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Monday, January 28, 2008

Socialized Medicine--- By the numbers

In 2005, (latest government data available)nearly 47 million Americans had no health coverage. 16 percent of the population, which in October 2006, hit 300,000,000 people, have no healthcare or has spent at least half a year without health insurance.

Healthcare in America is a problem. A growing problem. No one questions this, so the challenge then becomes, what do we do about it?

We hear our politicians speak of healthcare for all. State funded health insurance that will cover everybody and no American would be without health insurance.

Sounds good.

Working people that pay taxes would pay additional taxes and lower income families or even those with no income could be covered.

Once you conclude that the goal is worthy, the next logical step would be to look to those that already have socialized medicine, state funded health care, so that we can learn what will work, what won't and make improvements from the lessons others can teach us and in doing so, the next logical questions become, is it sustainable and is it feasible and will it, indeed, actually provide ample health care to more people than are covered now, which is approximately 84% of America's population.

Starting with the above mentioned "first logical step", we look to the UK and a very interesting piece in the Telegraph today.

England has the NHS (National Health Service) which is their publicly funded health care system.

England also has private health insurance, which is used by less than 8% of their population and the costs of running the NHS (est. £104 billion in 2007-8) and is paid directly from general taxation.

That means approximately 92 percent of England's population is on NHS.

The National Health Service Act 1946 came into effect on 5 July 1948.

60 years ago. So we have 60 years of their system to look at and use as a guide to gauge how well socialized medicine works, what problems they have, (quality of care, quantity of health care professionals, quality of health care facilities, etc....)and properly judge the two next logical steps named above about sustainability and feasibility.

Doctors in the UK are calling for NHS treatment to be withheld from smokers, the obese, drinkers and the elderly.

Smokers, heavy drinkers, the obese and the elderly should be barred from receiving some operations, according to doctors, with most saying the health service cannot afford to provide free care to everyone.

Needless to say, these comments have become quite controversial across the pond.

Among the survey of 870 family and hospital doctors, almost 60 per cent said the NHS could not provide full healthcare to everyone and that some individuals should pay for services.

60 years into their health care system and if you read that whole article, while many disagree with those doctors, almost everyone agrees that the country cannot continue to care for "everyone" and there is much talk of incentives, programs and personal responsibility vs the government being responsible for everything as well as those being taxed to pay for everything.

It is not sustainable over the long run, but has run so long that now 92% of their population is on NHS.

Now lets take a look at our numbers, percentages and current data available and see where that brings us if we were to embrace a state funded health care system as they did.


Starting with the elderly, at this time elderly citizens sixty-five and over constitute over thirteen percent of the United States’ population. In thirty-five years the number of elderly will increase to twenty two percent.


We then come to the problem of obesity in America which some are already calling an "epidemic" as the numbers grow at an alarming rate.

According to Health Watch, issue number 52, release in May of 2006, (PDF file here and HTML of that file here)

The obesity epidemic is one that warrants great attention. An estimated 44.3 million Americans (two out of every three people) are overweight or obese.

The prevalence of morbid obesity increased nearly fivefold from about one individual in 2000 to one in 400 from 1986 to 2000.

Moreover, the problem is endemic in all age groups. In 1999, a national survey found that 16 percent of high school students were overweight and nearly 10 percent were obese.

It is likely the rates are even higher today, meaning that projections for future health care expenditures must account for obesity-related costs through- out the life span of very young individuals


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PDF file) latest report, in June of 2007, 20.8 percent of American adults are smokers.

Important to note that studies have shown that households at or below poverty levels are two and one half times more likely to smoke.

Poverty Levels:

Real median household income in the United States climbed between 2005 and 2006, reaching $48,200, (PDF file)according to a report released on August 28, 2007, by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the second consecutive year that income has risen.

Meanwhile, the nation’s official poverty rate declined for the first time this decade, from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 12.3 percent in 2006.

The report is called "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006 report [PDF]. The data was compiled from information collected in the 2007 Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

The number of uninsured, as well as the rate without health insurance, remained statistically unchanged in 2006 for non-Hispanic whites (at 21.2 million or 10.8 percent). For blacks, the number and percentage increased, from 7 million in 2005 to 7.6 million and from 19 percent in 2005 to 20.5 percent. The number of uninsured Asians remained statistically unchanged, at 2 million in 2006, while their uninsured rate declined to 15.5 percent in 2006, from 17.2 percent in 2005.

For the purpose of this article, I am not even going to deal with drinkers and will simply use the numbers given from the various reports on elderly, obesity and smokers as well as the uninsured, but what I will factor in, because it is an important part of the equation, is the quality of healthcare in systems, such as the UK, that runs state funded healthcare for the majority (92%) of their population.

Quality of Healthcare under socialized healthcare systems:


70,000 Britons will travel abroad for medical treatment to escape the NHS this year.

And by the end of the decade 200,000 "health tourists" will fly as far as Malaysa and South Africa for major surgery to avoid long waiting lists and the rising threat of superbugs, according to a new report.

The first survey of Britons opting for treatment overseas shows that fears of hospital infections and frustration with NHS waiting lists are fuelling the increasing trend.

More than 70,000 Britons will have treatment abroad this year – a figure that is forecast to rise to almost 200,000 by the end of the decade. Patients needing major heart surgery, hip operations and cataracts are using the internet to book operations to be carried out thousands of miles away.

India is the most popular destination for surgery, followed by Hungary, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, Poland and Spain. But dozens more countries are attracting custom. Research by the Treatment Abroad website shows that Britons have travelled to 112 foreign hospitals, based in 48 countries, to find safe, affordable treatment.

The UK's Telegraph did some case studies on those that needed life saving treatments that were forced to travel abroad to get those operations, such as heart bypasses, or wait for what they called an agonizingly long period.

Case 1: Russ Aiton

'I'm sorry to say that Third World standards are what we now find in British hospitals'

When Russ Aiton was told he had the choice of an agonisingly long wait for a heart bypass on the NHS, or a bill of between £17,000 and £24,000 to have it done privately, he turned to the internet in frustration.

Within minutes Mr Aiton and his wife Joy had found a company that would get him the surgery within weeks for a fraction of the cost, 5,000 miles away in India.

Read the rest of those case studies to get an idea of not only the long waiting periods for life saving procedures, but some of the diseases and infections that are becoming more prevalent in the NHS state funded hospitals.


French experts detail the system failures in France and compares their health care system to the US, as well as pointing out that France's socialized health care is growing faster than its economy. Workers pay about fifty percent of their paycheck each month into healthcare, retirement and unemployment and more companies are outsourcing jobs to avoid those costs.


In Ontario, patients in need of brain surgeries are being outsourced to the United States because of shortages of neurosurgeons and hospital beds.

Quebec is following Ontario's lead in treating some of its cancer patients. It's sending them south of the border.

Quebec's Health Minister Pauline Marois says sending patients to the U.S. is the only way to ease a backlog in the province's hospitals. Marois says 285 cancer patients in Quebec have been waiting for radiation treatment for more than eight weeks.

Two months is widely regarded as the maximum acceptable time between diagnosis and treatment of breast and prostate cancer.

The examples of poor quality, lack of qualified doctors, substandard treatment facilities, in multiple countries that all have socialized medicine as the system the majority of their population utilizes, go on and on, but I think we have provided enough examples to understand.

So the numbers are here in this article, the examples are shown clearly and when one compares 16 percent of our population that is uninsured right now, having no health care coverage, with the percentages of elderly, obese and smokers that would be the first to be denied treatment when the country has bankrupted itself, as all the previous examples have shown it will, because that system as the UK and France have shown it is unsustainable..... there will be almost three times the amount of individuals not covered and that would not be given adequate treatment than we have now, if we were to adopt socialized medicine.

Coverage for all sounds wonderful. When our politicians say it, it is a feel good moment, they care. They want to cover us all.

The problem here is that they know it is a promise that cannot be kept, they understand it is unsustainable and not a feasible option and our citizenry cannot afford to pay half their paycheck into the system and still be able to pay their bills, buy their food and live their lives.

Look at France. Look at the UK. They are the models for socialized medicine and they are showing us that the system breaks down.

Once again, we have a problem in our country. 16 percent of our population has no health coverage and we need a plan that will work.

It would behoove us to tell our politicians to stop making promises that they cannot keep and that we, the taxpayers, the country, cannot afford and to start dealing with that reality and coming up with a plan that is feasible and can be sustained.