NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

AN UNHEALTHY HEALTH CARE PLAN

August 21, 2007

Arnold Relman, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, writes passionately about why the United States should adopt a Canadian-style health care system.  However, the truth is government run and financed health care -- both in the United States and abroad -- stinks, says Robert Goldberg, vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

Consider:

  • Canada has pumped billions of dollars into its system to reduce waiting times for specialty services, but according to Health Canada, the waiting times and shortages have gotten worse.
  • Price controls cause shortages of doctors in the United Kingdom that in turn are filled by waiving immigration regulations that allow neurologists with bomb-making skills into the National Health Service (NHS).
  • In the United States, the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- 10 years after its enactment -- has failed to enroll 3-out-of-5 Medicaid eligible children in private health care plans and access to care has barely increased.

According to Relman, the problem with our commercialized, profit-driven system is that physicians tend to gravitate toward highly paid specialties, resulting in a major shortage of primary-care doctors.  What he doesn't mention is that in the United States, we have market-based responses to such problems.  For example, consider the rapid expansion of retail health clinics:

  • MinuteClinics offers walk-in health care centers for common medical problems and offer vaccinations, checkups, etc.
  • People can pay cash or use their regular insurance, and most visits are 15 minutes or less with no appointment needed.
  • In many cases, MinuteClinics are often affiliated with local hospital or physician practices, and will refer customers to a primary care doctor if they don't have one. 
  • Additionally, the center generates an electronic medical record that customers and doctors can access through the phone, fax or the Internet.

Source: Robert Goldberg, "An unhealthy health care plan," Washington Times, August 21, 2007.

 

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