Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Death of "Socialized Medicine"

Despite the obvious failings of our health care system, conservatives have been successful in shouting down any discussion of change by screaming “socialized medicine.” They have been successful in lumping together any form of government involvement with true government run health programs with few, if any, Democrats support.

We may be reaching a tipping point where such cries of “socialized medicine” will no longer work. Americans are becoming increasingly concerned by the high cost of health insurance which leaves far too many uninsured or under-insured. Republican schemes have been a failure, starting with HMO’s and more recently with the idea, reportedly still being promoted by Bush in the State of the Union Address, of health savings accounts. The high deductibles in such plans result in gross under-treatment of chronic diseases and underutilization of preventative measures, increasing the cost of health care in the long run.

A recent example of the failure of the Republican model is being seen with the new prescription drug benefit. Medicare beneficiaries who have dealt with the government program are quickly finding that in this case the move towards private plans, not “socialized medicine,” is the problem.

The Economist provides evidence that long time advocates of market solutions are seeing that this might not be the best model for health care. In a review of America’s health care system they find note that, ” America’s health system is unlike any other. The United States spends 16% of its GDP on health, around twice the rich-country average, equivalent to $6,280 for every American each year. Yet it is the only rich country that does not guarantee universal health coverage.”

The Economist looks for possible solutions, being correct that there is no perfect answer:

Even a glance around the world shows that there is no such thing as a perfect health-care system: every country treads an uneasy compromise between trying to harness market forces and using government cash to ensure some degree of equity. Health care is also the part of the public sector where market forces have had the most limited success: it is plagued by distorted incentives and information failures. To begin with, most health-care decisions are made by patients and doctors, but paid for by someone else. There is also the problem of selection: private-sector insurers may be tempted to weed out the chronically ill and the old, who account for most of the cost of health care.

This forces The Economist to give up knee jerk opposition to “socialized medicine” and accept an increased government role:

In the longer term, America, like this adamantly pro-market newspaper, may have no choice other than to accept a more overtly European-style system. In such a scheme, the government would pay for a mandated insurance system, but leave the provision of care to a mix of public and private providers.


Post a Comment

<< Home