading over the phone for a bed. It took another two hours before she was taken to a bed in the Emergency and Accidents Unit. Soon afterwards we were told by a senior doctor that she might not survive the night.

From that point on the quality of treatment has been excellent. However, I suspect that is because my daughter and I have played an active role in her medical care. This included meetings with doctors to discuss the nature of her treatment. This is vitally important as treatment is clearly rationed. For example, we were told that the only thing that could save her life was to be put onto a haemofiltration machine. During hemofiltration, a patient's blood is passed through a filtration circuit via a machine to a semipermeable membrane where waste products and water are removed. Replacement fluid is added and the blood is returned to the patient. In other words, it does what the kidneys usually do. The hospital only has one of these machines. It also needs a nurse to permanently monitor the equipment. We were told that people suffering from terminal cancer of retirement age are not usually put on this machine. We therefore had to convince them that Judith’s life was worth saving. The consultant eventually agreed that she should be put on the machine.

Judith’s treatment in the Intensive Care Unit has been superb. She spent three days on the machine and we are now anxiously waiting to see if her kidneys start working again.

My feelings about the NHS are mixed. It seems to receive the best treatment you need to negotiate your way through incompetence and an over-stretched service. Rationing is clearly taking place. The most important factor in this is not wealth or class but of education. Each patient seems to need an advocate who has researched the various different treatments available. Without one, the patient will receive second-class treatment. This to me is clearly the main weakness of the system.

However, the great strength of the system is that very expensive treatment is available to people who could not afford to pay the market price.

I am interested in hearing about other member’s experience of the health care system. Have you been satisfied with the treatment you or family members have received?

John, first I'm very sorry to hear of your wife's illness. I know you are not a religious man, but if you don't mind, you both will be in my prayers.

Medical care in the US is a mixed bag. Most employers of any size offer some form of health insurance. The government of course offers Medicare to certain people. Different states offer medical coverage to certain people and of course private insurance can be purchased. In addition there are free clinics in most cities as well. Lots of choices, and of course some choose none.

My wife and I run a business as such we purchase our own health insurance. It costs us about $600 per month.

I've had some need to use my health care insurance. About 20 years ago I had major surgery to remove my colon. The total cost was about $30,000. I was required to pay $200. The time from my initial visit at my GP to having the surgery was five days.

I'm diabetic, my copay for medication is $!5. Recently after changing meds, I began having heart paints and shortness of breath. MY GP sent me to a heart guy who ran a myoview stress test, a heart sonogram and finally angiogram. All showed no heart problems, and it was in fact the meds causing the problem. But the process was two days from start to finish, there were quite a few choices of who to see and what facility and equipment to use. The total cost was about $12,000. I have a $1000 deductible insurance policy (again by choice) with a total year out of pocket of $2000. Since I had already met those limits all of the 12K was paid by insurance.

I favor choice and personal responsibility. To pay for my insurance I need to make it a priority. If it means I don't get that new car or a bigger house, that’s just how it is. I also understand that some people are going to need help since the cost of insurance is out of their reach. I support programs that help the truly needy. My problem is with those who have the means but choose to spend their money elsewhere. I'm not happy supporting those who can but don't due to the lack of personal responsibility.

Don't get me wrong. I would rather spend that 600 bucks elsewhere, but I also know that in a country as large as the US, national healthcare has the potential to be very bad. Despite the claims of others that it would be free healthcare for everyone, we all know its not going to be free. It will simply be tax supported. Choice (which is very big for me) will likely be eliminated. Services will likely be rationed (even more so that what sometimes happens with insurance companies). And I think the overall quality of the services will decline because of the lack of competition.

As bad a job as the free market can do sometimes, I shudder to think of what our government will do if they run healthcare. They have a very poor track record.

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One could easily fill a book trying to describe and detail the nuances of the American health care system. I am going to use some of the statements Craig Lamson made, NOT as a rebuttal but as an opportunity to elaborate on some other aspects of the problems facing individuals seeking health insurance. Health care laws and regulations can vary from state to state and in fact that is one of the problems. I live in Florida and will be discussing health insurance in that context.

Medical care in the US is a mixed bag. Most employers of any size offer some form of health insurance.

Many small businesses (Say 2-30 employees) cannot afford to offer their employees health insurance as a benefit. And if they do, the employee in most cases must pay full rates for their spouse and dependents. And those rates are significantly higher than a comparable individual plan would cost because group insurance plans generally are not medically underwritten, although the insurance company can impose a two year waiting period on pre-existing conditions if the employee or his family had no immediate prior coverage with another insurance company.

People that work on a subcontracting basis are generally responsible for purchasing their own insurance. This can include realtors, insurance agents, construction workers, plumbers, electricians, consultants, installers, etc. There is a current case in the news about how Federal Express required their delivery drivers to be subcontractors so they would not have to offer them certain benefits, including health insurance.

Large companies that once offered their vested retiring employees an extension of health insurance coverage no longer do so, meaning those employees must find insurance in the open market which can be problematical if they are under the age of 65.

My wife and I run a business as such we purchase our own health insurance. It costs us about $600 per month.

Many insurance plans are not portable. If Craig were to move to Florida and his plan could not follow him (which is often the case) he would face large obstacles in purchasing health insurance here. Based on his health history, private insurers could and would refuse to cover him with a standard individual policy. Individuals are routinely rejected with any history of heart problems, any form of cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases. Insurance companies are particularly reluctant to insure people once they are older than 55.

A perfectly healthy 60 year old man would pay a monthly premium of $437 for a plan similar to Craig's. ($2000 deductible). This is with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, a not for profit organization with the best coverage for the money in this state. A 60 year old smoker would pay $546 for the same coverage. If he was taking blood pressure medication, the rates would increase 25%. If he was taking cholesterol medication, the rates would increase another 25%. In all likelihood, the insurance company would refuse coverage. Women's rates are comparable. (These rates vary by county of residence and are significantly higher on the east coast, i.e. Miami and Fort Lauderdale.)

A person that is uninsurable for health reasons can purchase guaranteed issue coverage during August (called the open enrollment period), but they must be self-employed. The monthly premium for one person is generally around $1000, or higher. If someone was in the same circumstances as Craig, this is what he or she would have to do.

I favor choice and personal responsibility. To pay for my insurance I need to make it a priority. If it means I don't get that new car or a bigger house, that’s just how it is. I also understand that some people are going to need help since the cost of insurance is out of their reach. I support programs that help the truly needy. My problem is with those who have the means but choose to spend their money elsewhere. I'm not happy supporting those who can but don't due to the lack of personal responsibility.

I agree with Craig statements above. Defining the truly needy may be an issue. I know many families where both parents work and they make plenty of sacrifices. Many young parents will insure their children, but not themselves. Florida does offer health coverage to children whose parents fall below certain income standards.

Don't get me wrong. I would rather spend that 600 bucks elsewhere, but I also know that in a country as large as the US, national healthcare has the potential to be very bad. Despite the claims of others that it would be free healthcare for everyone, we all know its not going to be free. It will simply be tax supported. Choice (which is very big for me) will likely be eliminated. Services will likely be rationed (even more so that what sometimes happens with insurance companies). And I think the overall quality of the services will decline because of the lack of competition.

Of course health care cannot be free for everyone. I don't know anyone that thinks that. By and large, people on Medicare have not had their choices limited or services limited. That practice is much more prevalent with private insurance plans. Until a few years ago, seniors on Medicare had to pay for their own prescriptions. In many cases, their monthly prescription bill was higher than Craig's premium on his health plan. In 2006, Medicare-sponsored prescription plans were offered through private insurance companies. Seniors pay a monthly premium and a copay for their needed drugs. And the plans have a cap (called the donut hole), where the individual will again be responsible for the full cost of their prescriptions.

In addition, many states now offer what's known as advantage plans for those on Medicare. Instead of Medicare being billed by the doctors and hospitals, the claims are fully administered and paid for by the private insurers that offer plans based on federal guidelines. The insurance company receives copays from the insured, plus monies from Medicare to assume these responsibilities.

As bad a job as the free market can do sometimes, I shudder to think of what our government will do if they run healthcare. They have a very poor track record.

They do. ABC News reported this week that there was 60 billion dollars in Medicare fraud last year alone. This needs to be addressed.

Private insurance companies are not blameless. The insurance industry is heavily regulated by lawmakers, yet they have been found guilty of many practices that do not serve their policy holders or the health care system. A case in point is the story of William McGuire, former CEO of United Health Group, one of the country's largest health insurance companies. McGuire was forced to repay 618 million dollars to his former employer as a settlement for back-dated stock options that he received. In additon, McGuire was force to pay a fine of 7 million and was barred from serving as a director for a public company for ten years. He was allowed to keep stock options totalling ofver 800 million dollars.

In addition, United Health Group announced a 55 million dollar settlement with the Internal Revenue Service. Here is an excerpt from a 2006 Wall Street Journal article:

Today, the 58-year-old Dr. McGuire is chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group Inc., one of the nation's largest health-care companies. He draws $8 million a year in salary plus bonus, enjoying perks such as personal use of the company jet. He also has amassed one of the largest stock-options fortunes of all time.

Unrealized gains on Dr. McGuire's options totaled $1.6 billion, according to UnitedHealth's proxy statement released this month. Even celebrated CEOs such as General Electric Co.'s Jack Welch or International Business Machines Corp.'s Louis Gerstner never were granted so much during their time at the top.

Dr. McGuire's story shows how an elite group of companies is getting rich from the nation's fraying health-care system. Many of them aren't discovering drugs or treating patients. They're middlemen who process the paperwork, fill the pill bottles and otherwise connect the pieces of a $2 trillion industry.

The middlemen credit themselves with keeping the health system humming and restraining costs. They're bringing in robust profits -- and their executives are among the country's most richly paid -- as doctors, patients, hospitals and even drug makers are feeling a financial squeeze. Some 46 million Americans lack health insurance.

UnitedHealth's main business is offering health plans to employers and Medicare beneficiaries. Bigger employers usually pay employees' medical bills out of their own coffers and hire UnitedHealth to administer the health benefit. Smaller employers pay an annual insurance premium to UnitedHealth in exchange for having the insurer take on the risk of covering employees' health care.

Edited by Michael Hogan

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Healthcare is never something I worry about. As many on here know, I am in the USAF and it is paid in full for me and my spouse and children. We never pay a cent. For prescriptions, if we go on base and wait it is free(the wait is often long unless you are active duty and on duty at the time). Otherwise we can go to any pharmacy and pay only $3. Dental and vision are different. Mine is completely paid for while theirs has limits and a small fee each month for that coverage.

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Healthcare is never something I worry about. As many on here know, I am in the USAF and it is paid in full for me and my spouse and children. We never pay a cent....

That is why Craig is right when he says:

Medical care in the US is a mixed bag....

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Like Matt, all my medical / dental is via the ADF. Difference for us is that partners / dependents are not entitled to treatment at Government expense... but since I have neither, it worries me not.

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Three experiences that sum up my attitudes towards the U.S. health care system,

1. I had a girlfriend in my 20's who hurt her back while lifting an object at work. The doctor recommended by the company at first prescribed rest. When her pain persisted, he told the company she was faking, and to stop paying her disability. She then went to another doctor who suggested a chiropractor. She visited the chiropractor for months, and did not improve. Finally, she went to a doctor who theorized that lifting the heavy object had displaced some ribs and that one of the ribs was now pinching a nerve. He proposed that they remove a few inches of the rib. The company refused to pay for the operation. Eventually, the operation was performed and it worked. If I recall, she successfully sued and got the company to pay for it. The lesson I took from this was that doctors are professional guessers, and that the "science" behind their opinions was greatly exaggerated. I also saw how tempting it was for companies disinclined to pay injured employees to "trust" the one doctor who would tell them the patient was faking. This led me to believe universal health care would be an improvement. If not for her parents' money, which paid for the one doctor to actually help her, Gina would probably still be crippled by back pain, and unable to function in society.

2. My grandmother had a weak heart her whole life. Finally, in her sixties, a doctor took a look at her and decided she was a good risk for a quintuple by-pass. The operation was successful. She had a renewed energy. After about ten years, however, her other organs started failing, and she was on her death bed. She put herself on a do not code list--which meant that, if her heart should stop--the doctors were not to revive her. Her heart stopped. The doctors revived her. My mother, who'd flown out to spend these last days with my grandmother, asked the doctors why. Well, a doctor said, after overseeing her heart by-pass only ten years earlier, he wasn't about to let her cause of death be listed as heart failure. My mom was totally disgusted. She was a retired nurse, but was still working as a volunteer. After that, she stopped volunteering at her local hospital. The arrogance of this doctor had forced my grandmother--who'd said her good-byes and was at peace--to spend her last few months in a drug-induced stupor, barely able to recognize family members or make coherent sentences. This also cost the government a small fortune, no doubt.

3. Finally, an HMO horror story. When my former employer went belly-up in 2001, the employees were allowed to continue their health insurance via the Cobra plan, through which we could retain our insurance for 18 months after termination. Many of us took comfort in this and continued making our payments. In February of 2002, however, I received notice that, as of December 1, 2001, I had lost my coverage. The HMO, Pacificare if I recall, said that Cobra was only good for six months after a company was officially bankrupt, and that this had come to pass in December. I wrote them and demanded a refund for my December and January payments. No response. I called them and finally got through to someone who said they would look into it and return my payments. No response. I called up one of my former co-workers, who explained that she had been to the doctor a number of times in December and January, as she had tried to get some long-time ailments taken care of while she still had coverage. She said the HMO was now refusing to pay her doctors, and her doctors were preparing to sue her. From this, it became clear to me that someone at the HMO was monitoring the activities of my co-workers and myself. As long as we were making our payments and not actually using our insurance, they were providing us coverage. Once Diana (and possibly others) began running up the bills, however, they cut us off, RETROACTIVELY. After another phone call, and a veiled threat, I was finally reimbursed for the two months of payments wrongly accepted by the HMO (without the nine months of interest they'd collected on my money, of course). I never talked to my co-worker again so I don't know how her saga played out.

So, needless to say, I hate HMOs, and am 100% behind the U.S. getting some form of universal health care... I mean, we have socialized Fire Departments, socialized Police Departments, socialized garbage pick-up in most major cities...why not socialized health care? There is no reason whatsoever beyond one reason...GREED.

Edited by Pat Speer

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As bad a job as the free market can do sometimes, I shudder to think of what our government will do if they run healthcare. They have a very poor track record.

Government systems are never perfect. However, as Pat Speer points out, somethings are too important to be left to the market: "we have socialized Fire Departments, socialized Police Departments, socialized garbage pick-up in most major cities...why not socialized health care? There is no reason whatsoever beyond one reason...GREED."

The problem with the market is that it is motivated by the profit motive. For example, fifteen years ago I hurt my back. I went to see the doctor who booked me in to see a consultant. The only trouble was that I had to wait a couple of weeks to see the back specialist. A friend suggested I went to see a chiropractor. There was no waiting list for him and I was invited over to his surgery straight away. Within a few minutes he had diagnosed my problem and spent twenty minutes manipulating my spine. It did not bring immediate relief. He argued that to solve my problem I would have to pay for a long course of expensive treatment. Although I could afford this treatment, I found it difficult to trust the man. After all, it was in his financial interest to promote this treatment.

I therefore decided to wait until I saw the back specialist in my local hospital. He also identified the problem. However, instead of prescribing a long course of treatment, he showed me some exercises I needed to do everyday to correct the problem. His diagnoses was correct and I still do those exercises every day. This example shows the problem with the private medical system. It is in the financial self-interest of the doctor to “over” treat the problem. The market cannot be trusted with medical care. It might be the best method for producing popcorn but health care is too important to be left to the capitalist system.

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As bad a job as the free market can do sometimes, I shudder to think of what our government will do if they run healthcare. They have a very poor track record.

Government systems are never perfect. However, as Pat Speer points out, somethings are too important to be left to the market: "we have socialized Fire Departments, socialized Police Departments, socialized garbage pick-up in most major cities...why not socialized health care? There is no reason whatsoever beyond one reason...GREED."

The problem with the market is that it is motivated by the profit motive. For example, fifteen years ago I hurt my back. I went to see the doctor who booked me in to see a consultant. The only trouble was that I had to wait a couple of weeks to see the back specialist. A friend suggested I went to see a chiropractor. There was no waiting list for him and I was invited over to his surgery straight away. Within a few minutes he had diagnosed my problem and spent twenty minutes manipulating my spine. It did not bring immediate relief. He argued that to solve my problem I would have to pay for a long course of expensive treatment. Although I could afford this treatment, I found it difficult to trust the man. After all, it was in his financial interest to promote this treatment.

I therefore decided to wait until I saw the back specialist in my local hospital. He also identified the problem. However, instead of prescribing a long course of treatment, he showed me some exercises I needed to do everyday to correct the problem. His diagnoses was correct and I still do those exercises every day. This example shows the problem with the private medical system. It is in the financial self-interest of the doctor to “over” treat the problem. The market cannot be trusted with medical care. It might be the best method for producing popcorn but health care is too important to be left to the capitalist system.

I don't think your really identified a difference between private or socialized medicine with your example but rather a difference in practice and treatment. I'll take the market any day, given that as long as I can pay I can choose who, when and where I can receive treatment. One only needs to look to Canada to see how the lack of competition due to the total socalized system reduces choice and service. You can get a cat-scan for your pet at will but try it for a human and you wait.

I would have no problem with a two-tiered system, as long as I could choose which system I prefered and did not have to pay for both. What I'm not interested in is single, government run system that locks in my choices.

Healthcare is far too important to be left in the hands of some governmental agency.

Edited by Craig Lamson

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Universal public health care theoretically exists in Australia.

As John S. points out, based on personal experience with dear ones seeking important care, the care provided does have an advocacy element that is critical. Therefore those ignorant of this, or lacking in advocates do tend to get a different priotisation.

Another element is that the doctors personal liability insurance is to some extent tied to the procedures and equipment the doctor follows and uses which often may not be in the interest of the patient. EG. ultrasound scanning of foetuses, which some studies whow may harm delicate structures. A doctor that does not use this equipment may face higher premiums. I'm sure there are other similar situations.

Another example is the over use of Caesarian sectioning. A doctor that performs it, rather than waiting for nature to take its course can tend to save money. So, the procedure has soared in use, way beyond reason in the sense of what's best for mother and child. In some more rare cases a culture exists where women choose it arther than normal birthing in order to retain a certain tightness, ie the cosmetic in a sick moral sense overrides care for the future generations, and is supported by the system as it is.

So, overall one can see that it is primarily an economic problem.

It's not a question that universal health care freely (or minimally across the board tax deductions in the order of a few percents to pay for it) is desirable. The problems stem from a multitude of related economic concerns of which insurance is a prime factor, both for the patient and for the doctor in terms of liability, and similarly on a grander scale, hospital liability insurance.

Doctors are in a sense hamstrung from fulfilling their Hippocratic Oath and instead being an arm of various systemic economic pressures that forces them to prioritise treatment according to what is most economically viable.

It's the opposition that Doctors face in providing Universal, Timely, Quality care to ALL regardles of any considerations than "this person is ill and this person must and will recieve the proper treatment".

A reforming of liabiliy laws, incremental increases of across the board income deductions, a heavier taxing on the companies that actually produce the major health problems, such as tobacco, alcohol, and unsafe working conditions can, if the will only existed, go a long way to solving many of these problems. A question must always be asked "why is this person sick in this way in the first place?".

The concept of an ET, on the floor, 24/7/365 patients ombudsmen/women to argue for those who cannot argue for themselves. or do not have family and friends to do so. is also a good idea.

Private insurance companies, (who after all are really only interested in profits), must step aside and if they don't : they must be forced to do so by some carrot and stick thinking in some measure. Doctors need a guaranteed wage and a suppotive liability atmosphere. Ditto hospitals. The notion that a caring person pulling a person out of a burning car wreck and possibly facing law suits as a result must be moderated to sensibility.

Playgrounds in Brisbane have been dismantled and closed down because the councils fear lawsuits by parents whose cjildren at some point may develop melanomia. It's a system gone mad in many ways.

The previous 'government' did it's utmost to gut the public health system at the behest of private interests.

The fix is doable. It's the, across the board, will (or guts) that's questionable.

Edited by John Dolva

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As bad a job as the free market can do sometimes, I shudder to think of what our government will do if they run healthcare. They have a very poor track record.

Government systems are never perfect. However, as Pat Speer points out, somethings are too important to be left to the market: "we have socialized Fire Departments, socialized Police Departments, socialized garbage pick-up in most major cities...why not socialized health care? There is no reason whatsoever beyond one reason...GREED."

The problem with the market is that it is motivated by the profit motive. For example, fifteen years ago I hurt my back. I went to see the doctor who booked me in to see a consultant. The only trouble was that I had to wait a couple of weeks to see the back specialist. A friend suggested I went to see a chiropractor. There was no waiting list for him and I was invited over to his surgery straight away. Within a few minutes he had diagnosed my problem and spent twenty minutes manipulating my spine. It did not bring immediate relief. He argued that to solve my problem I would have to pay for a long course of expensive treatment. Although I could afford this treatment, I found it difficult to trust the man. After all, it was in his financial interest to promote this treatment.

I therefore decided to wait until I saw the back specialist in my local hospital. He also identified the problem. However, instead of prescribing a long course of treatment, he showed me some exercises I needed to do everyday to correct the problem. His diagnoses was correct and I still do those exercises every day. This example shows the problem with the private medical system. It is in the financial self-interest of the doctor to “over” treat the problem. The market cannot be trusted with medical care. It might be the best method for producing popcorn but health care is too important to be left to the capitalist system.

I don't think your really identified a difference between private or socialized medicine with your example but rather a difference in practice and treatment. I'll take the market any day, given that as long as I can pay I can choose who, when and where I can receive treatment. One only needs to look to Canada to see how the lack of competition due to the total socalized system reduces choice and service. You can get a cat-scan for your pet at will but try it for a human and you wait.

I would have no problem with a two-tiered system, as long as I could choose which system I prefered and did not have to pay for both. What I'm not interested in is single, government run system that locks in my choices.

Healthcare is far too important to be left in the hands of some governmental agency.

Craig, I think what John Simkin is saying , if I may be so bold, is that healthcare, which in some cases may be a life and death situation, requires at the very least strong regulatory control of the market. It can't be totally left to the market like popcorn because the lives and welfare of people are at stake. The market doesn't recognise this fact--it recognises the profit motive only. And by the way, some markets fail--with spectacular consequences.

As John and others have said, the massive profits involved in healthcare--primarily the pharmaceutical industry--have corrupted the healthcare system. Doctors are wined and dined by drug companies and kickbacks fly around like confetti. Personally, I doubt if regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration are fully corrupted but I suspect that they are sometimes 'encouraged ' to drag their feet. I note the FDA last year granted permission for the drug known as Thalidomide to be used in limited cancer cases:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/thalidomide/HQ01507

This drug caused many cases of birth defects in the 1950's in children born to mothers who had used the drug as a treatment for morning sickness. It was banned in Australia with much controversy as the doctor who discovered the drug's role in the birth defects was an Australian, Phillip McBride. I read about this new revelation concerning Thalidomide and its potential cancer curing qualities at least five years ago. It starves cells of oxygen. So it kills cancer cells.

So why hasn't it been mass produced by the Government and rushed into service in treating terminal cancer patients, who have little to lose in taking the risk? Because 'big pharma' and its soldiers in the field would rather prescribe chemotherapy--costing the patient thousands of dollars--which has a low success rate and debilitating side effects. You'll get the wonder drug, but only when big pharma figures out a way to make a buck out of it. They're not keen to discard a juicy earner like chemo.

There is another wonder drug. Heroin. It's highly addictive but it's the most powerful pain killer ever discovered. It's used in British hospitals as we speak for a multitude of conditions. Unfortunately, Bayer's patent expired some years ago so it could potentially be mass produced generically--hence no profit for big pharma. And it would cut into the profits of synthetically manufactured alternatives--big pharma loses again. Redressing this potentially disastrous state of affairs was simple---it was rendered illegal. I know this must sound like a scary tale, but it's true.

Edited by Mark Stapleton

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Here is an article that appeared in Saturday's Guardian that tells a different story of medical insurance in the US.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/st...2231351,00.html

The family of a California teenager plan to sue her health insurer which refused to pay for a liver transplant until hours before and she died on Thursday night.

Her family's lawyer, Mark Geragos, will ask the Los Angeles district attorney to press murder or manslaughter charges against Cigna HealthCare, arguing that the firm "maliciously killed" Nataline Sarkisyan by its reluctance to pay for her treatment. The company reversed its stance after protesters called for a rethink, but the decision came too late.

The 17-year-old from Glendale, California, had been in a coma for weeks after complications following a bone marrow transplant to counter leukaemia.

After the operation, her liver failed and doctors referred her for an emergency transplant. Although she was fully insured and had a matching donor, Cigna refused to pay on the grounds that her healthcare plan "does not cover experimental, investigational and unproven services".

Cigna's rejection on December 11 led Sarkisyan's doctors at UCLA medical centre, including the head of its transplant unit, to write a letter to protest that the treatment which they proposed was neither experimental nor unproven. They called on the firm to urgently review its decision.

In the absence of a response from Cigna, doctors told the Sarkisyan family that the only alternative would be for the family to pay. But they could not afford the immediate down payment of $75,000 (£38,000).

The family, backed by nurses, relatives and Sarkisyan's friends, mounted a protest of 150 people outside Cigna's Glendale offices. "Cigna cannot decide who is going to live and who is going to die," the teenager's mother, Hilda Sarkisyan, told the crowd.

The demo was amplified by an internet campaign orchestrated by the liberal Daily Kos website and other blogs that bombarded Cigna's HQ in Philadephia. In the middle of the rally, a note was handed to Mrs Sarkisyan saying that Cigna had decided to reverse its decision.

"Cigna HealthCare has decided to make an exception in this rare and unusual case and we will provide coverage should she proceed with the requested liver transplant," it said in a statement.

The news drew cheers from the crowd, but they quickly grew sombre when they heard Sarkisyan's condition had deteriorated. A few hours later, her life support was switched off.

"She passed away, and the insurance [company] is responsible for this," Mrs Sarkisyan told the Los Angeles Daily News.

"Why did it take public humiliation for a multibillion-dollar insurance company to force them to provide appropriate medical care?" asked Charles Idelson of the California Nurses Association.

"This is what's wrong with our health system - insurers decide treatment, not doctors."

The protests over Sarkisyan's case point to growing public disenchantment with the healthcare system in America.

Politicians vying to be the Democratic candidate for the presidential race next year have prepared plans for reform to bring the 47 million uninsured Americans into the healthcare net, and to improve terms for those already insured like Sarkisyan.

The subject was given an added boost this summer by Michael Moore's documentary on the state of the American health service, Sicko.

Moore refers to the case of Sarkisyan on his website, under the simple banner: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

Following the teenager's death, Cigna issued another statement yesterday.

"Their loss is immeasurable, and our thoughts and prayers are with them," it said. "We deeply hope that the outpouring of concern, care and love that are being expressed for Nataline's family help them at this time."

The company recently posted figures for its third-quarter performance this year, which showed profits up 22%. Next year it expects to earn an income of up to $1.2bn.

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As bad a job as the free market can do sometimes, I shudder to think of what our government will do if they run healthcare. They have a very poor track record.

Government systems are never perfect. However, as Pat Speer points out, somethings are too important to be left to the market: "we have socialized Fire Departments, socialized Police Departments, socialized garbage pick-up in most major cities...why not socialized health care? There is no reason whatsoever beyond one reason...GREED."

The problem with the market is that it is motivated by the profit motive. For example, fifteen years ago I hurt my back. I went to see the doctor who booked me in to see a consultant. The only trouble was that I had to wait a couple of weeks to see the back specialist. A friend suggested I went to see a chiropractor. There was no waiting list for him and I was invited over to his surgery straight away. Within a few minutes he had diagnosed my problem and spent twenty minutes manipulating my spine. It did not bring immediate relief. He argued that to solve my problem I would have to pay for a long course of expensive treatment. Although I could afford this treatment, I found it difficult to trust the man. After all, it was in his financial interest to promote this treatment.

I therefore decided to wait until I saw the back specialist in my local hospital. He also identified the problem. However, instead of prescribing a long course of treatment, he showed me some exercises I needed to do everyday to correct the problem. His diagnoses was correct and I still do those exercises every day. This example shows the problem with the private medical system. It is in the financial self-interest of the doctor to “over” treat the problem. The market cannot be trusted with medical care. It might be the best method for producing popcorn but health care is too important to be left to the capitalist system.

I don't think your really identified a difference between private or socialized medicine with your example but rather a difference in practice and treatment. I'll take the market any day, given that as long as I can pay I can choose who, when and where I can receive treatment. One only needs to look to Canada to see how the lack of competition due to the total socalized system reduces choice and service. You can get a cat-scan for your pet at will but try it for a human and you wait.

I would have no problem with a two-tiered system, as long as I could choose which system I prefered and did not have to pay for both. What I'm not interested in is single, government run system that locks in my choices.

Healthcare is far too important to be left in the hands of some governmental agency.

Craig, I think what John Simkin is saying , if I may be so bold, is that healthcare, which in some cases may be a life and death situation, requires at the very least strong regulatory control of the market. It can't be totally left to the market like popcorn because the lives and welfare of people are at stake. The market doesn't recognise this fact--it recognises the profit motive only. And by the way, some markets fail--with spectacular consequences.

The problem with government is that the corruption and inept actions run deep. We have a very good track record to examine in the US where Governmental control of heathcare is concerned...Medicare. Quite frankly government has made a huge mess of it. Thanks but no thanks. Governmental oversight fails sometimes with spectacular consequences. I'll take the market and freedom of choice anyday. BTW, I'm not arguing that our system is not without problems and in need of reforms. My argument is that I have less trust in government than I do in the market

As John and others have said, the massive profits involved in healthcare--primarily the pharmaceutical industry--have corrupted the healthcare system. Doctors are wined and dined by drug companies and kickbacks fly around like confetti. Personally, I doubt if regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration are fully corrupted but I suspect that they are sometimes 'encouraged ' to drag their feet. I note the FDA last year granted permission for the drug known as Thalidomide to be used in limited cancer cases:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/thalidomide/HQ01507

This drug caused many cases of birth defects in the 1950's in children born to mothers who had used the drug as a treatment for morning sickness. It was banned in Australia with much controversy as the doctor who discovered the drug's role in the birth defects was an Australian, Phillip McBride. I read about this new revelation concerning Thalidomide and its potential cancer curing qualities at least five years ago. It starves cells of oxygen. So it kills cancer cells.

So why hasn't it been mass produced by the Government and rushed into service in treating terminal cancer patients, who have little to lose in taking the risk? Because 'big pharma' and its soldiers in the field would rather prescribe chemotherapy--costing the patient thousands of dollars--which has a low success rate and debilitating side effects. You'll get the wonder drug, but only when big pharma figures out a way to make a buck out of it. They're not keen to discard a juicy earner like chemo.

Whats wrong with profit? Its a good part of what pays for innovation. Given the poor track record of government, whats to say any new innovation will ever come without the motive of profit driving it? Second our government is not in the business of making drugs, nor should it be. As far as I know there is no active patent on Thalidomide. It can be produced as a generic by anyone who wants. It can be ordered by any doctor who wishes, and can be requested by any patient, so whats the problem here again? That the government is not making the drug? Sorry but that simply not their job nor should it be.

There is another wonder drug. Heroin. It's highly addictive but it's the most powerful pain killer ever discovered. It's used in British hospitals as we speak for a multitude of conditions. Unfortunately, Bayer's patent expired some years ago so it could potentially be mass produced generically--hence no profit for big pharma. And it would cut into the profits of synthetically manufactured alternatives--big pharma loses again. Redressing this potentially disastrous state of affairs was simple---it was rendered illegal. I know this must sound like a scary tale, but it's true.

I don't know anything about Heroin but I do know about morphine. It IS a generic drug, and is priced as such. Why use Heroin? Morphine works and works well. How do I know? I spent a bit of time using it. If the British wish to use it, hey great for them.

Edited by Craig Lamson

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Here is an article that appeared in Saturday's Guardian that tells a different story of medical insurance in the US.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/st...2231351,00.html

Yea I read that the other day. But you and I both know we can play match this link for days with similar stories from both sides of the pond and with both systems of health care delivery.

I'm not really comfortable going down this road right now considering your current personal situation.

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I don't know anything about Heroin but I do know about morphine. It IS a generic drug, and is priced as such. Why use Heroin? Morphine works and works well. How do I know? I spent a bit of time using it. If the British wish to use it, hey great for them.

Why use heroin?

Did you say 'why use heroin'?

Because it's more effective than morphine by many orders of magnitude (6, I think).

So what are you saying? Morphine should be legal and heroin illegal? Why? Where's the logic in that?

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