Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 21, 2008
POLITICS: Dying From Universal Health Insurance

Yes, even the NY Times can't deny that government health insurance sooner or later means that whatever is not provided by the government is against the law:

One such case was Debbie Hirst's. Her breast cancer had metastasized, and the health service would not provide her with Avastin, a drug that is widely used in the United States and Europe to keep such cancers at bay. So, with her oncologist's support, she decided last year to try to pay the roughly £60,000, or $116,000, cost herself, while continuing with the rest of her publicly financed treatment.

By December, she had raised £10,000 and was preparing to sell her house to raise more. But then the government, which had tacitly allowed such arrangements before, put its foot down. Hirst heard the news from her doctor.

"He looked at me and said, 'I'm so sorry, Debbie. I've had my wrists slapped from the people upstairs, and I can no longer offer you that service,' " Hirst said.

"I said, 'Where does that leave me?' He said, 'If you pay for Avastin, you'll have to pay for everything' " - in other words, for all her cancer treatment, far more than she could afford.

Officials said that allowing Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.

Patients "cannot, in one episode of treatment, be treated on the NHS and then allowed, as part of the same episode and the same treatment, to pay money for more drugs," Health Secretary Alan Johnson told Parliament. "That way lies the end of the founding principles of the NHS."

But Hirst, who is 57 and was first diagnosed with cancer in 1999, went to the news media, and so did other patients in similar situations. And it became clear that theirs were not isolated cases.

In fact, it is widely acknowledged by patients, doctors and officials across the health care system that patients suffering from every imaginable complaint regularly pay for some parts of their treatment while receiving the rest free.

[I]n a final irony, Hirst was told early this month that her cancer had spread and her condition had deteriorated so much that she could have the Avastin after all - paid for by the health service. In other words, a system that forbade her to buy the medicine earlier was now saying that she was so sick she could have it at public expense.

Hirst is pleased, but only to a point. Avastin is not a cure, but a way to extend her life, perhaps only by several months, and she has missed valuable time. "It may be too bloody late," she said.

The endpoint here is the same as it always is with socialist systems: it's financially unsustainable to equalize everyone by providing the best care universally - so instead, the government makes us all equal by giving everyone the worst. This, in the end, is the portrait of what America's health care system would look like under Obama or Hillary: a middle-aged woman dying unnecessarily of breast cancer so we can all feel equal. Hey, it works in Europe!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:49 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

Crank, this is just another example of why social medicine is not the answer. Canada has paying clinics springing up all over...even though they are illegal. The answer is not to move government into healthcare, but to get it out. The paperwork is choking the system and adding untold costs to the process. It is just another case of less is better.

Posted by: maddirishman at February 21, 2008 4:00 AM

This, in the end, is the portrait of what America's health care system would look like under Obama or Hillary: a middle-aged woman dying unnecessarily of breast cancer so we can all feel equal.

Well... being that neither Obama or Hillary are proposing a single-payer system, and both are allowing for private health insurance, your above statement is an outright lie.

Posted by: dave at February 21, 2008 9:46 AM

They're not starting from that position - Hillary has retreated from where she started in 1993 - but it's the inevitable logic of their approach. It took decades for the British or Canadian systems to degrade as far as they did. You start by locking in a "universal" mandate and compelling everyone to pay into it, and then you start getting more and more mandates, more and more calls for 'cost controls' (consider the Democratic critique of Bush's Medicare prescription drug entitlement - hint: it ain't that it's too generous) and 'equality of care' and similar euphemisms for stripping away, bit by bit, the role of individual freedom.

Supporters of the various Democrat plans like to remind us endlessly that these other countries have 'universal' health. They can't do that and ignore the consequences.

Posted by: The Crank at February 21, 2008 9:55 AM

Of course, under our existing system, tons and tons of men and women die unnecessarily of all kinds of ailments, and we don't even get to feel equal about it. So it's not like the status quo is all that wonderful, except for those with lots of money.

Posted by: Jerry at February 21, 2008 10:56 AM

not "feeling equal about it" isn't a nearly as dangerous a byproduct of our system as stunted economic growth is of theirs.

Posted by: tsmonk at February 21, 2008 12:00 PM

"Tons and tons", eh? Pitiful job quantifying the tradeoff so we can decide whether it's worth tearing down the best healthcare in the world for those of us who pay our way in this world.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 21, 2008 2:20 PM

Any of us who have had fights with managed care these days might disagree about the best healthcare system and what it entails.

Healthcare these days has to be divided into three categories:

1. Standard care: In truth, you don't need insurance to take your kid for an ear infection. You pay your way, it's probably less than a premium, in most cases.

2. Chronic prescription drugs. This is a newbie. Until 15 years ago, how many people really took drugs on a regular basis to live a longer better life? Of course, you have to figure just what the real cost of lipitor and the statins, blood pressure meds and diabetes meds really cost, in terms of care you won't need, then again, you will live a lot longer, eventually needing very expensive care you wouldn't otherwise need because you are dead. And I don't want to pay for a diabetic's meds because they refuse to lose weight. So this one needs some looking into.

3. Catastrophic care: the real reason we want insurance. You get cancer, alzheimer's, parkinson's, you want/need care. And you can get it now in ways that didn't exist 20 years ago. Maybe the answer is back to the 80/20 standard, high premiums, negotiate with your doctor. We have managed care because medicine has fundamentally changed in the last 20 years. Used to be health expectancy went up because we simply eliminated many childhood deaths -- you would be amazed at what measles did. Now we are literally having people live longer. Simply because there is better living through chemistry, and we don't know what to do.

It's part of the social security bomb. We Boomers have been created into a real mess. Social Security started at age 65 because we were supposed to be dead at 66--look at the demographics. So solve much by not having SS kick in until age 81, and then people will keep working and pay taxes and buy insurance.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 21, 2008 3:30 PM

You dont see conservatives urging the government to "get out" of issuing driver's licenses, or registering people for the selective service, or sending military aid to "friendly" dictatorships. Conservatives are not greater advocates for the free market distrubtion of goods than liberals are; rather they want government to be involved in the delivery of different types of services than liberals do. That's the real difference. Only libertarians can claim the mantle of advocating for government to "get out" of the economy and our bedrooms.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 21, 2008 4:17 PM

"Supporters of the various Democrat plans like to remind us endlessly that these other countries have 'universal' health. They can't do that and ignore the consequences."

As long as you misrepresent - either though lie (as lowercase dave points out) or hyperbole(which is what I'll lean towards) - the actual positions and reality of the plans under either of them, how can statements like this be judged seriously?

A possible eventual outcome, which you seem to justly fear, is not the same as what either Hilary or Obama is proposing, or what would happen "under" them as your post states.

I have no problem with rational debates about adding another $100B to the debt, or eventual end states and how to prevent it. This, is neither. Just fearmongering.

Posted by: Dave at February 21, 2008 4:24 PM

The only "free market" goods liberals are advocates for is my money.

Posted by: Phils57 at February 21, 2008 5:46 PM

Spongeworthy - I'm sorry I wasn't specific enough for you in my response to an article that condemns England's system (which I do consider substantially flawed) on the basis of a single case. I don't know exactly how many Americans have no health insurance, but it's in the millions. I would bet more than one of them has breast cancer, and is not getting drugs that cost $120,000 a year.

Posted by: Jerry at February 21, 2008 7:56 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg