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'45 Million Americans' -- Who Are Those Guys? Part 2

Comment

Last week's article on why 45 million Americans go without health care insurance touched a nerve and generated many questions and assertions:

"You and your pesky statistics! Forty-five million Americans without health care is huge. And you wrote that 89 percent of the 85 percent of people with health insurance are satisfied. That means 25 percent of all Americans are unsatisfied!"

Elder: Those "pesky" statistics become especially pesky when misstated. I wrote that 45 million Americans have no health insurance , leaving 85 percent with health insurance — but not without health care . ERs must treat the uninsured, including illegal residents. Meanwhile, 89 percent of Americans — with or without insurance — are satisfied with the quality of their own health care .

An 89 percent satisfaction rate sounds pretty darn high. Are people, for example, 89 percent satisfied with their jobs? Their marriages? Their financial situations? Their experiences at concerts or ballgames or restaurants or hotels or with airline travel? An 89 percent satisfaction rate is pretty impressive for most things we pay for.

And as for the remaining 11 percent — to what degree and for what reason are they "dissatisfied"? Had bad experiences? Don't like having copays? Would prefer a complete choice of doctors but are restricted by their plans? Had to wait for appointments or sit too long in waiting rooms? (Canadians are used to eight-month-or-more waits and long lines. Americans, I assure you, are not.) A lot of people simply complain — about most everything.

For example, 10 years ago I had laser eye surgery. I filled out a questionnaire designed to determine how fastidious I am. Why? The doctor told me the surgery would not get me 20/20 vision. Was I OK, the doctor asked, with a less than 20/20 result? I was. He said some prospective patients, however, are dissatisfied with such a result. Given their — in his view — unrealistic expectations, the doctor wouldn't treat them.

"Doesn't universal coverage work in Canada?"

Elder: Not exactly. Large numbers of Canadians came (and still come) to America to avoid waiting for MRIs or to get time-sensitive treatment that couldn't wait. Canada is moving toward more privatization — which was previously illegal in Canada but is now permitted as a result of a successful lawsuit. Imagine having to sue to spend your own money in a voluntary transaction between two parties! According to a 2007 survey by the Canadian Fraser Institute, the median wait time in Canada between visiting a general practitioner and receiving treatment was more than 18 weeks — and up to 38 weeks for procedures such as orthopedic surgery.

"What's wrong with a government-provided alternative plan to keep the insurance companies honest and more competitive?"

Elder: Here's a recent example of what happens when government sets up "alternative" plans to cover the uninsured at (supposedly) lower costs.

Hawaii offered universal child health care — for seven months. Then it dropped the plan. Why? People (and employers) with private plans dumped them to ride the "cheaper" government train. One of Hawaii's health care administrators lamented, "I don't believe that was the intent of the program." And Hawaii is a small state, without nearly the number of "health insurance needy" as we have on the mainland.

"Come on! Obviously the American health care system IS broken! That's why our life expectancy is so much lower and our infant mortality rate is so much higher than in other countries."

Elder: Ezekiel Emanuel, a medical adviser to the President (and brother of Rahm, the chief of staff), once told me, "Life expectancy is one of the dumbest ways to measure the quality of a nation's health care." Quality of medical care does not — by itself — determine life expectancy. For example, deaths from accidents and murders are much higher in America than in other developed countries. Texas A&M health economist Robert Ohsfeldt and health economics consultant John Schneider calculated that if accidental deaths and homicides during the '80s and '90s were removed from the calculations, life expectancy in America would have ranked at the top of all developed countries. What about personal behavior? Obesity leads to serious health problems, including heart disease. One-third of Americans are obese — almost 50 percent more than the British and Australians, over 100 percent more than the Canadians and Germans, about 250 percent more than the French and 1,000 percent more than the Japanese.

As for infant mortality, a 2007 study by economists June and David O'Neill found that low birth weight drastically increases an infant's chance of dying. They compared U.S. infant mortality (6.8 per 1,000 births) with Canada's (5.3). Teen mothers are far more likely to have low-weight babies, and America's teen motherhood rate is three times higher than Canada's. They determined that if Canada had America's low-weight birth distribution, Canada's infant mortality rate would rise from 5.3 to 7.06. If America had Canada's low-weight birth distribution, our infant mortality rate would fall from 6.8 to 5.4.

So don't blame the "broken health care system" for lower life expectancies. American health care actually helps us cope with the consequences of unhealthy lifestyles, keeping our ranking from being even lower.

Larry Elder is a syndicated radio talk show host and best-selling author. His latest book, "What's Race Got to Do with It?" is available now. To find out more about Larry Elder, visit his Web page at www.LarryElder.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

CREATORS SYNDICATE COPYRIGHT 2009 LAURENCE A. ELDER



Comments

4 Comments | Post Comment
We have 54 doctors for every 10,000. Canada has 2.4 for the same and Britain has even less. If Socialized medicine begins we will lose many of them in a very short period of time and it'll only get worse....there's a lesson there.
Canada's death rate compared to ours is much higher due directly to not being able to get treatment on time.
No matter what aspect this is looked at, it's inherently wrong.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris W. Sanders
Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:25 AM
I wanted you to know that I linked to your article and gave you positive review at Project Savior http://projectsaviorreborn.blogspot.com/
Comment: #2
Posted by: Darrell Nelson
Fri Jun 26, 2009 10:54 AM
Dear Larry Elder, Taxpayers are wondering where all the millons are that don't have insurance, also. Guess what, they're made up, just like the rest of the deceitful things politicians pull, daily, on Taxpayers! I've been pulling up counties and the amounts that Taxpayers are paying for politicians and employees health insurance premiums are exorbitant! Folks would be fools to let the politicians do any kind of health insurance for anyone else. First of all, it's another government taking money and giving Taxpayers absolutely nothing in return! Taxpayers should investigate to see where all this money is going! Just think the 40% that live off social and welfare programs, the 20% that's retired, and the 40% that have a job at present absolutely cannot afford anymore on their plates! As for the $7,000.00 to $15,000.00 per government employee for JUST HEALTH INSURANCE sure makes Taxpayers wonder "Where's the money going?'
If you look at the huge Salaries, FICA, Retirements benefits, Longivity pay, Insurance, etc. that's already being paid by Taxpayers for government and employees, it would make most wonder what's going to happen when the trillions of debt, borrowed by politicians without Taxpayers consent, when it's time to pay the interest?

As for the "Pair" ready to tackle health care overhaul', states Ms. Sebelius and Ms.DeParle! Why haven't they
already'overhauled' this system! They've been around the DC block a time or two! Taxpayers say 'thanks, but no thanks!' These seasoned politicians know it won't work. They have too much time on their hands. It's obvious this led Freddie, Fannie, HUD, AIG, Automakers, and anyone else taking Taxpayers' money, for endless money pits, into bankruptcy! I've been looking at all the committees, advisory counsels, directors, chiefs, deputy chiefs, and the
list goes on and on. There's no wonder 'the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing' and they're all in 'duhsville'! Paying these people hundreds of thousands of dollars for knowing nothing is more than Taxpayers
can comprehend!Until government starts to run like a business, get their hands out of the Taxpayers' pockets, and Taxpayers ONLY select who serves and what they're paid, we're doomed! It's time to go back to the 'pay as you
go' for doctors and hospitals! 'Fair Tax', to include property, should be top priority! Everyone must pay their share, including politicians!
Otherwise, it's 'Discrimination against Taxpayers!' What happened to "if you don't work, you don't eat, you aren't entitled to anything!" It's just that simple! politicians/criminals have gotten America so far behind, Taxpayers
are wondering if we're becoming like a Third World Country! Politicians salaries and retirements should be
cut to $12,000.00 yearly! If this isn't acceptable, then Taxpayers will sell them a one-way ticket to the foreign country they sold America to, take assets to pay the trillions they've borrowed without Taxpayers' consent!
After bankrupting America, these are the only options; unless, of course, they prefer to be sent to Guantanamo as some of these politicians are no better than the ones sitting in prisons; therefore, along with rest of
killers, rapists, and thieves, of all races, this is where they need to be! "Putting the cart before the horse"! When politicians took over, the Moonshiners' stills, for the revenue of course, started bottling, selling
the booze, locking you up for drinking it, and furnishing a tax-paid attorney, clothes, medicine, and food. Exorbitant costs and an endless money pit for Taxpayers, wouldn't you say? Politicians, now, want to build
infrastructures without having textile and manufacturing jobs in America!
It's time to go back to 'Pay as you go' or better yet 'If you don't work, you don't eat and are not entitled to any benefits!'


Comment: #3
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:22 PM
I believe you are mistaken in saying 45 million AMERICANS are without health insurance. The U.S. Census reports @ http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/hlthins/hlthin07/hlth07asc.html - The “number of people without health insurance decreased in 2007 [to] 45.7 million, down from 47.0 million.” And @ http://www.census.gov/population/www/cps/cpsdef.html - The categories of people include: “5) Non-citizens.” Therefore, when the Census reports 45.7 million PEOPLE have no health insurance, they are including NON-citizens living in the U.S. for some reason – not necessarily illegal immigrants (who I'm guessing don't respond to census questions very willingly) but here on work or student visas, people who are married to Americans but wish to retain their foreign citizenship, etc.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Christine Bravo-Cullen
Sat Aug 22, 2009 1:08 PM
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