[June 30, 2007 @ 9:05 pm] David Gratzer

I have a review of Sicko in today’s City Journal Online.

[June 30, 2007 @ 4:01 pm] admin
[June 30, 2007 @ 8:42 am] admin

[June 30, 2007 @ 8:21 am] David Catron

Kimberly Strassel reports, in the WSJ, that congressional Republicans are at long last girding for battle with the Democrats over the future of U.S. health care:

The setting is the upcoming debate over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or Schip, a brawl that could well determine the future direction of U.S. health care.

And she correctly observes that it’s none too soon for the Republicans to join the fight on this issue:

If Republicans fail to meet the challenge with their own more compelling plan for market-based, consumer-driven reform, it may prove the beginning of the end of today’s private model.

Isn’t this overstating the case? Nope. The Democrats have every intention of using SCHIP as a Trojan horse to foist government-run health care on an unsuspecting public:

The nation still has little appetite for an abrupt shift to all-government care. So they’ve developed a craftier approach … slowly expanding the reach of existing government programs until they encompass the population.

This strategy is at the root of the nationwide effort by Democrats to divert SCHIP funds to adults and middle class children who manifestly aren’t “poor.” And they are combining this tactic with a determined effort to kill market-based reforms:

Democrats will argue that the only way to pay for SCHIP … is to gut Medicare Advantage and similar free-market reforms. See how clever? Swallow up ever more Americans into federal programs, banish any last vestiges of popular market plans, and voilà! It is Hillarycare!

For some time now, it has appeared as though the Republicans were willing to surrender without a fight on health care reform. Let’s hope they have finally decided to take the field on behalf of the free market.

[June 30, 2007 @ 7:04 am] David Gratzer

Yesterday, Moore went to Wall Street for yet another publicity stunt. It was reported that he demanded investors divest from insurance companies.

But was he really there looking for a good portfolio manager?

The L.A. Times reports:

“MICHAEL MOORE’S ‘Sicko’ focuses on how profit motives keep Americans from receiving quality medical care. But health insurance companies aren’t the only ones in the documentary with revenue at stake: Moore himself stands to make a mint on the film.

“Thanks to a lucrative contract… Moore is in line to receive 50% of ‘Sicko’s’ gross profits — arguably one of the most lucrative deals on Hollywood’s books, richer even than those enjoyed by the likes of Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and director Peter Jackson.”

[June 29, 2007 @ 6:59 pm] David Hogberg

In Australia, “Northern Territory Health Department says its audit of elective surgery waiting lists found 14 of the prospective patients were dead.”

At least they can get dental care. Oh wait. In New South Wales, “almost 180,000 people — more than 45,000 of them children — are on waiting lists for dental treatment.”

Some of the British can escape waiting lists — in Spain. An article that is primarily about elderly Norwegians going to Spain notes that Malaga, Spain is often the destination for “waves of ‘health tourists, including many Britons, who fly to Malaga for a cheaper hip replacement or a shorter waiting list than back home.”

And finally, there is Canada, where the government can’t seem to figure out whether it’s new initiative to reduce waiting times is having any impact.

[June 29, 2007 @ 3:57 pm] David Gratzer

My essay on SiCKO can be found in today’s Wall Street Journal. You can read it at the Manhattan Institute website.

[June 29, 2007 @ 3:53 pm] David Gratzer

Congratulations, Stuart, on a very cool interview on Your World with Neil Cavuto on FOX News. Glenn Reynolds (instapundit.com) has just posted the link to the interview, and to this site.

To my fellow instapundit.com readers – welcome.

[June 29, 2007 @ 2:40 pm] David Catron

Every time I think the coverage of SiCKO by the establishment media can’t get any more clueless, some “journalist” proves me wrong. This time, my illusions were shattered by Clarence Page’s fawning review:

Moore became famous in his past documentary essays for his gonzo on-camera attempts to embarrass the rich, powerful or simply stupid. This time he’s a tad more serious and, I think, more effective.

Yes. The man actually applies the word “serious” to Moore’s schlockumentary. And it gets worse:

Moore offers a glimpse of something that most Americans never see: how easily anyone – including visitors – can access good public health care in Canada and Europe, and how satisfied those country’s citizens are with their systems.

This childlike credulity even extends to Moore’s whitewash of Cuba’s egregious health care system.

I think he makes his argument well … Cuba shows how a remarkably universal system of education and health care can be produced by a country with a lot fewer resources than we have.

This astonishing passage begs the old question I have been asking for years. Are establishment journalists like Page dishonest, dumb, or just plain lazy?

[June 28, 2007 @ 10:11 pm] David Gratzer

Moore should cancel his subscription. In “Do No Harm,” David Denby writes: “After the early tales of the system’s failure, “Sicko” becomes feeble, even inane.”


“A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans not only favor a national health service but are willing to pay higher taxes for it. In that case, wouldn’t it have made sense for Moore to find out what features of universal care in other countries could be adapted to America? Instead of sorting through any of this, Moore and his crew go from place to place—to Canada, England, and France, as well as Cuba—and, at every stop, he pulls the same silly stunt of pretending to be astonished that health care is free. How much do people pay here in France? Nothing? You’ve got to be kidding. But isn’t everyone taxed to death to pay for health care? Well, here’s a nice, two-income French couple who have a great apartment and collect sand from the deserts of the world. Not only haven’t they been impoverished by taxation; they travel. And so on.

“In each country, Moore interviews doctors who speak proudly of how well their country’s system works. But the candor of these doctors is no more impressive than that of the corporate spokesmen Moore has confronted in the past. No one mentions the delays or the instances of less than first-rate care. We find out that a doctor in Great Britain makes a good income (about two hundred thousand dollars), but not how medical care in, say, Toronto might differ from that in a distant rural area, or how shortages may have affected the quality of Cuban health care. Moore winds up treating the audience the same way that, he says, powerful people treat the weak in America—as dopes easily satisfied with fairy tales and bland reassurances. And since he doesn’t interview any of the countless Americans who have been mulling over ways to reform our system, we’re supposed to come away from “Sicko” believing that sane thinking on these issues is unknown here. In the actual political world, the major Democratic Presidential candidates have already offered, or will soon offer, plans for reform. A shift to the left, or, at least, to the center, has overtaken Michael Moore, yielding an irony more striking than any he turns up: the changes in political consciousness that Moore himself has helped produce have rendered his latest film almost superfluous.”

[June 28, 2007 @ 2:59 pm] David Hogberg

Looks like Stuart Browning isn’t the only conservative health-care filmmaker studly bad-boy anymore.

The trailer for Sick and Sicker is now out.

[June 28, 2007 @ 1:54 pm] David Hogberg

On his appearance on Kudlow and Company, Stuart Browning claimed that Ezra Klein was advocating for health-care systems (such as Canada) in which people are not allowed to spend their own money on their own body. Klein said “that’s a lie,” and that people should be able to spend their own money on themselves.

I’ve already taken a skeptical look at Klein’s veracity before, but it is worth taking another look now that he accusing others of lying.

During that interview Klein said, “Take Medicare. Medicare has a slower rate of spending growth than the private system in this country.”

Oh please.

Here are the numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation. From 1970-2005, Medicare grew at an annual rate of 8.9%, while private insurance grew at a rate of 9.8%. That’s not a huge difference. If we were to switch to a system of Medicare for all, we’d still have a growth rate higher than inflation and wages. In short, we’d still have a system that is unsustainable.

Furthermore, it is hardly clear that Medicare’s slightly lower rate of growth is due to Medicare being more efficient. According to researchers at Heritage, private insurance has been far better at providing benefits than Medicare. The higher rate of growth in private insurance may also be due to “cost-shifting.” There is an extensive literature on how Medicare pays less than the cost on many medical procedures, and providers make up the difference by charging more to private insurance. Surely Klein is aware of the cost-shift phenomenon. (You’ll notice that Kuldow didn’t let Klein get away with that one.)

Next, Klein claims that consumer-driven products like health savings account (HSAs) don’t work. Referring to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, Klein says on Kudlow, “people are not taking them up. People don’t want them.”

But let’s look at that Kaiser Family Foundation study. True, it found only 1.4 million people with HSAs. However, the Kaiser survey only looks at firms, not individuals who purchase health insurance on their own. Furthermore, what Klein leaves out is that the Kaiser report (page 103) found that the “estimate of workers enrolled in an HSA qualified HDHP is higher than the 0.8 million enrollees we reported for 2005.” In other words, HSAs increased from 0.8 million to 1.4 million from 2005-2006, an increase of 75%. A 75% increase doesn’t seem like “people are not taking them up.”

Klein finished that comment by challenging Kudlow: “I’d like you to spit me back a number that’s different.” Kudlow didn’t, but I will. America’s Health Insurance Plans release an annual survey on HSAs, and its latest iteration found that 4.5 million had enrolled in HSAs, a 43% increase from the previous year. A recent study from Information Strategies, Inc. found that HSAs now comprise about 5% of the insurance market, which would mean that close to 10 million people have HSAs. But, as usual, Klein cherry picks the data to try to prove his point.

Then there is the matter of anecdotes. In his Cato presentation last week, referring to Browning’s movies, Klein said, “But anecdotes don’t do it here. We can go to war with anecdotes…The question really tends to be the numbers.”

Except when the question can best be answered by anecdotes. Here is Klein using the anecdote of Deamonte Driver to answer the question of what is bad about U.S. health care.

Although Michael Moore’s new film Sicko is basically one long string of anecdotes, there is no objection from Klein in his review of it. Indeed, Klein has effusive praise for Moore’s anecdotes:

Every story, every tale, every vignette asks the same question: “Who are we?” Who are we that our fellow citizens have to decide which fingers they’ll pay to get reattached? Who are we that our hospitals push the ill and indigent into cabs, and drop them off, disoriented and clad in a paper-thin gown, on skid row? Who are we that we let insurers deny coverage to our neighbors because they are too tall, or have too many seasonal allergies? Who are we that we don’t guarantee paid sick leave, or vacations, or child care, leaving that all instead to the whims of employers? And most of all, who are we to have let national pride blind us to these better alternatives, and let moneyed interests and powerful lobbies construct a country that best serves their needs rather than ours?

Distorting and cherry picking the data. Saying on thing and then doing another. That’s quite a track record Klein’s compiling. Perhaps he should be a bit more careful before he throws around terms like “lie” next time.

[June 28, 2007 @ 10:28 am] David Hogberg

Just received the following press release from a friend of mine:

From the July/August 2007 Issue of Foreign Policy

On Newsstands Now

European Journalist:

U.S. Healthcare System Not “Sicko” Compared to Europe’s

Attacks Conventional Wisdom That Europe Offers a Single, Universal Alternative to the U.S. System as “Popular Fallacy”

In Michael Moore’s new documentary, Sicko, European countries are portrayed as universal providers of some of the world’s best healthcare. Not true, says British journalist and former HM Treasury official, Clive Crook, in his article, “Think Again: Europe,” from the July/August issue of Foreign Policy.

“True, the United States’ system is an outlier because of its reliance on private insurance. But Europe’s systems offer no single, plainly superior substitute,” he says.

In reality, European countries offer a bewildering array of very different and frequently unpopular models, he says.

Crook notes that Britain’s National Health Service is increasingly being combined with an extensive private insurance system that sprang up because of discontent over standards in the state sector. And across the continent, competition, control, and cost-sharing vary widely.

By common consent, the French system is among the best and it garners special attention in Moore’s film. So what’s not to like?

“Well, ask a French doctor or two when they return from their protest march,” Crook argues. “They’re paid roughly a third of what American doctors make.”

“Think Again: Europe” is available on newstands in the July/August issue of Foreign Policy and online at www.ForeignPolicy.com . In addition to healthcare, Crook debunks conventional wisdoms about Europe’s economy, its growing Muslim population, anti-Americanism on the continent, and more.

Availability for Interviews:

Clive Crook is available from Washington, D.C., to respond to media requests.

About the author:

Clive Crook is the chief Washington commentator and associate editor at the Financial Times, senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly, and a columnist for National Journal. He is a former deputy editor of The Economist, where he also held positions as the magazine’s economics editor, Washington correspondent, and economics correspondent. He has also served as an official in HM Treasury.

[June 28, 2007 @ 9:41 am] David Catron

As I have discussed here, the media and some Lefty front groups wish to create the impression that nurses in general share Michael Moore’s view of American health care. Not only does this misrepresent the position of most American nurses, it conflicts with the views of many who actually work in the socialized systems that SiCKO praises. 

Helen Evans, director of Nurses for Reform, is much more representative of nurses in general. Moreover, she has spent more than twenty years providing patient care in Great Britain’s National Health Service. Thus, she knows what she’s talking about when she writes, in the Chicago Tribune:

For free hospital care, Britons pay an awfully high price. Just ask the nearly 1 million British patients on waiting lists for treatment. Or the 200,000 Britons currently waiting merely to get on NHS waiting lists. Mr. Moore must have missed those folks.

Evans goes on to point out that such patients aren’t all that Moore has studiously overlooked:

When it comes to keeping patients healthy, NHS hospitals are notoriously unfit. After admittance to state hospitals, more than 10 percent of patients contract infections and illnesses that they did not have prior to arrival. And according to the Malnutrition Advisory Group, up to 60 percent of NHS patients are undernourished during inpatient stays.

How do patients deal with this? Those who can afford it go to the private health care market:

Today, more than 6.5 million people have private medical insurance, 6 million have cash plans, 8 million pay out-of-pocket for a range of complimentary therapies, and 250,000 self-fund each year for private surgery. Millions more opt for private dentistry, ophthalmics and long-term care.

So, while Michael Moore, the media, and various Lefty front groups attempt to trick the American public into accepting socialized medicine, the nurses and the patients of the NHS say such systems stink.

Who should we believe?

[June 28, 2007 @ 6:28 am] David Gratzer

Here’s an honest debate on socialized medicine, British style.

[June 27, 2007 @ 8:38 pm] David Gratzer

How will the Thinking Left respond to SiCKO?

Ezra Klein — as David Catron points out in an earlier post — offers a painful explanation of his fondness for the film: it’s not actually about health care, rather it’s a metaphor for “American exceptionalism.” And, yes, as David well points out, this is a surprise to many of us who actually did think the film was about, well, health care (maybe the title and overall medical emphasis contributed to our misunderstanding).

The New Republic’s Jon Cohn — arguably one of the smartest voices on the Left in this debate — is similarly troubled. He explains his own “trepidation” at the beginning of his review:

“My bias in watching Moore’s film is that, in the broad sense, I agree with him. I’ve been writing about the flaws of the U.S. health care system, and the need for universal health insurance, for nearly a decade now. (And, yes, I recently wrote a book with almost the exact same title as Moore’s movie — Sick — although I’m pretty sure I thought of it first.) But Moore has not always been the most intellectually rigorous storyteller — or, for liberals, the most useful ally.”

Cohn, who knows these issues so well, sees the flaws of SiCKO:

“I spotted plenty of intellectual dishonesties and arguments without context — enough, surely, to keep right-wing truth squads (and some left-wing ones) busy for weeks.”

So how does Cohn respond to a film that minimizes any and all problems with Canadian, British and — even! — Cuban health care?

“Still, by the time the final credits ran, it was hard to get too worked up about all of that. Because, beyond all the grandstanding and political theater, the movie actually made a compelling, argument about what’s wrong with U.S. health care and how to fix it. Sicko got a lot of the little things wrong. But it got most of the big things right.”

Well, not so little.

[June 27, 2007 @ 7:54 pm] David Catron

In an article purporting to analyze SiCKO’s absurdly flattering depiction of Cuba’s system of socialized medicine, Reuters is studiously credulous about the quality of medical care under Castro’s regime. After a perfunctory caveat about the “shabby” condition of Cuban hospitals, the “analysis” recites the following canard:

The health system built by President Fidel Castro’s government has produced results on a par with rich nations using the resources of a developing country.

And where does Reuters get its information about Castro’s health care “results”? From the World Health Organization, of course:

On key statistics measured by the World Health Organization, Cuba is in line with the United States.

So, what’s the problem? Well, as it happens, the statistics to which Reuters refers are nothing more than laundered propaganda. As discussed here, the W.H.O. makes no attempt to verify the numbers provided by Castro’s minions:

A spokesman for  the WHO division that collects statistics in the Americas, says the group doesn’t try to independently verify the numbers. “We rely on the figures the ministries of health send to us,” says PAHO spokesman Daniel Epstein.

It’s bad enough that the World Health Organization neglects to verify Fidel’s stats. That a “news organization” like Reuters fails to do so is a disgrace.

[June 27, 2007 @ 3:32 pm] David Hogberg

Both John Goodman and Jacob Laskin have excellent reviews of Michael Moore’s movie, better, I fear, than mine own (see post below).

Also, see this post at Reason, but be warned: there is a rather gross photo at the end of it.

[June 27, 2007 @ 7:19 am] Stuart Browning

Rick Baker of Timely Medical Alternatives in Vancouver has appeared in two movies that I have produced. Here he is in a new video excerpt explaining what many Americans don’t understand about the Canadian health care system: Click on the thumbnail above to play.

[June 27, 2007 @ 4:42 am] David Hogberg

My review of Sicko is now up at the American Spectator.

[June 26, 2007 @ 9:13 pm] David Gratzer

Michael F. Cannon of Cato offers a brief if accurate review:

“SiCKO was a very funny film, and I praise Michael Moore for starting the conversation and pointing out many horrors of the U.S. health care system.

“But from a policy standpoint – and I say this more in sadness than in anger – SiCKO was so breathtaking a specimen of ignorant propaganda that it would make Pravda blush.”

H/t Sobering Thoughts

[June 26, 2007 @ 8:54 pm] David Catron

The Evening Standard reports on yet another egregious failure of Great Britain’s system of socialized medicine.

A mother has been forced to sell her home to pay for private treatment with a cancer “wonder drug” after funding for it was denied. Debbie Mitchell, 39, said she was “left to sit in the corner and die” after her local primary care trust refused to pay for Sutent for her stomach cancer.

How can this be? The advocates of socialized medicine keep telling us that everyone has access to free health care when the government runs things. Was this some oddball “experimental” drug?

The drug, which is widely prescribed throughout Europe and the U.S., has already been licensed for use in Britain. But it has yet to be approved by the Government’s drugs watchdog.

The bottom line here was rationing. The apparatchiks decided that this patient’s health needs were not as important as cost control. They made vague allusions to “clinical effectiveness,” but that was just a bureaucratic CYA strategy:

Cancer specialists treating her said her tumours were still growing and recommended Sutent, which has been shown to shrink tumours dramatically and can prolong life for two years or more.

This patient had the resources (her house) to get the medication on the private market. But how many without the resources have had to “sit in the corner and die”?

Is this what we want for the United States?

[June 25, 2007 @ 8:27 pm] David Catron

Michael van der Galien links to the corner, where Mark Steyn applies his mordant intellect to health care:

In a public health care system, the doctors, nurses, janitors and administrators all need to be paid every Friday so the only point at which costs can be controlled is through the patient, by restricting access.

And how does the system restrict access? Why, through the dreaded waiting list, of course. In a socialized system-whether it is in Canada, England, New Zealand, or Pluto-the incentives always work against the customer:

If you go to an American doctor with a monstrous lump on your shoulder, it’s in his economic interest to find out what it is and get it whipped off as soon as possible. If you go to a British or Canadian doctor, it’s in the system’s economic interest to postpone it as long as possible.

Steyn is not, of course, a health care policy type. Nonetheless, I think he has pretty much captured the crucial difference between socialized medicine and free market health care.

[June 24, 2007 @ 10:56 pm] David Catron

The man who actually coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” was a 19th century con artist named Joseph Bessimer. “Paper Collar Joe,” as he was known to the police, would surely have recognized a soul mate in Michael Moore. For, when it comes to what Joe called “bilking the rubes,” Moore is a virtuoso.

It is, of course, true that few health care policy wonks take SiCKO seriously, except as a case study in ignorant propaganda. Even Ezra Klein, who tries valiantly to find some positive spin for his “progressive” readers, comprehends that the film “is not a movie about health care policy.” However, there are people out there who actually believe Moore is on the level. 

So, as a public service, I would like to point out something to the fans of Paper Collar Mike: THE MAN IS TAKING YOU FOR A RIDE. He has no interest in health care beyond the wealth and notoriety his schlockumentary will bring him. And, more importantly, he has no interest in you except as a rube willing to give him your hard-earned money.

And he will be using that money to access high quality health care long after you have been conned into supporting a socialized system that gives YOU mediocre care and worse service.

[June 24, 2007 @ 12:38 pm] David Hogberg

Grace Marie-Turner puts in her two-cents worth.

[June 24, 2007 @ 9:40 am] admin

Stuart Browning appeared Thursday on CNBC’s Kudlow & Co. program discussing single-payer health care and Michael Moore’s movie ‘Sicko’. Click on the thumbnail above to play.

[June 24, 2007 @ 7:14 am] David Hogberg

Kudos to Catron for pointing us to this great discussion of Michael Moore at the American Thinker. Money quote:

One bottom line, so to speak, is particularly telling: Moore, who is obese, would most likely be denied a number of common health care procedures and treatments in one of his favored government-controlled socialist medicine systems, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), because of his excessive weight. Recently, the cash-strapped NHS actually started limiting or prohibiting therapies for residents who are fat or who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.

He also points us to this take on Michael Moore by Michelle Malkin. Catron calls it “over the top”. I don’t think it’s over the top at all.

[June 23, 2007 @ 9:18 am] David Catron

Fred Thompson believes that Federalism is the key to meaningful tort reform. He writes that, rather than relying on Washington to solve the problem of malpractice abuse, we should look to the states. To support this proposition, he cites the Texas experience:

Only a few years ago, Texas was losing doctors fast. Rising malpractice insurance rates were fueling what analysts called a crisis. In some parts of the state, emergency wards were closing and residents were facing long trips for even basic medical care.

And physicians were not alone in their flight from Texas. All but four insurance companies had stopped selling malpractice insurance to doctors. Then, in order to avoid a complete medical meltdown, the state passed serious tort reform legislation:

Texas passed Prop 12, capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits to $750,000. $250,000 of that applied to physicians. There were no limits put on damages for medical expenses or economic expenses such as past and future lost income.

And the results of this legislation?

Now 30 insurers are doing business in the Lone Star State and others are moving into the market. Rates have fallen on an average of more than 20 percent. Malpractice lawsuits have fallen 50 percent.

But this is not, as the enemies of tort reform would have it, a gift for “rich doctors” and “corporate fat cats.” It is a major victory for the patients, who will continue to have access to basic medical care in their own communities.

Thompson is right. Considering that congress is now controlled by a party in thrall to the trial lawyers, the primary hope for serious tort reform lies with the states. Let’s hope they take up the banner.

[June 23, 2007 @ 4:28 am] David Hogberg

My latest at the American Spectator.

[June 22, 2007 @ 2:55 pm] David Catron

Advocates of government-run health care constantly insinuate that “the uninsured” are unable to get health coverage. This canard, as I have pointed out before, is refuted by the facts. More contradictory evidence can be found in the Dallas Morning News, which discusses the large number of uninsured college students:

An estimated 36 percent of those attending Texas public colleges are uninsured and 23 percent of those attending private colleges are, according to surveys by the Texas Department of Insurance. The reason? They just don’t buy it.

And this is not, as the single-payer evangelists would have it, because it costs too much. Indeed, health insurance for young adults is pretty cheap:

Many young people forgo coverage despite that it probably will never again in their lives be more affordable … United Healthcare’s Golden Rule Short Term Medical plan offers a $1,000-deductible short-term policy …  for $48 a month.

Nonetheless, many students exercise their autonomy as individuals in the free market by saying ”no.” Why? Because they expect to be in good health:

There’s that invincible attitude of the young, who don’t think about insurance until they need it.

But what if they’re wrong? Well, the article begins with the story of a young woman whose experience proves that high quality care is available for the uninsured. Having been involved in a serious accident, she spent eight days in the ICU, receiving precisely the same medical care that an insured patient would have received.

Sometimes people just don’t get health coverage. That’s not an especially smart choice, but it is their decision. To use this as a pretext to impose government-run health care on the country is dishonest and … well … dumb.

[June 21, 2007 @ 8:31 am] David Catron

No matter how much evidence piles up showing that big government social programs are wasteful, inefficient, and costly, the “progressive community” is unable to extricate itself from its long-standing love affair with statism. Thus, imposing socialized medicine on the American public is its highest domestic priority.  

CNS reports that this subject is on the minds and tongues of those attending the Take Back America conference being held in Washington. And the statist mindset behind the “universal health care” project is very much in evidence:    

Andrea Batista Schlesinger, executive director of the liberal Drum Major Institute, encouraged conference-goers to stop dancing around the issue and be proud of the goal. “Damn straight it’s [social] engineering,” she said of policy proposals like universal health care. “That’s the point of government.”

Most of the “progressives” at the conference, while clearly sharing Schlesinger’s view of government’s purpose, were less candid. They deployed more euphemistic language when discussing their project:  

Eli Pariser, executive director of the anti-war MoveOn.org Political Action, said that as the group begins to broaden its focus, members “want to see every American covered with health care.”

But make no mistake about it. Whether they call “social engineering,” “universal coverage,” or “affordable access,” the goal is the same:  

Providing “affordable access to health care for every American” is the “ultimate prize” for left-wing activists, Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, told a news conference.

And, as Joe Paduda (via Kevin, MD ) puts it, “boy are they passionate.” It doesn’t matter how much evidence exists proving that free market competition is the only proven route to low-cost, high-quality goods and services. Government-run health care is the Holy Grail for these people. 

They are determined to take America backward to the failed paradigms of the past.

[June 20, 2007 @ 4:20 pm] David Hogberg

And that lesson is that health insurance is not the same as health care.

Hawaii has near universal health insurance thanks to government intervention. Indeed, that was a big reason the Commonwealth Fund ranked its health care system number among all fifty states.

But, as I explained in a recent column in the Washington Times, health insurance does not guarantee access to health care:

Many islanders can’t find a doctor, especially on the neighbor islands and in rural Oahu areas, despite the state’s top ranking nationally for access to health care, says the Hawaii Medical Association, a local physicians association.

A Commonwealth Fund survey said Hawaii has the best access to health care in the country, primarily because of a high number of residents with health insurance. But the study didn’t consider availability of doctors, Hawaii Medical Association members say.

“If we don’t have doctors available to see them, what good does insurance do you?” said HMA President Linda Rasmussen, a Kailua orthopedic surgeon. High malpractice premiums and low insurance reimbursements have created a “state of crisis” in Hawaii with physician shortages limiting access to health care, she said.

Hawaii residents may have the best health insurance coverage in the nation but that doesn’t mean they have access to doctors, says the Hawaii Medical Association.

“People have got insurance — great,” said HMA President Linda Rasmussen. “If we don’t have doctors available to see them, what good does insurance do you?”

Hat tip: FIRM

[June 20, 2007 @ 9:00 am] David Catron

The NHS provides so many object lessons in how not to run a health care system that I sometimes wonder if the people who run it are actually moles planted by some free-market think tank. The latest example of NHS inefficiency, as reported by the BBC, involves basic medical hygiene:

A quarter of the trusts report they are not complying with one of the three standards relating to the hygiene code, covering areas including cleanliness.

But, hey, there is good news here. A whopping 4 out of 10 trusts are in compliance.

The Healthcare Commission said 40% of trusts were meeting all core standards.

This, we are told, is an improvement. Last year, the figure was 34%. Now that’s progress! But what specific issues are the noncompliant trusts having?

On reducing the risk of infection, 14% said they had failed, up from 7% last year … A similar number said they could not say they decontaminated equipment properly – up from 12.6%.

Yikes! And it gets scarier. These data are self-reported by the trusts, and have not yet been objectively verified. In other words, the real numbers are probably much worse.

If this is “free” health care, give me the kind that costs money.

[June 19, 2007 @ 1:16 pm] David Catron

The next time some “progressive” tells you that Canadian health care is superior to the U.S. system, ask him the following question: If their system is so great, why do the political leaders of that country eschew it for private care? The Montreal Gazette reports the following:

Former prime ministers Paul Martin, Jean Chretien and Joe Clark also have been treated at private medical clinics, [the president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association] told the annual meeting of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association.

During a speech, Dr. Brian Day showed slides of these politicians and pointed out how each has decried private medical care. Then, he explained why people with a choice often bypass the Canadian system:

Canada’s health-care system is inefficient, run by a bloated and expanding bureaucracy, and governed by political leaders who are hypocrites when it comes to their own personal health care.

So, it is entirely understandable that this system is avoided by people with the means to do so. What is more difficult to comprehend is why so many Americans want such a system for our country.

[June 18, 2007 @ 12:02 pm] David Hogberg

Life expectancy in Japan is among the highest in the world. The world’s oldest living man is 111-year old Japanese citizen Tomoji Tanabe. According to this article:

The Japanese are among the world’s longest-lived people, with 28,395 people aged 100 or above in Japan at the end of September last year, according to the Health Ministry.

And the reason for their longevity:

Researchers have attributed the phenomenon to factors including healthy diet and tight-knit communities.

You mean that it is not the health care system? Someone should tell Michael Moore.

[June 18, 2007 @ 11:41 am] David Catron

According to Senator Tom Coburn, the CDC is a textbook example of a government health bureaucracy that has grown larger and larger while becoming less and less effective. Per the Washington Times:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wastes millions of dollars on “failed prevention efforts, international junkets and lavish facilities,” a Republican senator says in a lengthy oversight report.

The CDC, originally created during WWII to control malaria, has developed into a gigantic bureaucracy that spends money like crazy. Yet, according to Coburn’s report, its results are less than stellar:

The CDC spent $5 billion in the past seven years on HIV/AIDS prevention, with the goal of cutting the annual HIV infections in half by 2006. However, the number of new HIV cases remains steady at 40,000 a year.

The CDC record on other targeted diseases is equally unimpressive:

In 2000, Congress boosted syphilis-prevention funding from $18.8 million to $33 million and has spent that much more every year since. But since 2000, syphilis cases have jumped from 6,158 to 8,953 in 2005.

This is what bureaucracies are about folks. They are good for two things: self-perpetuation and wasting money. If we turn our entire health system over to federal apparatchiks, this is the kind of nonsense we’ll get.

[June 16, 2007 @ 5:54 am] David Hogberg

Apparently the Canadian journalists present at the Cannes screening of Sicko were less than impressed. One quote from the piece:

It makes many valid and urgent points about the crisis of U.S. health care, but they are blunted by Moore’s habit of playing fast and loose with the facts.

I’m sure the latter part is true.

[June 15, 2007 @ 8:05 am] David Hogberg

A woman dies while on the waiting room floor:

The facility, already downsized in a multimillion-dollar reform effort, came under renewed scrutiny with release of 911 calls seeking help for a woman who lay dying and unattended on the floor of the emergency room last month.

Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, died of a perforated bowel on May 9. Her death was ruled accidental by the county coroner’s office.

Another man waits for his life-saving surgery:

…in February a man with a brain tumor waited four days in the emergency room when he needed to be transferred to another facility for lifesaving brain surgery.

Is this Canada or the U.K.? No, it’s right here in the United States, at the MLK Jr.-Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles.

And MLK-Harbor is a government-run hospital.

For more on its deplorable state, read the article in the Orange County Register.

[June 14, 2007 @ 11:19 am] David Hogberg

Last week I read Dr. Wes’s test run of iVillage’s new Symptom Solver which can help patients figure out what ailment they might have based on their symptoms. Dr. Wes was a bit dismissive, saying “It seems that medicine can really be reduced to 20 questions!”

He then tried to use Symptom Solver to see if it could diagnose some pretty complicated diseases. Needless to say, it didn’t do to well.

Now, I’m not knocking Dr. Wes for this; it is good to know the limitations of something like Symptom Solver. However, this is a first attempt by the market to bring easy access to medical information for the consumer. Just like we don’t expect most freshmen to be able to do advanced calculus, maybe we shouldn’t expect the first iteration of something like Symptom Solver to be able to diagnose more exotic conditions.

Thus, I gave it a try to see if it could diagnose one of my ailments. After enetering my gender and age range on the first page, the web site directed me to the symptoms page. I didn’t see anything that fit, so I had to select “View Symptoms A-Z”. It took a little searching, but I eventually found something that fit.

After answering a number of questions, it gave me a list of ailments that I might possibly have, with acid reflux disease being the most likely. And that, indeed, is what I have.

So, it seems to me that for ailments that aren’t that complicated, Symptom Solver does work. Of course, it can’t replace the skill of a health-care professional, but we shouldn’t expect it too.

Nor should we expect efforts like this to yield amazing results right out of the gate. Consumer-driven health care is in its infancy, and Symptom Solver isn’t bad for a first try. Let’s give it some time to grow.

[June 5, 2007 @ 6:40 pm] David Hogberg

It is always annoying to see the grandiose promises of those advocating a single-payer system for the U.S.:

There is a myth that, with national health insurance, the government will be making the medical decisions. But in a publicly-financed, universal health care system medical decisions are left to the patient and doctor, as they should be. This is true even in the countries like the UK and Spain that have socialized medicine.

Thus, you have to like how reality always clashes with the “theories” of social reformers:

Smokers are to be denied operations on the Health Service [in Great Britain] unless they give up cigarettes for at least four weeks beforehand.

Doctors will police the rule by ordering patients to take a blood test to prove they have not been smoking.

The ruling, authorised by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, comes after medical research conclusively showed smokers take longer to recover from surgery.

Yup, medical decisions left to the doctor and patient…as long as the patient obeys the dictates of the state.

[June 3, 2007 @ 12:27 pm] David Hogberg

You may recall how the political left sneered when Senator James Inhofe invited Michael Crichton to testify before the Environment and Public Works Committee on the subject of global warming. “He isn’t a scientist!” they complained.

So, it will be interesting to see their reaction now that Michael Moore is being called to testify at a special legislative briefing in the California State Legislature. His testimony will be used to bolster State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s single-payer legislation.

Since Moore isn’t a policy expert, what business does he have testifying? His only qualification is his celebrity. It will be interesting to see if the left points that out.

I’m betting they won’t.

[June 2, 2007 @ 9:26 am] David Hogberg

Yes, Jack had a serious health problem recently. But he received treatment and is doing fine. Furthermore, he received a readable bill for the services and — here’s the kicker — he doesn’t have insurance!

Read Paul Gessing’s post to see how Jack does it.