Friday night, Keith Olbermann replayed his hour-long "Special Comment" rant, Healthcare Reform: The Fight Against Death. For detailed commentary on his rambling and sometimes exceedingly strange commentary, look here, here and here.
Keith says his commentary was prompted by his father's recent illness and ironically, very good experience with the health care system. Keith gave an excruciatingly detailed account of his father's ordeal after falling out of bed and being too stubborn to call for help. This was supposed, I guess, to show us… what? I guess it was just to batter us emotionally, tenderizing our brains for the later assault.
Keith has no criticism of his father's ultimate care, or how it was handled, but like the many Americans who answered pollsters' inquiries during good economic times that their situation was good but they were worried about everyone else's, Keith seems convinced that his father's care was somehow rare, and came about because Keith is so very, very important—and rich.
Well, I'm not that important, nor am I richer than Croesus like Keith. But that same day, I experienced the current state of privately insured health care in America, and have come away grateful and amazed– not enraged.
Here in Michigan, we all know of Canadians who come across the border for treatment. In Canada, the average wait for an MRI is 3 months, and in some provinces, reports of 10 week waits for chemotherapy are common.
This August, my son's doctor ordered an MRI to "rule out" ulnar collateral ligament damage on a nagging sore arm. Travis is signed with a top baseball program in our state, Jackson Community College; and while the arm did not hurt in everyday life, and he could still play second base, pitching had become impossible.
3 DAYS later, he was able to get his MRI, about a 10 minute drive from our house. His surgeon, Dr. John Samani, who is affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, is about 45 minutes away in Oakland County. The list his office gave us of available MRI facilities in and around Oakland County was roughly the same number as in all of Ontario—but there were still about a dozen choices that were closer to our Flint-area home.
(That's right, Michael Moore, even here in depressed Genesee County, after GM's flight. How many MRI machines are there in Cuba?)
In less time than it takes to get an MRI in Canada, and about the same time as it can take to get chemotherapy started in Saskatchewan, what is commonly known as Tommy John Surgery had been completed on my son.
Not to discount the value of his baseball dreams, but cancer, it ain't. But that's only half the story.
Our surgeon brought in "another pair of hands," another surgeon good enough to be consulted by Major League ballplayers to back him up. The procedure calls for rebuilding the elbow ligament by "harvesting" some ligament material from the wrist. While both of those doctors were capable of doing that, there was a wrist and hand specialist they admired who was available, so they brought her in for that part of the surgery.
I have a hard time believing that any government program would allow for 3 surgeons, even if it is justified for safety and the pursuit of perfection in treatment. It's hard to imagine a bureaucrat not telling Dr. Samani that he is (and he is) perfectly capable of going solo on this one, and that would have to be good enough.
But that's the difference between American doctors and government bureaucrats. Bureaucrats figure and play the odds, American doctors strive to beat the odds.
And very often they do. That's why if you live to be 60 in the United States, the odds that you will live to be 70 are higher than any country with public health care. And if you live to be 70 in the United States, the odds are vastly higher that you will be an octogenarian than anywhere else in the world.
But wait, there's more to this story. We won't even bother comparing the hospitals in the United States compared to what the NHS in the UK provides—when you can get in them. Rather than going to a hospital full of sick people, the surgery was done in an ultra-modern outpatient surgery facility, where the threat of infection is almost nil. The Unasource facility in Troy, Michigan, is something only private enterprise would build.
So yes, we spend more on health care than Canada. And yes it's more of our GDP than in Great Britain or France. But it is in the United States where we "fight against death," Keith, though there are some who think the elderly should learn to accept it like they are forced to in socialist health systems.
There is no doubt that there are things that should be done to lower the costs of insurance in the United States. But it is insanity to screw around with the finest health care in the history of mankind until we:
- allow increased competition across state lines,
- allow for more flexibility in benefits,
- quit loading down policies with "benefits" like paying social workers to give marriage counseling,
- get rid of the incentives for doing things like getting "prescription Motrin" when it will save a hundred bucks for your insurance company if you get it at Sam's Club for 10 bucks,
- and above all, QUIT TREATING DOCTORS AND HOSPITALS AS ATMs FOR TRIAL LAWYERS.
Come back to me with government solutions after these obvious and easy common sense reforms have been tried– especially when the examples of where it will lead are all around us. Anyone who wants to emulate Canada should have his head examined—if he has time to wait for the next available CT scanner, that is.