Friday, July 24, 2009

US health-care (such as it is)

My Sunday started about the same as usual; up at 0545 hrs, fire up the double-caf, and flick on the dopey-box to catch up on whatever wisdom the talking-heads have to share, starting with our friends to the south (the United States). There was some chatter on the US health-care system (such as it is) and my ears were forced to perk up some when the Republican senator from Kentucky, the Right honourable Mitch McConnell, said, “I had a friend of mine in Florida who called up recently and said he’d just lost a friend of his in Canada because the government decided he was too old for a certain kind of procedure, and apparently he didn’t have the money or the ability to get down to the United States for quality care.”

Now I understand that Mitch is a politician, but I would still like to believe that he thinks a little, tiny, teeny bit before he opens his mouth and lets the mouth-noises out. But I guess not. I mean, “the government decided”? So in Mitch-world some (I assume) elected official in an unspecified ministry in an unspecified province made the arbitrary decision to deny Mitch’s friend’s friend a critical unspecified medical procedure, thus allowing Mitch’s friend’s friend to die. Granted, in some countries this sort of compelling evidence might allow one to decide that the health-care system in question is NFG, but in this particular case I believe that Mitch-buddy has either got the wrong end of the broom, or else he is dumber than a sack of two-dollar hammers.

But let’s give Mitch the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he is not dumber than a sack of two-dollar hammers but is, in fact, just as smart as, if not smarter than, a sack of two-dollar hammers. To me it would appear the Mitch is appalled that someone would be denied medical treatment so I can only assume that this never happens in the United States, so I can totally understand Mitch being all upset and everything. The thing is, I don’t believe it. It seems to me that people are denied medical procedures in the US when they don’t have the correct insurance, or when they don’t have enough (or any) insurance, or when the insurance company feels like it. I have heard that in the US there are about 47-million people without any medical insurance at all, and I have also heard some on the right say that many of these people choose not to have health insurance (I can only assume that these people also choose not to have life, house or driving insurance either. Oh, and they all smoke too.) That is wild. Land of the free, right Mitch?

Or perhaps I am looking at this entire deal wrong. Should I maybe be focusing on “the government” angle? As Mitch no doubt knows, each province in Canada manages it’s own health-care and while I can’t speak for an of the other provinces, in British Columbia if you are not covered by your employer then health-insurance is not free, but it is very inexpensive (about a $100/month for a couple to have universal coverage). So, Mitch is essentially saying that if I were to need, say, a knee replacement, some bureaucrat in the government (in beautiful Victoria) would say, “What?! That Humouroceros guy needs a knee? After he’s been beating us like a bent mule for all this time? DENIED! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!” Um, I don’t think so, Mitch. I do have to admit how funny I find it when someone in government says you can’s trust the government to do the right thing. Officer thinking there, Mitch. (Also, I have always found this argument kind of interesting. The right-wind in the States [quick, pull my finger!] constantly asks if people want a bureaucrat standing between them and their doctor. But it is okay to have an insurance company between the patient and the doctor? Good thinking. Not muddled at all.)

The very Presidential Barrack Obama has made reforming US health-care a top priority (along with many other top priorities due to the eight-year long nightmare that finally began to end in January of 2009.) The (supposedly) non-partisan US Congressional Budget Office took a look at one reform plan being considered by Congress and came to the shocking conclusion that it would cost 1-trillion dollars over ten years. A trillion (with a ‘t’) over ten (with a ‘t’) years. Now that is some serious coinage (to put it in a perspective of sorts; the US defense department spends about a trillion dollars a year on defense and related industries). I made the mistake of thinking about this for a minute and I figure that that trillion dollars breaks down to 100-billion a year for 10-years. I thought why not divide that 100-billion among everybody living in the United States (with an estimated population of about 307-million) which would give everybody in the United States, the rich and the poor, the ugly and the pretty, an equal cut of that 100-billion. In 2010 everybody in the United States gets a cheque (sorry, a ‘check’) for $300-million. I suspect that the health-care debate would disappear instantly, and the government would save about $900-billion (the remainder of the trillion the Congressional Budget Office is talking about) to but towards the federal debt, which the Bush administration ran up to historic heights (bunch of reduce tax and spend like drunken politicians those Republicans.) Easy-peasy, really. Problem solved and you’re welcome.

Getting back to Mitch’s friend’s Canadian friend, Mitch figured that maybe the guy couldn’t afford treatment in the US, just like many US citizens. I don’t doubt that health-care in the US is very good, but it you can’t afford it does the quality really matter to you? I have read that about 62% of bankruptcies in the US are due at least in part to health-care costs. So, a family is going through a medical crisis, and the icing on the cake is that they get to declare bankruptcy? I’ll pass on that action thank-you. If that’s a better system then our friends to the south (the United States) are welcome to it.

Anyway… Humouroceros


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