The case against socialized medicine

Health care reform may have receded slightly as a campaign issue this year, as focus shifts to even more immediate concerns like the cost of filling our cars with gas. Although a bad employment picture can cost some Americans their health care coverage, it may also be true that the goal of guaranteeing coverage to every American sounds more like a luxury and less like a moral imperative during bad times.

Nonetheless health care reform remains a central issue this year, as it should, given that the election of Barack Obama would likely pave the way for socialized medicine in this country.

In her Sunday Examiner editorial, Sally Pipes demonstrates how tragic this development would be. She does so by comparing the health care outcomes in leading nations that have adopted forms of socialized medicine — with the accompanying restrictions on access to doctors, hospitals, medical procedures and drugs — and health care outcomes in the U.S. For example:

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.

It’s no wonder then that foreign dignitaries living in countries with socialized health care systems routinely come to this country when they need top-flight medical treatment.

When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi needed heart surgery in 2006, he traveled to the Cleveland Clinic — often considered America’s best hospital for cardiac care. When Canadian Member of Parliament Belinda Stronach, who had denounced a two-tier health care system for Canadians, needed breast cancer surgery herself in 2007, she headed to a California hospital and paid out of pocket.

So much for the “free” health care they could have received at home.

But what about the cost advantages of socialized medicine? According to Pipes, the are “illusory”:

True, other developed nations may spend less on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product than the United States does — but so does Sudan. Without considering value, such statistical evaluations are worthless.

And one of the primary reasons health care costs more in America is that we are a wealthy country that demands the best. And, we’re investing a lot more in medical research.

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.

Pipes concludes:

While no one can deny that there are significant problems in the American health care system, overall it provides exceptional value. The ideologues who claim we’d be better off under socialized medicine are massively wrong. Government-run health care has proven to be heartless and uncaring — and the inferior treatments it provides come with a very steep price tag.

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