NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 28, 2007

Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" intends to change health care by exposing millions to his argument that American care is sick and socialized medicine is the cure, says Dr. David Gratzer, a practicing physician licensed in Canada and the United States and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

It's compelling material, says Gratzer, except when contrasted with reality:

  • Consider the claim that emergency rooms don't overcrowd in Canada; while people in rural areas may fare better, Toronto patients receive care in four hours on average; one in 10 patients waits more than a dozen hours.
  • In Britain, the Department of Health recently acknowledged that 1 in 8 patients wait more than a year for surgery.
  • France's system failed so spectacularly in the summer heat of 2003 that 13,000 people died, largely of dehydration; hospitals stopped answering the phones and ambulance attendants told people to fend for themselves.

With such problems, it's not surprising that people are looking for alternatives, namely, privatization:

  • In Britain, the Labor party favors privatization, promising to triple the number of private-sector surgical procedures provided within two years.
  • The Labor government aspires to give patients a choice of four providers for surgeries, at least one of them private, and recently considered contracting out some primary-care services -- perhaps even to American companies.

Other European countries are following this same path:

  • In Sweden, after the latest privatizations, the government will contract out some 80 percent of Stockholm's primary care and 40 percent of total health services, including Stockholm's largest hospital.
  • Before the election of the new conservative chancellor, Germany enhanced insurance competition and turned state enterprises over to the private sector (including the majority of public hospitals).
  • Even in Slovakia, a former Marxist country, privatizations are actively debated.

Source: David Gratzer, "Who's Really 'Sicko,'" Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2007.

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