Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who Should Profit from Health Care? Nobody?

Get Real

Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation recently published the below article in the Globe and Mail.  Her opinion piece is a conservative opinion, so liberal thinkers will immediately dismiss it as capitalist propaganda that diminished the lower classes.  So, prior to presenting her thoughts, here are a few of my own, from my personal experience.

I am 60 years old, and have lived in Ontario, Canada for almost all of those 60 years.  I have benefited from Canada's Medicare plans over the years.  Or, at least I used to.  My Dear Wife still benefits to some extent from our universal medical care,sorta.

When I say I used to benefit, I mean that for years I could see my doctor, go into hospital if necessary, even get to a specialist on a timely basis.  That was back when Canada could afford to spend my grandchildren's money on such things, since the country was running up significant spending deficits.  Now, my grandchildren have not complained yet, being 2 and 5 years old, so what happened to the medical spending juggernaut?  Well, a certain measure of sanity crept into our government over the last decade or so, and the elected powers decided that deficit spending of money they did not have was not on (big revelation there), and started to cut back, actually creating annual surpluses to pay back some of the debt accumulated over the years.  That, of course, was before they thought they should spend themselves out of the recession, like our neighbours to the south.

So, 7 years ago, when I was in an auto accident and incurred a mild traumatic brain injury, I expected to see competent specialists, and get the support of my own general practitioner.  My expectations were not met.  In fact, if I had not spent close to $4,000 of my own money going to the Amen Clinic in Newport Beach, California, I would still not have a clue as to what problems I was facing with my own mental health.  They were able to produce pictures of the parts of my brain that were affected, and provide counselling on what I could and could not do, what meds and supplements would help me, and by the way discovered that I have lived my life with ADD, something that when presented to me made a lot of sense.

Now, my wife is another matter altogether, sorta.  She suffers from autoimmune diseases, and it appears that medical care for her is on a par with most care in the US.  At least, we have found no US source for better direct treatment of her illnesses.  The treatment for her is meds, and she takes piles of them.  She sees a neurologist, a rheumatoligist, her GP, another rheumatologist, and has been sent to other specialists from time to time.  These are not incompetent people by any stretch of the imagination, but her conditions have not improved a lick, in truth, and the drug reactions make us wonder what is worse, the diseases or the treatments.  So, she (with my support) is looking for alternatives that might be beneficial to her, and the clinic that she is most likely to go to is in Florida and will cost us over $10,000.  There is nothing similar in Canada.

Now, as for me one other thing that seems relevant.  I had the same family doc for close to 30 years, until he retired and left my file with his replacement.  I NEVER had a complete physical from him in all those years.  There was one sorta physical, but that was all.  It was never suggested or offered.

So, this year, I went to a private clinic here in London, Ontario - Medpoint.  They perform annual physicals, with followup, doing the appropriate blood and physical work to allow you to walk out with a comprehensive report on what will help you improve your health in the next year, and what steps should be taken.  I met with many of their staff members during the assessment, and had two sessions with the on staff doctor, a very competent woman, with skill and bedside manner.  That cost me $800, out of pocket, and I have no regrets for having had to spend it. 

Subsequently, I have gone back to use their in house physical training facilities and nutrition support.  Ths will cost me about $2,500, and again it is money well spent.  Already, I am feeling stronger, though I have been stiff as a board, as my body gets used to the punishment necessary to make it do what I want it to do.

So, for my money, you can have your free health care.  It is worth every penny you pay for it, out of your pocket. 

And ObamaCare is another matter altogether.  For a mere trillion or so of money that the US will have to borrow from the Chinese and Arabs, the US will get a camel of a health care system.  They will have used the plans for a race horse, but with the 16,000 pages of legislative bafflegab they are already saddled with, they will end up with a camel, that eats very expensive food, leaves excrement everywhere, and has a foul disposition.  Just my thoughts.

Here is the article that Karen Selick wrote for the Globe:
Office supply stores sell wooden pencils for as little as eight cents each. Swanky gift shops also sell pencils: gold-filled and priced as high as $1,400. Both pencils will make marks on paper, but they have another less obvious similarity: Both create a profit for their respective retailers, and for every intermediate link in the supply chain – from the tree-cutter or the gold miner to the manufacturer and the shipper.

It hardly seems possible that there can be that much profit built into an eight-cent pencil, but that’s exactly the point: “Profitable” is not a synonym for “expensive.” Consumers can buy expensive shoes or cheap shoes, luxury cars or economy cars, filet mignon or hamburger. Whatever the commodity, the free market offers goods produced at a profit, by privately owned enterprises, in a staggering range of varieties and prices.

People don’t generally accuse supermarkets of being evil for profiting from people’s hunger, or shoe stores for profiting from people’s barefootedness. Yet, Canadians have become so accustomed to thinking that health care must be provided by government that moral panic ensues the moment anyone suggests it could be provided by private, profit-making enterprises. “Nobody should profit on the backs of the sick,” opponents cry.

Like it or not, every single person who attends to the sick in our system of government-monopoly medicine is there for his or her own profit. Profit is simply income minus expenses. If our system were really non-profit, doctors, nurses and orderlies would get paid just enough to enable them to perform their duties. They would subsist on a diet of rice, possess only a single change of clothing, bunk down in dormitories at night, and walk to work.

But health-care workers don’t live like that. Instead, they have abundant food and clothing, private homes, transportation and luxuries such as entertainment, vacations and savings. These extras over mere subsistence are their profits, even though we don’t ordinarily call them that. There’s nothing immoral about their earning profits. But there’s also no contingent of saints in our society who are willing to work without a profit. The notion of non-profit health care is simply a myth.

A study published by the Fraser Institute in 2002 compared the wages of non-medical personnel such as cleaners, payroll clerks and cooks working in “non-profit” hospitals against those working in hotels. The hospital employees were paid from 9 per cent to 39 per cent more than hotel employees doing identical jobs. The layer of profit supposedly absent within these “non-profit” entities was actually being dispersed among employees rather than being shaved off the cost of services.

But wouldn’t allowing private, for-profit health care mean that some people would get filet mignon health care while others had to make do with hamburger health care? Perhaps – but, in the long run, even low-income patients would benefit.

New technology is typically expensive at first but declines dramatically in price as more people hear about it and competition kicks in. We’ve all seen this happen with computers and television sets. It even happens with medical procedures, so long as they aren’t covered by the government monopoly. Laser eye surgery, for instance (provided by the private sector in Canada), has declined significantly in price even as safety and outcomes have improved.

If we insisted that nothing new be made available to wealthy consumers until it was cheap enough to be provided to every member of society, very few new products would become available.

The big picture proves that private-sector goods and services keep on getting cheaper even as quality improves. In 1961, the average Canadian family spent 56.5 per cent of its income on food, shelter and clothing (all private-sector products). By 2009, families spent only 37.1 per cent of income on these basic necessities. Meantime, products and services monopolized or near-monopolized by government – primarily health care and education – grow ever more expensive even as quality declines.

Those who really want to help the poor and sick should be clamouring for the private sector to be allowed to do the job.


Anonymous said...

You should have asked your doctor to give you a physical. He would of done it, and saved you some money too.

MBrandon said...

Don't know where you live, but my doctor has never offered to do a physical for me, though he has prodded, you know where, for prostate cancer.

What I had was a COMPREHENSIVE Assessment, and my doctor has NEVER done any of the tests (or offered them, or had the facilities to do them).

I could have saved $800. I could also be dead from the things that my own doctor has never checked or been able to check.

This is not a knock on my Doc. Our health care system runs these guys ragged, to keep the costs down.