Nationalized healthcare doesn’t work, and I’ll tell you why:
I hold as my personal mantra in life that governments screw up everything they touch… and this goes for all governments, not just the United States Congress.
As I travel the world looking for great opportunities, I always try to understand the quality and efficiency of the local healthcare system. Sometimes I even go through it myself. My conclusion? Most, if not all public healthcare systems are broken and drowning in red ink.
I could cite hundreds of examples– the English cancer patient who had his treatment cancelled 48-times in a row; the 25-week waiting period for heart surgery in Sweden; 2-3 year waiting period for simple blood tests in Canada; Cubans dying waiting in the emergency room; Hungarians who have to bribe their doctors for treatment.
The Italians, who run their budget deficit into the ground to pay 10% of GDP in annual healthcare costs, are routinely congratulated by the World Health Organization for quality healthcare… the WHO, of course, is the crack squad of bureaucrats that spent weeks laboring over whether or not to call the H1N1 outbreak a ‘pandemic.’
Meanwhile, the Italian government is in debt over 100% of GDP with an annual budget deficit equal to its healthcare costs. They can’t afford it, and they can’t find anyone to loan them the money to keep it going anymore.
The United States will not be able to afford its healthcare either, notwithstanding the extra ‘surtax’ that the government plans on pinning to the wealthy. Even the concept of a national surtax is ludicrous– ‘wealth’ varies from place to place.
The $350,000 cut-off for the healthcare tax buys a different standard of living, depending on location; $350,000 is an enormous income in Houston, TX. In New York City, after-tax, it barely pays the rent. This is [one of] the same problems with minimum wage, but we won’t go there right now.
I would invite any member of Congress who thinks that the government can efficiently run a national healthcare system to take a tour of any VA hospital in the United States– you know, those places where doctors exposed 10,000 veterans to HIV and the hepatitis virus, and where they routinely botched radiation treatments to cancer patients…
Similarly, waiting lists at VA hospitals can take years… and I can attest from personal experience. I simply cannot begin to imagine the disastrous inefficiency that will ensue when a national health plan, that no legislator has actually read, is rolled out across America…
In the words of Canadian Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin wrote, “access to a waiting list is not access to healthcare.”
Now, before you eat me alive and tell me that private insurance companies in America are corrupt and perverse, let me cut you off at the pass and tell you that I am inclined to agree. Insurance companies are in business to make money, and they generate the most profits by taking in the highest premiums paying out the fewest claims.
Naturally, the interests of the insurance companies are at odds with the patient.
I am a firm believer that the best and highest value in any situation can be created when interests are aligned. This is why the existing private system is a flawed solution (though a slightly better one than a public system).
So what can you do about it? How can you align interests with your healthcare provider?
Internationalize. Establish direct relationships with hospitals and physicians.
Because I travel so much, people often ask me what I do when I get sick… simple: hope like hell I’m not in the United States. In Panama, I have a variety of doctors’ personal mobile phone numbers. We are on a first name basis, and I have no problem calling them on Sunday night if I need anything.
My experiences in private Panamanian hospitals have been fantastic. I took a friend to get a full body work up including X-rays, multiple consultations, and pharma… total price tag? Less than $100.
My friend and partner Matt has a heart surgeon on speed dial during the time of year he lives in Buenos Aires; the doctor makes house calls for 150 pesos ($39) to take care of the kids… a heart surgeon for $39.
More on healthcare in future missives; I would like to open this up to discussion as I’m sure you have personal experiences… please comment to share.