Thursday, September 17, 2009

Majority of Doctors Support the Public Option

A survey published 3 days ago in the New England Journal of Medicine says that 63% of doctors support the public option.

When you compare this to the American Medical Association's stand opposing the public option, it is no wonder that groups like Sermo, a growing online physician community, say that "the AMA does not speak for me".

Friday, September 04, 2009

All Generalizations Are Lies

All politicians are crooks. All lawyers are dishonest. All doctors are rich. All insurance companies are greedy. All government is incompetent.

When a significant proportion of the population hold these views, is it any wonder there is no confidence among some that healthcare reform can succeed? All that the forces of the status quo have to do to keep their gravy train going is to just keeping fanning the flames of discontent and prejudice.

These types of views are prejudicial, as prejudicial as thinking that all women are inferior to men, that all blacks are poor, that all Mexicans are lazy, that all asians are nerds, that all Jews are greedy, that all whites are Nazis. These blanket stereotypes are no different than the prejudice that uninformed people hold against a particular profession or institution.

We have seen the signs of protesters saying "Get your government hands off my Medicare!" and wondered if these people were somehow so senile that they forgot that Medicare **IS** run by the Federal Government.

Even Arthur Laffer, former economist under President Reagan, champion of supply-side economics and someone who should know better conveniently forgets this fact:
“If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government.”
To counter this anti-government prejudice, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Nicholas Kristof, wrote an article in the NY Times recently pointing out that:
The part of America’s health care system that consumers like best is the government-run part.

Fifty-six to 60 percent of people in government-run Medicare rate it a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. In contrast, only 40 percent of those enrolled in private insurance rank their plans that high.
Even though the status quo side keeps dragging out the "Obama wants to turn our healthcare system into Canada or England" argument as if that is a bad thing, studies have shown that patient satisfaction is higher in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom compared to the US.

Oh but we don't want socialized medicine, the status quo backers argue. Because we all know that anything that's socialized is (gasp!) evil.

But Kristof writes:
Until the mid-19th century, firefighting was left mostly to a mishmash of volunteer crews and private fire insurance companies. In New York City, according to accounts in The New York Times in the 1850s and 1860s, firefighting often descended into chaos, with drunkenness and looting.

So almost every country moved to what today’s health insurance lobbyists might label “socialized firefighting.” In effect, we have a single-payer system of public fire departments.

We have the same for policing. If the security guard business were as powerful as the health insurance industry, then it would be denouncing “government takeovers” and “socialized police work.”

Throughout the industrialized world, there are a handful of these areas where governments fill needs better than free markets: fire protection, police work, education, postal service, libraries, health care. The United States goes along with this international trend in every area but one: health care.
Here in Southern California, the socialized, single-payer, government-employed firefighters have been doing an extraordinary job knocking down the largest brushfire in Los Angeles County history. If the status quo backers treated public fire safety like they treat public healthcare, they'd let the free market forces figure out how to make a profit out of charging people for fire insurance and then cutting off their coverage as soon as their houses burned down.

I'm not arguing that a single payer option is the only way to go, but I would argue that we need more choices. And one of those choices should be a government-backed option that will give the private insurance companies some competition.

Kristof closes with:
A public role in health care shouldn’t be any scarier or more repugnant than a public fire department.
I heartily agree, and I have confidence that the American public can see this too. Because not everyone is stupid.