Socialized failure

Over the past year or two we have featured John Hinderaker’s running series on socialized medicine, focused mostly on the United Kingdom. His series runs under the name “Annals of government medicine.” John’s annals feature the horror stories regularly produced by socialized medicine.
Yesterday the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an op-ed column by University of Minnesota Professor John Bryson providing a contrast with our annals. Bryson recounts his own positive experience with British health care. Bryson supports his own positive experience with a few facts and figures. Bryson’s column concludes:

I am not a health care policy analyst, but it doesn’t take one to see that we are clearly not getting what we should for what we pay. Just consider what is politically unimaginable: If we had the British system, we would have at least 8 percent of our GDP of $14.5 trillion left over — or about $1.15 trillion each year — that we could use to fix every problem with the system and still have money left to give back to employers, employees and taxpayers — and we also would have better population-level outcomes. The switch to the NHS is not going to happen, but the thought experiment does help one see the merits of moving to a system that a least guarantees health care insurance to all, that moves away from reliance on employer contributions, and that produces better overall outcomes at less cost.

It’s a bit late in the day for the Star Tribune to be circulating this kind of stupidity, but the imperatives of the election season are upon us and we must be cooled out about Obamacare. John Goodman usefully addressed the points raised by Bryson last year in the National Review article “Socialized failure.” Here, for example, is one point from Goodman’s article that is omitted from Bryson’s reckoning of the glories of socialized medicine:

Britain has only one-fourth as many CT scanners per capita as the U.S., and one-third as many MRI scanners. The rate at which the British provide coronary-bypass surgery or angioplasty to heart patients is only one-fourth the U.S. rate, and hip replacements are only two-thirds the U.S. rate. The rate for treating kidney failure (dialysis or transplant) is five times higher in the U.S. for patients between the ages of 45 and 84, and nine times higher for patients 85 years or older.
Overall, nearly 1.8 million Britons are waiting for hospital or outpatient treatments at any given time. In 2002-2004, dialysis patients waited an average of 16 days for permanent blood-vessel access in the U.S., 20 days in Europe, and 62 days in Canada. In 2000, Norwegian patients waited an average of 133 days for hip replacement, 63 days for cataract surgery, 160 days for a knee replacement, and 46 days for bypass surgery after being approved for treatment. Short waits for cataract surgery produce better outcomes, prompt coronary-artery bypass reduces mortality, and rapid hip replacement reduces disability and death. Studies show that only 5 percent of Americans wait more than four months for surgery, compared with 23 percent of Australians, 26 percent of New Zealanders, 27 percent of Canadians, and 36 percent of Britons.

Bryson is not just some assistant professor working his way up or out at the University of Minnesota. He is the McKnight Presidential Professor of Planning and Public Affairs at the university’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Bryson lists his areas of expertise including public leadership, policy entrepreneurship, strategic management of public and nonprofit organizations, project management, collaboration, government and nonprofit organization innovation and reform, design and management of public participation processes. When it comes to socialized medicine, he ought to have some clue what he’s talking about. I think that Bryson’s column is thus illustrative of another kind of government failure.

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