Friday, August 21, 2009

Woe, Canada!


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, August 20, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Medical Care: A leaked report shows that Vancouver's health authority is considering cutting thousands of surgeries to balance the budget. However organized, government-run health care inevitably leads to rationing.

IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure

Defenders of ObamaCare continually point out that their plan is not like Canada's, that holding that country's system up as an example of impending medical doom is invalid. Canada's system is different. Instead of having a single national plan, Canada's national health insurance, a kind of public option, is composed of 13 interlocking provincial and territorial plans, all framed under the Canada Health Act.

But based on a report leaked to the Vancouver Sun, this is a distinction without a difference. Even if you break it up into smaller pieces, it's still state-run medical insurance with decisions on who gets care, based on cost and funding, not need. That is called rationing.

According to the leaked document, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is looking to close nearly a quarter of its operating rooms starting next month and to cut 6,250 surgeries. They include 24% of cases scheduled from September to March and 10% of all medically necessary elective procedures this fiscal year.

The plan proposes cutbacks to neurosurgery, ophthalmology, vascular surgery and 11 other specialized areas. Brian Brodie, a Canadian doctor and president of the British Columbia Medical Association, has called the proposed surgical cuts a "nightmare."

"Why would you begin your cost-cutting measures on medically necessary surgery?" he asks. "I can't think of a worse place."

Dr. Anne Doig, the new president of the Canadian Medical Association, says it's clear Canadians are getting less than optimal care. "We all agree that the system is imploding. We all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize," she told the Canadian Press.

As we have noted, roughly 900,000 patients of all ages are waiting for beds in Canada, according to the Fraser Institute. More than four times as many MRI units per capita are in the U.S. as in Canada, and we have twice as many CT scanners.

Canada's perfectly planned and cost-effective system had no room at the inn for Ava Isabella Stinson, born in Hamilton, Ontario. Of necessity she had to be sent across the border to a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital to receive critically needed neonatal care. She had no time to be put on a Canadian waiting list.

At the American hospital, Stinson got the care she needed under a system President Obama has labeled "unsustainable."

A similar situation exists in Britain under the National Health Service. There, local health care "trusts" supervise medical delivery. Under the NHS system, about 1,000 victims of rare forms of cancer were denied drug treatment the past three years, according to an analysis by the Rare Cancers Forum printed in the London Telegraph.

Stella Pendleton, executive director of the charity, said: "The NHS is forcing desperate patients into the cruel situation where the chances of their being given the treatment they need depend on where they live. No patient should be denied a treatment recommended by a doctor simply because the cancer it treats is too rare for the medicine to be licensed."

Yet this is what inevitably happens under all forms of socialized medicine. This is why Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament from Britain, has called the NHS a "60-year mistake" and encouraged Americans to "ponder our example and tremble."

When asked about ObamaCare on Fox News, Hannan said: "I find it incredible that a free people living in a country dedicated and founded in the cause of independence and freedom can seriously be thinking about adopting such a system."

So do we.

Some still say that what has happened in Britain and Canada can't happen here, that ObamaCare is too different.

Frankly, we'd like a second opinion.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crackpot Co-Ops


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Reform: The White House has suggested it would settle for health care cooperatives instead of the public option. Don't drink the Kool-Aid. This arrangement will be nothing more than the public option in disguise.

IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure

It seems to have dawned on the administration that the public isn't happy with the Democrats' plans to revise health care. This summer's historic resistance from voters has forced the White House into a position from which it must compromise. Or at least appear to.

The form of the "compromise" might consist of exchanging the public-option provision of health care legislation to one that would establish nonprofit health insurance cooperatives. It sounds less intrusive than a federally run public option funded by taxpayers that would supposedly compete against private insurers and, in the president's words, "keep them honest."

The White House is betting that when voters hear about plans to replace the public option with co-ops, their minds will drift to idyllic dairy cooperatives with white picket fences out front.

Or that they'll think of the co-ops that have for decades provided electric power and telephone service in rural areas. In those arrangements, the customers are members, or shareholders, and they run the business.

In reality, there would be little difference between Washington's co-ops and the public option.

Michael Tanner, a longtime health care analyst, says co-ops are "a poor alternative to the public option plan." He explains in the Cato Institute's "@ Liberty" blog that "the health care 'co-op' approach now embraced by the Obama administration will still give the federal government control over one-sixth of the U.S. economy, with a government-appointed board, taxpayer funding, and with bureaucrats setting premiums, benefits and operating rules."

While the administration would like the public to believe it is taking a novel approach, health insurance cooperatives are not new.

They go back at least as far as the Depression. Though their history of success is mixed, some have thrived, including Group Health based in Seattle and Health Partners of Minneapolis. Together they serve millions of members.

Given that it's been shown that health care cooperatives in private hands can work, why, then, must Washington get involved?

Because the proponents of government-run health care need a benign-appearing vehicle that would give them control over the health care system — backdoor nationalization.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that despite indications to the contrary, the administration is not backing off the public option. That would be mistake No. 2, the initial error being the Democrats' attempt to "reform" health care in the first place. The third mistake would be the pursuit of legislation that establishes medical care insurance co-ops.

The mistakes can be corrected, though. All Washington has to do is abandon its mad rush to take over health care and pass laws that will let the market — meaning the decisions freely made by the people — improve the delivery of medicine in America.