Quote of the Day: “Health care that is absurdly inefficient”

Life, death and “managed care” from Michael Moore’s Sicko

As we move more deeply into an exploration of Frye’s notion of God, just about all current events dealing with policies that rationalize needless human suffering in a world that is in every way familiar to us appear particularly relevant.

Over at the The Dish, for example, health care is regularly debated. It is informative for Canadians to have a look at this latest post reproduced below: “Emergency Health Care Isn’t Health Care.” The Americans are still struggling with issues regarding health care that were more or less settled everywhere else decades ago. And it’s still a secret to many of them that they’ve bumbled into the worst — not the best, the worst — system when it comes to delivery. American health care, like much else in the American socio-economic contract, seems designed to deliver misery to the many for the profit of a few.

Canadians need to keep this in mind when the Harper Conservatives turn their attention to health care. Because, having spent tens of billions of dollars in public funds to reassure the necessary handful of wary Ontario voters to grant Stephen Harper’s wish for a majority government with 39.6% of the vote, “austerity” will soon be the watch word. Meanwhile, there are supermax prisons to build to accommodate our falling crime rate, as well as jets to purchase to sustain our position as a military superpower. In other words, American priorities. The more money that is spent ginning up fear and resentment, the less money there is for the maintenance of social justice.

The fact that emergency room care is guaranteed by the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act does not mean that everyone has access to effective healthcare. But 1986 does seem to me to be the real moment when America socialized medicine – under Reagan! In a real Ron-Paul style free market in healthcare, where everyone has to buy their own insurance or not and deal with the consequences, chronically sick poor people must, in principle, be left, at some point, to suffer and die alone or bankrupted. Something in the American psyche does not want that to be America. Whatever part of the psyche that is, it sure isn’t inspired by Ayn Rand. It wants to put a floor under human suffering and sickness, to have a minimal baseline for care. We don’t want to see people dying in the streets.

But once you have done that, you have socialized medicine.

You have socialized medicine because most of the people visiting the emergency room will not have sufficient coverage and will be unable to pay. So the costs are shifted to everyone else. Worse, the costs of treatment at this level of emergency are far higher than pre-emptive care. And so we are all in this together already. The question is: does it make any sense to construct a socialized system in this absurdly inefficient way that may actually cost much more and provide much less healthcare than a more coherent system?

This is one reason why America’s relatively free market in healthcare has become so costly and inefficient. I mean, here’s a question worth asking. In what field of human activity is a free market system consistently far less efficient than a socialized one? Why are those decadent Europeans actually more efficient in providing healthcare than we are?

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