Part of the "Change" BO wants to inflict on America is to socialize our medical care. He throws around numbers like "47 million uninsured Americans" and points to the medical utopias of government-run medicine in Canada and Europe. Naturally, the 47 million figure is very misleading, because most of those people are young, healthy people who choose to self-insure. Eleven million more are illegal immigrants, and five million are non-citizens, neither of which would be covered under Obama's plan. Very few of those 47 million are the poor and elderly, as Obama tried to portray them. There are already government programs to provide health care to those people.
Let's take a look at the socialized health-care systems Obama wants to emulate.
Take the much-vaunted Canadian system. More than 825,000 Canadian citizens are currently on waiting lists for surgery and other necessary treatments. Fifteen years ago, the average wait between a referral from a primary-care doctor to treatment by a specialist was around nine weeks. Today, that wait is over 16 weeks.
That’s almost double what doctors consider clinically reasonable. As Canadian physician Brian Day explained to The New York Times, Canada “is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.”
In part, these waits are due to a doctor shortage. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 countries in doctors per thousand people.
Why so few doctors? Over the past decade, about 11 percent of physicians trained in Canadian medical schools have moved to the United States. That’s because doctors’ salaries in Canada are negotiated, set and paid for by provincial governments and held down by cost-conscious budget analysts. Today, in fact, the average Canadian doctor earns only 42 percent of what a doctor earns in the United States.
Canada also limits access to common medical technologies. When compared with other OECD countries, Canada is 13th out of 24 in access to magnetic resonance imagings, 18th of 24 in access to computed tomography scanners, and seventh of 17 in access to mammograms.
The problems plaguing Canada are characteristic of all universal health care systems.
In Britain, more than 1 million sick citizens are currently waiting for hospital admission. Another 200,000 are waiting just to get on a waiting list. Each year, Britain’s National Health Service cancels around 100,000 operations.
Britain even has a government agency explicitly tasked with limiting people’s access to prescription drugs. Euphemistically called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Effectiveness, the agency determines which treatments the British health care system covers. More often than not, saving money takes priority over saving lives.
In 2008, for instance, NICE refused to approve the lung cancer drug Tarceva. Despite numerous studies showing that the drug significantly prolongs the life of cancer patients — and the unanimous endorsement of lung cancer specialists throughout the United Kingdom — NICE determined that the drug was too expensive to cover relative to its effectiveness.
Britain’s behavior is typical — every European government rations drugs to save money. Eighty-five new drugs hit the U.S. market between 1998 and 2002. During that same time period, only 44 of those drugs became available in Europe.
According to an August 2008 study published in Lancet Oncology, the renowned British medical journal, Americans have a better than five-year survival rate for 13 of the 16 most prominent cancers when compared with their European and Canadian counterparts.
With breast cancer, for instance, the survival rate among American women is 83.9 percent. For women in Britain, it’s just 69.7 percent. For men with prostate cancer, the survival rate is 91.9 percent here but just 73.7 percent in France and 51.1 percent in Britain. American men and women are more than 35 percent more likely to survive colon cancer than their British counterparts.
The driving factor which makes American health care the best in the world is free enterprise driven by the limitless opportunity to profit from your own work and innovation. This profit motive, much maligned by liberals, is responsible for America's status as world leader in producing modern medical techniques, equipment and medicines, not only for our own people, but to export around the world.
The United States produces over half of the $175 billion in health care technology products purchased globally. In 2004, the federal government funded medical research to the tune of $18.4 billion. By contrast, the European Union — which has a significantly larger population than the United States — allocated funds equal to just $3.7 billion for medical research.
Between 1999 and 2005, the United States was responsible for 71 percent of the sales of new pharmaceutical drugs. The next two largest pharmaceutical markets — Japan and Germany — account for just 4 percent each.
Squelching that productivity and innovation by nationalizing the medical industry would be a change, but not a change for the better.