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Here’s a story about a 60-year-old man in France:
Conversation at lunch revealed that the neighbor, who had a history of heart trouble, suffered severe chest pains a few weeks ago. He wisely went to the hospital seeking treatment. He was told that there was no space available for him. He was advised to go home and call back later to see if a room might have become available. He did so, but was told repeatedly that the hospital remained full to capacity. Several days later this man died at home, never having received hospital treatment.
This incident, while true, is also an anecdote. It doesn’t prove anything about the merits or demerits of France’s universal-health-care system compared to those of the (still somewhat) private system in the U.S. But this sad event does reveal that merely declaring, statutorily, that every citizen has a right to health care, or that health care is “free” to every citizen, does not make health care available to all or “free.”
Yes, it is just an anecdote. Then again, at one point stories about waiting lists in the U.K. and Canada were probably just anecdotes too.
+ May 2007
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