Thursday, January 21, 2010

41...nothing to celebrate

Yesterday Mass. elected a Senator who ran against the Senate healthcare plan.  Korea and Japan feature health insurance systems with mandated universal coverage with public/private partnerships...the programs are significantly different than the Senate one, but there are big similarities. 

After living in all three countries, I can tell you my personal experience is it is much easier and cheaper to go to the doctor in both countries than the US. My insurance here costs $52 a month. I go to the doctor (usually without an appointment), see him/her within 20 minutes, make a co-pay (usually about $1), get my Rx (about $5). Finished, there is no paperwork.

I know that some worry about access to medical devices and I think that it is a legitimate concern, especially in Canada, but I needed a non-emergency Cat-scan and got it in a few days in Japan.

Because it is cheap and easy, nobody worries about going to the doctor.  You are sick, you go.

The quality of care in all three countries is uneven. We had good and bad doctors in Japan. I know that there is a significant medical tourism business in Korea, so I guess that others think the quality is pretty good. I have had great and terrible doctors in the US. After my mother's passing and the mistakes in her initial treatment, I am not nearly as certain of the "great" care we get in our system.

In the big picture, we Americans 

  • live shorter lives than most developed countries and some developing countries (37th overall)
  • have many more babies die (twice the infant mortality rate of Korea and Japan and behind most developed countries)
  • spend much more (16% of GDP versus 6% for Koreans and 8% for a much older Japanese society).
Which systems have the hallmarks of a broken system and one that is working? Which system work to care for people and which work to care for special interests?

I have no idea if the Senate plan is great or terrible, but I am certain what we have is leading to people dying early, children dying at birth, and our country being bankrupted. There should be no celebrating the decrepit system we have being kept on life support unless you own stock in the companies who are bleeding us dry.  


Kate Maass said...

Steve, I couldn't agree more. It seems to me that your travels have broadened your political views, and your compassion for social issues now makes you a real centrist!

steve said...

I am only a centrist so people on both sides can hate me.