If you watch TV, the odds are that you have seen the advertisements from Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR). In one ad, they have doctors and patients sharing their anecdotes about their terrible experiences with national health care systems. They speak of long waits, being denied treatment and so forth. The point being made by these ads is that national health care is a bad idea because it will hurt patients.
It is reasonable to assess the health care plans of other countries and see what has worked and what has not. If there are serious problems with certain aspects of national health care in these countries, then we would be wise to be aware of them so as to avoid them when (if) we reform health care. As such, the sort of cases that CPR presents in its ad should be duly considered and assessed.
It is also reasonable to properly assess such claims. First, while examples are relevant, to simply rely on anecdotes would be to fall prey to the fallacy of anecdotal evidence. While such unfortunate tales are worrisome, what must be determined if such problems occur at a significant level. Naturally, someone might say that any problems are significant. This is true-but there will always be problems in any system. This leads to the second matter.
Second, there is the obvious question of whether these problems also occur in our health care system or if they are specific to national health care plans. If our system suffers from comparable problems, then the fact that national health care systems also have such problems would not be a mark against them in favor of our system. In short, the question is this: does our system have its own comparable horror stories?
The answer is, sadly, yes. Even a cursory search of the web will reveal a plethora of problems within our current health care system: gall bladder surgery, misdiagnosis, waiting for care, botched surgery, and denial of treatment.
My own medical experience here in the US would fit nicely into the CPR commercial. When I went to the first doctor after my fall off the roof, I was x-rayed and told I did not have a broken leg. I was not given a referral or any additional advice. I went on the web and did research on my own. Based on my findings, I inferred that I had a quadriceps tendor tear. I then returned to another doctor, hoping to get treatment. After a quick look, the doctor did not make any diagnosis. He did give me a referral, though. A week after my accident, I finally got to see a specialist. As such, I was hobbling around for a week with a disabling injury. The specialist did the diagnosis in a few minutes, something I wish had been done a week earlier. I was lucky that there was an opening the next day for surgery. After my surgery, they did not have the right sort of wheel chair, so I left the hospital with my immobilized leg held up by a few pillows. Luckily, the person wheeling me out did a good job keeping my leg from flailing about.
I have good insurance, so I only have had to pay about $700 out of the $12,000 for the actual surgery and hospital costs (so far-but the bills keep coming in). I did have to pay $500 for my brace (not covered) and I have to pay for the PT as well. But, if I was like many Americans and did not have insurance, then I’d be in rather dire financial straits. After all, the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is medical bills. So, we have plenty of horror stories.
But, don’t take my word for it simply accept the few links I’ve given above. Google it yourself and see the results. This is, of course, an empirical matter and well documented.
My point here is that the horror stories presented by CPR seem to be the same sort of thing that happens in our health care system. As such, these hardly seem to be special problems for national health care plans and especially not a special problem for the plan Obama is working on. Rather, these problems seem to be part of our health care system as well.
I do agree that the problems presented in the CPR ad are problems-but they are problems within our current system as well. As such, they give us no reason to worry that things will be worse for us under Obama’s health care plan. In any case, the ad does not even really attac Obama’s plan-it is just a general swipe at the straw man of national health care.