Examine other systems
August 17, 2009
It is a shame that the current division in American politics interferes with rational discussion concerning the problems confronting our society. The current big discussion revolves around health care reform. No one, it seems, denies that reform of some sort is called for.
The current system has many flaws and is bankrupting both individuals and the national economy. One rational approach to the problem would be to examine the various systems of the rest of the developed world, see what is working and what isn’t, and develop a plan including the best ideas. We Americans, either through short-sightedness or misinformation, always assume we are more clever and do things better than other countries. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is much to be learned from others.
In his letter in the Aug. 12 Aspen Times, Dr. Sid Smock writes of the problems people he knows (or has heard about) have had in obtaining medical treatment in Canada and Spain. No question these are distressing situations for those involved. Anecdotal accounts, however, are not necessarily an adequate measure of a country’s satisfaction with its health care system. There certainly are others who have benefited greatly under the same systems. The very fact that many other countries surpass the U.S. in the basic health and life expectancy of its citizens suggests they are doing something right.
In closing I would like to mention that I am fortunate enough to have spent considerable time in New Zealand, which operates a single-payer system. Our many friends there are quite satisfied with the health care they receive, except for situations such as Dr. Smock recites or elective procedures such as hip replacements or cataract surgery, where the waiting time might be months. To be prepared for such eventualities they buy supplemental insurance much as we do here to pay for Medicare uncovered medical costs, kind of combining the current American and European systems. This is perhaps not such a bad idea.
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