Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Ezra Klein argues that we need not choose between the “awful extremes” of Canadian and British health care (with long wait lines) and American health care (which has millions of uninsured). He writes:
Moreover, surveys conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have found that most countries don’t have waiting lines or the uninsured. Not Germany or France or Japan or Sweden, all of which have more of a mix of public and private options. But Canada is next door, and Britain speaks our language, so we tend to spend a lot of time comparing our system with these systems and not a lot of time thinking through the full range of options.
Okay, so let’s do a tour of those other options Ezra mentions.
Japan is facing an emergency room crisis:
OSAKA (Kyodo) A 49-year-old man who was injured in a traffic accident last week died after he was rejected by five emergency rooms in Osaka, police and ambulance staff said.
Masao Nishimura was riding a motorcycle when he collided with a car at around 10:20 p.m. Wednesday in Higashiosaka. He was still conscious when the ambulance arrived at 10:33 p.m., they said.
The rescuers asked five emergency medical centers in Higashiosaka and its vicinity by phone to accept him, but all rejected the request by saying they were busy, all their beds were occupied, or ignored the call. Nishimura was finally accepted at a hospital in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, about 15 km away at around 11:25 p.m., but died of damage to a main artery at 1:45 a.m. Thursday.
The incident is the latest in which people in urgent need of medical help have been denied emergency treatment because of a nationwide doctor shortage. In December, an 89-year-old woman also died in Osaka Prefecture after being denied emergency treatment by 30 hospitals.
A video report on the crisis is available here.
Sweden has been forced to increase the role of the private sector because of long wait times:
“Many of the developments in the last 15 years have been about going from a government-funded system to a more open system that includes the private sector,” says Dr. Birger Forsberg, a professor of international health at the Karolinksa Institute medical school who also advises Stockholm on health care policies….
Accessibility issues have been at the core of many health care policy shifts in Sweden of late. Therefore, recent changes like a policy to allow patients to seek care from physicians anywhere rather than being tied to one doctor are geared more toward reducing wait times than reducing costs.
Earlier this year, the National Board of Health and Welfare found that nearly 45% of patients have longer wait times than are supposedly guaranteed by the health care system. This, despite a recent influx of 250 million Swedish kronor ($42 million) into reducing wait times.
“These figures are not satisfactory,” Swedish Health Minister Göran Hägglund, said in February when the findings were released. “They show that we haven’t approached the problem of availability with the level of force needed. … The wait to receive attention — be it a telephone call to a local clinic or a first visit to a physician — is simply too long.”
In Germany doctors go on strike to fight for more pay.
In France in 2003, nearly 15,000 people died in a heat wave:
[T]he French Parliament released a harshly worded report blaming the deaths on a complex health system, widespread failure among agencies and health services to coordinate efforts, and chronically insufficient care for the elderly….
Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei has ordered a separate special study this month to look into a possible link with vacation schedules after doctors strongly denied allegations their absence put the elderly in danger. The heat wave hit during the August vacation period, when doctors, hospital staff and many others take leave.
As more and more Americans wise up to the perils of British and Canadian health care, liberals have shifted to touting other socialized systems. But none of those other countries have found a way to suspend the laws of economics, either.
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