Guest Post: Oh, Sick

July 19, 2007 at 10:23 am 27 comments

Many might be fooled by my wife’s surface Republicanism, but let it be known that I am the conservative in the marriage. This weekend, after a fine meal with my in-laws, a few of us headed to the local cinema to catch a flick that was covered on this very blog: The Waitress. Unfortunately, we were at one of those non-artsy cinemas, where such films are not shown. My sister-in-law, seeing that we needed to select another movie, purchased tickets to the most recent propaganda film by Michael Moore.

And so I did what any self respecting conservative male would do. I pitched a fit, and led a small revolt into the theater showing Ocean’s 13. Time well spent. However, the fire was stoked, and having worked on health care legislative issues for about two years, I would like to take a moment to rebut that fat slob/gentleman.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch:
You’ve heard it before. And if you haven’t understood this little nugget of wisdom up until now, please head to the poor man’s version of IRF. At one point in the movie Michael tells the story of a man who inadvertently cuts off two of his fingers while in the U.S. of A. He is told that it will cost $12,000 to attach his ring finger, and $60,000 to replace his middle finger (I think Joe Miller would have told him to rub some dirt on it and wrap it and get back to work). This guy decides that the cost is too much, so he goes to his native Canada to have them both replaced FREE OF CHARGE. Sound too good to be true? Not in Canada! Oh, wait. It is too good to be true. It still costs money, even if you simply measure money by the time the doctor spent not doing some other surgery. It’s just covered by taxes paid by hundreds of thousands of Canadians who surely care less about this guy’s fingers than he does.

Viva Cuba libre!
I could save you time and simply urge you to visit a wonderful site called The Real Cuba, but I can’t resist expounding. Señor Moore takes a boat of honorable 9/11 heroes to Cuba to get the health care they have been denied by their insurance in the U.S. It is tragic that these men and women have not been able to get better coverage in the U.S., and our system clearly is broken (P.S. “Our system is clearly broken” is the overused catch phrase of the year, and expect it to get worse through the election next year), but neither of these things makes Cuba our role model in health care. If you look at a few of the pics on the aforementioned site, or simply remember that we’re talking about Cuba, you’ll catch on fairly quickly. Maybe Castro has first rate clinics for his inner circle, and for foreign documentarians to serve as propaganda. And maybe the rest of the country, which has suffered tremendously under Castro, is not getting the same standard of care. Maybe that’s what all those inner tubes floating towards Miami are about. Someone should document that.

In the interest of getting you back to the work you’re supposed to be doing right now, lazy, the bottom line is that Moore and the rest of the Capitalist Critics miss out on some very key points. The drive for profit in health care is not inherently evil. Profits and patents provide incentives for drug makers to spend millions on risky research and development of new drugs and vaccines. Also, the cost of medications can be high, but all providers participate in the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (the commercials with Montel Williams and the orange tour bus), which helps low income individuals get vital medications at no cost to them—notice I didn’t say “free”. Lastly, we have a federal program that provides a pretty clear example of how private-based insurance reform could work: Medicare Part D. The program is run by private insurance companies that offer plans in order to compete for enrollees. Beneficiaries are able to ditch plans that don’t provide the drugs or service they want. Being able to walk away from a deal, means the consumer forces the provider to offer the best service. Would they be able to do the same under Michael Moore’s proposal?


Entry filed under: Commentary, Current Events, Film, Politics.

How Dare a Baby Suck Their Thumb! Another year older.

27 Comments Add your own

  • 1. letters  |  July 19, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Please don’t assume that just because I’m reading this that I should be at work / am lazy. Some of us work shifts and weekends.

    As for the Canadian health care system, yes it is true that our system costs money. It is paid for not by hundreds of thousands but millions of Canadians. They don’t get limousine service, but then again, nobody is turned away because they aren’t covered.

    Some guy in Toronto doesn’t care about the re-attached finger in Flin Flon, but that’s the beauty of it: when it comes time for his finger to be re-attached, it will be done. Free of charge meaning he won’t have to pay extra.

  • 2. JL  |  July 19, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Socialized medicine is not the answer for the U.S. medical system and Michael Moore surely specializes in painting one very biased side of the story. While highlighting the carefree Canadian, French and Cuban health care systems, he didn’t include one negative viewpoint, i.e. a 80 year old woman having to wait eight months to see a cardiologist at which point, it was too late for her needed surgery.

    When I was little I asked my mom how I knew if I was a Republican or a Democrat. She asked me a string of questions one of which was, “Should the government pay for daycare?” “Of course not!” was my reply, as it’s clearly the parents’ responsibility to make arrangements if one of them can’t stay home with the child. The same goes for health care, it should not be subsidized by taxpayers. The last thing we need is higher taxes. The Massachusetts example that’s being rolled out now will be interesting to watch and see if it encourages the uninsured to finally purchase coverage.

  • 3. Lowdogg  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Who let the lazy Canadian write a comment? He must have already finished washing his polar bear (just kidding. but seriously. i’m kidding).

    Good job Mystery Guest Poster. I agree completely.

  • 4. Michael  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Did the first poster really say “free of charge” ? After I picked myself up off the floor from laughing, I walked out and ask several Canadians what the tax rates are in Canada. I would suggest our first poster ask the same question and understand exactly what thos “millions” of Canadianst pay for that “free of charge” healthcare.

  • 5. letters  |  July 19, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    So if the parents can’t afford day care, then one of them has to stay at home with the child, or they have to take two jobs to make ends meet. It’s nice that people with money never have to be confronted with life’s tougher choices.

    Same with health care. Gee honey, we can’t afford the operation. She’s a good kid, guess we’ll miss her. No wait! I can always steal some stuff to fence and we’ll scrape up the cash that way.

    I know this is an unlikely black-and-white scenario, but I’m glad to know we have a system – despite its faults – which makes sure such a thing won’t happen.

  • 6. jdon  |  July 19, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Can I just say that I am all for having socialized medicine if those zany Canadiens will pay for it.

    Go Canucks!

  • 7. JL  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    letters, and I can’t imagine turning the care of my child over to the state. Whatever happened to personal accountability for your children and health care?

  • 8. Meldred  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    As a wife of a Canadian living here in Canada I have to say that socialized medicare sounds good in theory, but in reality is really jacked up. First of all, if you believe that government should be huge and control every part of our lives, then I suppose you would support this kind of system. But the free market can and will always provide better services than the government. Let the doctors compete! You will get better care at a better price guaranteed. I realize that our guest poster has a lot more experience with studying economics than I do, so he can let me know if I am way off, but that just seems obvious to me. What are we, communists? Come on. No socialized medicare. Sorry but that’s another reason why I love Ron Paul.

  • 9. Mystery Author  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    I’ve enjoyed following the comments on my first post.

    Letters, a safety net for the poor is one thing, complete socialization is another. Just about every state in the US has a program for poor children and hospitals are required to provide stabilizing care regardless of insurance status.

    I believe wealthy individuals in your country often fly to the USA for care, or visit physicians willing to go outside the nationalized system. Clearly some are willing to pay out of pocket for a higher standard of care, even when they have the option of waiting for care under the national system.

  • 10. lemare  |  July 19, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Mystery Author, way to bring a nice healthy debate to our venerable forum.

    First of all, SPOTD has made a few nice comments on the real cuba. Lowdogg, feel free to share the link to your post.

    As far as people not being covered by insurance doesn’t mean they don’t get treatment. Anyone goes to an emergency room and they get treated, insured and uninsured alike. And if that person has cancer, they pay the chemo. If you ask me this is a PROBLEM because of the millions of dollars we spend on state-subsidized healthcare for the unisured. Mitt Romney made some great strides in Mass.

    Secondly, my former boss lives in the UK and flies to the US every 6 months for doctors appointments. Socialized medicine does NOT mean better care… and it does NOT mean more TIMELY care… waiting lists for surgery can be astronomical. Meanwhile, if i told a doctor I wanted surgery next week, it would be done.

    Our system isn’t perfect, but it is certainly better than the UK, or gasp! Canada.

  • 11. cburt  |  July 20, 2007 at 2:11 am

    To add to lemare’s comment, many wealthy UK citizens and American expatriates, opt to purchase private health insurance in addition to coverage under socialized medicine. These individuals feel that the public healthcare system is so inadequate that they pay monthly insurance premiums to access a private healthcare system and better coverage. This is in addition to the 17.5% tax paid on all sales to fund socialized medicine. In other words, UK socialized medicine is not free, is not optional, and is not adequate for all its recipients. It is paid for on every single purchase made by UK citizens and residents to the tune of 17.5%. Can you just imagine what would happen if the US government arbitrarily raised the price of all consumer goods sold in this country by 17.5%?

    The bottom line is—there is NO such thing as free lunch. And while the idea of equal access to high quality healthcare for all is a beautiful concept, I’m afraid it is reserved for a utopian society that does not exist on this earth (then again, such a society would probably tend toward a pure charity care system). The application of socialized medicine has consistently delivered inferior healthcare in the UK and Canada. Clearly, a similar application in the US would have a crippling effect on the very capitalist, free market ideals that have raised the quality of goods and services in the US to be among the best in the world, not to exclude our healthcare.

    On an unrelated note, it is a little known fact that upon returning to the US, travelers to the UK can request a refund of the VAT tax paid on purchases made in the UK. Think of it as a 17% discount as the tax is included in the ticket price.

  • 12. letters  |  July 20, 2007 at 2:31 am

    Those who misread what I said about “free of charge” can pick yourselves off the floor and read what I said again. I said free of charge in that he won’t have to pay EXTRA – ie he won’t have to pay a fee at the hospital. He has already paid for it out of his taxes.

    I don’t live in Canada anymore, I live in Germany, which is also a country with as socialized medical system. On our last trip to Canada my wife, who is German, had to go to the emergency room twice, to two different hospitals. I’m not saying this makes for an adequate sampling of the quality of care, but she went away from both with an extremely positive impression as to the reception she received, the attention to detail of the staff, the state-of-the-art equipment, the atmosphere, everything.

    Sure, Canadians with the bucks head south for their heart operations and whatnot, and they’re welcome to do so. A lot of it has to do with status – being able to brag to your friends that you can afford to do such-and-such. That does not mean that those needing a variety of medical procedures and treatment in Canada are missing out.

    And because many don’t click on links, I copy for you the introduction of a March 30, 2007 article from a San Francisco newspaper entitled: Uninsured patient billed for more than $12,000 for broken rib. (I guarantee you, this would not happen in Canada, Germany or any other country with socialized medicine.)
    There are 47 million people in this country without health insurance. Richmond resident Joey Palmer is one of them.

    He learned how costly this can be after fracturing a rib in a relatively minor motorcycle accident and subsequently being hit with a bill for more than $12,000 from San Francisco General Hospital.

    “There’s no way I could pay something like that,” Palmer, 32, told me. “I’m not a bum, but I’m not making a lot of money right now. How is anyone supposed to pay a bill like that?”

    Iman Nazeeri-Simmons, director of administrative operations at San Francisco General, said she sympathizes with Palmer’s situation.

    “It’s not us,” she said. “It’s the whole system, and the system is broken. We need to look closely at making changes and at how we can deliver care in a rational way.”

    Palmer’s story illustrates the broader problem of runaway health care costs in the United States and a system that leaves millions of Americans to fend for themselves.

  • 13. Mystery Author  |  July 20, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Why would people brag about paying more? I think they pay more because they know they are getting better care. They clearly don’t pay more for the same thing. That would be insane. If they don’t have to worry about getting good coverage, why wouldn’t they invest that money, or spend it on one of the amazing products at Harriet Carter?

    Also, I believe my post did say that the US system is clearly broken, so thanks for that article. Which part wouldn’t happen in Canada? People don’t break ribs? Would Canada have chipped in to fix his motorcycle?

    Outside of a health care system with too many government mandates, Americans do okay fending for themselves.

  • 14. Jana  |  July 20, 2007 at 10:16 am

    Great post — and excellent writing. Was your mother an English teacher?

    The US DOES have a system in place for those who are too poor for private health care — it’s called Medicare and Medicaid. My husband and his first wife were too poor to afford private insurance while in college and having their first child. They qualified for Medicare/Medicaid, which paid the price tag of over 1 million for the little girl. Because we live in capitalism, we expect private companies to be philanthropists. This is the case with the McDonald’s corporation, which provided free room and board at the Ronald McDonald House in Denver for them. They were poor, yet they were well provided for.

    Here is a problem I have with “the poor” as an entity — they expect people to do it for them. While we have never discussed this, I am fairly certain a government representative did not call my husband and say “I hear you have a sick baby coming to you. We’ll take care of that.” My husband had to apply. He had to put in the work to get the things he needed. With universal health care, people are looking for a free ride. How does 18% sales tax sound to you? Sounds pretty crappy to me.

    I get very frustrated with people who bash America for bashings sake. Michael Moore is certainly not interested in coming up with solutions to problems, he just wants to add flame to the fire, as evidenced by his previous documentaries on gun control and the war. I also get very frustrated with left-wing snobbery. Conservatives are constantly being dismissed as stupid or naive, as evidenced by the health care debate and the climate debate. I think it is devisive and does not solve anything.

    Excellent post.

  • 15. letters  |  July 20, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Mystery Author,
    People brag about paying more because it shows they have the money to spend.
    It’s obvious what I meant by the article. There is no way that someone in Canada or Germany or another jurisdiction with socialized medicine would be asked to pay an enormous sum of money for routine treatment like broken ribs. You knew what I meant.
    So what do you say about 47 million people without health insurance and ridiculous situations were people are asked to pay 12,000 dollars for treatment of broken ribs? Obviously Medicare or Medicaid doesn’t cover everybody.

  • 16. Lindsay  |  July 20, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Letters, being from North of the Border, you may not realize that quoting something from a San Francisco paper does not exactly help your cause. San Francisco happens to be a socialist island in the midst of this great land. No right thinking person will ever take anything coming out of that city seriously.

  • 17. letters  |  July 20, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    The San Francisco Chronical is a member of Hearst Communications Inc, which has newspapers across the country including Albany, Houston, Seattle…it also has magazines, TV and cable outlets across the country.

    So you are telling me that the San Francisco Chronicle prints baldfaced lies to further some anti-American agenda? What exactly is your point?

  • 18. lemare  |  July 20, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    a great deal of the uninsured CAN afford insurance, but kind of “play that lottery” against purchasing it, and prefer to spend their money on other things in life…. case in point, my friends in high school. he was self-employed, and they lived in a big house and drove nice cars and had fancy salt water fiish tanks filling a room… but opted to spend their money on this instead of health insurance (which they clearly could have afforded).

    While this does show CHOICE in consumerism, on the whole, it negatively effects us if they show up for treatment, receive it (AS ONE ALWAYS WILL) and then simply declare medical bankruptcy and not have to pay back. Then we end up paying for this in higher medical bills.

    free health care may the least intelligent idea proposed in this blog, but reforming the system is certainly needed.

    By the way, I hope I never meet the friends of letters who say, “My heart surgery cost more than your heart surgery.”

  • 19. letters  |  July 20, 2007 at 1:31 pm


    In a socialized system like Germany’s, you can’t play the lottery. You are automatically covered. Nobody is left behind. No child. No adult. No old person. No invalid. Nobody takes advantage of the system because it’s fair for everybody. I make more money, so I pay more into it. That’s fair.

    I was not the one who proposed free health care, because I know it doesn’t exist.

  • 20. Meldred  |  July 20, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Letters, You make more money so you have to pay more money, I don’t see how that is fair. You’ve put yourself in a position to take care of yourself and your family and yet you are penalized because they take more of that away. I can see how you think that it is cool because you are helping others have health care, but that brings into everyone else’s arguments about people who then abuse it (meaning that they don’t pay as much and yet get as much treatment).

    Health care is a service. It should run like any other service. Give me the best treatment at the best price. If everyone was competing, maybe it wouldn’t cost $12000 to repair ribs. Maybe some doctors and scientists would try to figure out the cheapest most effective way to fix ribs, and we’d benefit. If the food industry can figure out new oils to use in our french fries to make it healthier and cheaper, or if scientists can discover less expensive and more efficient sources of fuel for cars, why can’t we encourage progress in medical procedures? Making everyone pay for broken ribs doesn’t make sense.

    And I’m glad that “letters” wife got great treatment in Canada, a lot of people haven’t. I’ve had great treatment in the US, a lot of people haven’t. But why don’t we try something different, like completely privitazing health care?

    Same thing with the roads, education, yadda yadda. Let the market work.

  • 21. letters  |  July 20, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    It’s fair because I have the greater ability to pay. The people who pay less yet get the same treatment are not abusing the system. They are part of it. Your first paragraph makes no sense.

    The 12,000 to treat broken ribs had nothing to do with how much it cost. It was the fact that someone without insurance was being asked to pay it. In our system, he’d be covered and the only thing he’d have had to pay is a monthly premium and a top-up out of the general tax revenue. That’s the point. In your system, it’s a crapshoot.
    Come to think of it, your second paragraph makes no sense either, and as for your ending, well…

  • 22. Mystery Author  |  July 20, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Listen Letters, there is abuse in the system. There is a principle called the moral hazard problem of insurance. When people are completely covered, they take less preventive care. That isn’t based on private vs. public care. Having insurance means an individual faces less risk and has to take fewer measures to avoid loss. Thus, knowing one is always covered means he doesn’t have to be as careful, and will consume more service. This can’t be avoided.

    Second, why shouldn’t the person without insurance be asked to pay for service? People with insurance do.

    Also, why aren’t the rich showing off their money in ways that show it off? Cars, homes, etc. Again, if the service is the same, they can channel that extra money into fancier stuff.

  • 23. lemare  |  July 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Letters… you’re getting testy, and it really isn’t a flattering look on you.

    those people who want socialist healthcare can move to canada or europe. those who want reform to the free market, stay here.

    sounds like you’re happy where you’re at, Letters. Why worry about us?

  • 24. Meldred  |  July 20, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    see it’s weird because your logic makes no sense to me either so i guess we are even. now that’s fair, isn’t it?

  • 25. letters  |  July 20, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    What you call “testy” I call a frank comment at what I’m reading. You just don’t like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth, as the Dixie Chicks said.

    Mystery Author,
    Your so-called moral hazard problem is not credible. Just because I am insured doesn’t mean I am going to take greater risks with my health. I make rational decisions. I’m not more likely to abuse my body with drugs or take up sky-diving based on whether I’ve got health insurance or not.

    I’ll let you all rail away and have your final say, because I’m done here. You Americans will never get to see the benefits accrued by decades of experience by people living beyond your own borders because even talking about the idea of helping out your fellow man by pooling resources as is the case with socialised medicine is immediately shot down as “communism” as one poster so inanely put it here. So we’ll probably be reading more about that guy with the broken rib forced to pay a five-figure hospital bill. You guys are all right, Jack, so who cares anyway.

  • 26. Mystery Author  |  July 20, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    I didn’t make up moral hazard. It doesn’t mean skydiving, just taking less care of yourself. Look it up. By the way Letters, if you’re out there, the socialized system still relies on the private based one for health care innovation. Where do you think companies find the profits that make inovating new medications, and health care machinery worth the investment? It can cost billions to bring a new drug to market. Oh, do I have to explain what a market is?

    Later Letters.

  • 27. Jdon  |  July 20, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Can someone please give Letters his own guest post? I feel that IRF is the one last safe places in the known universe that would allow this fine German Canadian American scholar and all of you wacky Limbaughites a chance to openly discuss these richly important issues in a forum style debate. Plus it would be so funny. Please Powers that be (Lemare & Jeannie) make this happen.


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