Sunday, March 29, 2009

A National Health Care Preview, and a lesson from Natasha Richardson's experience

I had posted about Mitt Romney's health care plan for Massachusetts years ago. Some folks warned me that it was doomed to fail, and it seems that is the case. It seems that these sorts of things have been tried before, and the results are always the same:

National Health Preview: The Massachusetts debacle, coming soon to your neighborhood.
Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive, as Mr. Romney's foresight previews what President Obama, Max Baucus, Ted Kennedy and Pete Stark are cooking up for everyone else.

In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time.

They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget. The program provides low- or no-cost coverage to about 165,000 residents, or three-fifths of the newly insured, and is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase that is likely to be optimistic. The state's overall costs on health programs have increased by 42% (!) since 2006. [...]

The article goes on to look at the usual ways governments use to attempt to fix these problems... and the flaws inherent in them. The article also claims that if this plan is applied on a national level, the results will be even worse, because MA had a far smaller percentage of its population uninsured than the national average.

Yet we are now about to adopt this plan on a National level?

Our current health care system would work better if some government controls were removed, such as the silly laws that forbid people from buying health care across state lines. Such as not taxing health insurance that people (like me!) buy for themselves.

If government is to have a roll in improving our health care system, they need to allow us more choices, not less. They need to stop over-burdening the present system with needless restrictions, and let competition lower prices. And our politicians definitely need to learn from the many mistakes of others who have gone before them. Many of them don't seem to have a good record of learning from mistakes. Hopefully the voters will.

There is a great deal to be learned from other National Health Care systems. Natasha Richardson's experience in Canada is a good example:

COULD actress Natasha Richardson's tragic death have been prevented if her skiing accident had occurred in America rather than Canada?

Canadian health care de-emphasizes widespread dissemination of technology like CT scanners and quick access to specialists like neurosurgeons. While all the facts of Richardson's medical care haven't been released, enough is known to pose questions with profound implications.

Richardson died of an epidural hematoma -- a bleeding artery between the skull and brain that compresses and ultimately causes fatal brain damage via pressure buildup. With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive.

Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many US resorts, yes. [...]

Read the whole thing. It's not hard to see why CanadaCare failed her. In fact, look at this example of a little girl in the US, with a very similar injury to Natasha's:

Natasha's lesson helps save Ohio girl
[...] The McCrackens took Morgan to the emergency room at LakeWest Hospital in neighboring Willoughby, where doctors ordered a CT scan and immediately put Morgan on a helicopter to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, with her father by her side.

"I knew it was bad when she had to get there by helicopter in six minutes, instead of the 30 minutes it would have taken to get to Cleveland in an ambulance," McCracken said.

When the helicopter arrived at Rainbow, the McCrackens were greeted by Dr. Alan Cohen, the hospital's chief of pediatric neurosurgery. He whisked Morgan into the operating room, pausing for a moment to tell McCracken that his daughter had the same injury as Richardson: an epidural hematoma.

McCracken remembers standing in the emergency room, feeling like the life had just been sucked out of him. "My heart sank," he says. "It just sank."

Unlike Richardson's, Morgan's story has a happy ending. [...]

It was a happy ending for Morgan because of quick action and ample availability of treatment and equipment. The very thing's that did not work out in Natasha's favor under CanadaCare.

There IS a reason why so many Canadian's come to the USA for medical treatment. They don't want to die waiting for treatment in Canada.

I'm sure that there are plenty of things we can do to improve our health care system in the United States, to make it more affordable and accessible. But policies that have a proven track record of failure should not be among them. We have to create better ways.

Related Links:

Health Insurance and Medical Expenses

Lowering Health Care Costs for Everyone


There's No Place Like Home: What I learned from my wife's month in the British medical system.


coffee fan said...

the loss of Natasha Richardson makes me re-think my resistance to wearing a helmet while skiing

Chas said...

I hope it makes a lot of us think about a lot of things. The attention this story received will increase peoples awareness of the dangers of head injuries. It's also added to the debate on health care.

Even though it was a tragedy for Natasha's family (May God bless them in their sorrow), some good may come out of it indirectly. It already did for Morgan. It may for others as well.