Is socialized healthcare a good idea?

This is the sort of ignorance we’re trying to dispel, so…

…In Canada, there is no “one purchaser of prescription drugs.” The government doesn’t buy your drugs for you; you have to buy them yourself, at a pharmacy, just like you do in the U.S.

Canada doesn’t have a government-run health care system. I know that’s what they tell you in the States; it isn’t true. The government pays for medically necessary health SERVICES, and that’s it. The government doesn’t pay for drugs; the patient does, or his employer’s insurance scheme does, or whatever. I suspect this is much the same in European countries.

Incidentally, the government also does not force you to go to a particular family doctor, another one I’ve heard quite a few times.

RickJay, how are prices for drugs handled?

Rickjay: Thanks for pointing out my overly-broad brush. It appears that Canada uses price controls on drugs.

Still, the sort of subsidy that I outlined above does occur:

FranticMad, you have to realize that you are trying to measure “quality of life” by poor proxies. The fact that Americans live shorter lives isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or even say anything about our healthcare system.

As my little story pointed out, having more effective health care doesn’t necessarily increase health outcomes, for the same reaosn mandatory seat belt laws don’t necessarily lower the number of car crash deaths. Why? Because these things allow people to live more recklessly (since better health care can compensate for the extra costs).

Aside: one of last years most mind-blowing social science papers was an article that gave a startling answer to the question of why murder rates have dropped in the U.S. Most of us assumed that it was all about behavior: for some reason, perhaps increased punishment, people were acting better. But according to this paper, it turns out that, while that might also be a factor, the major factor we can identify so far is that emergency care was saving so many more people with similar injuries. They weren’t dying as much on the way to the hospital or on the table, so they weren’t showing up as murders, but rather assaults, attempted murders, etc. I’ll try to dig up a reference, but it’s just neat.

From the Statistical Abstract

country      Health Care Expenses    Life Expectancy
            as a share of GDP 1999   at Birth 2001  vs US (chk math)
US               12.9%  (#1!)              77.3         
Australia         8.6                      79.9         +2.6
Canada            9.3                      79.6         +2.3
France            9.3                      78.9         +1.6
Germany          10.3 (1998)               77.6         +0.3
UK                6.8                      77.8         +0.5
Japan             7.5                      80.8         +3.5
Switzerland      10.4 (#2!)              missing from table

Caveats regarding lifestyle choices and adjustments for the age structure of the population apply. Feel free to check my math and feel free to look up Switzerland.

UK is an interesting case. They have lousy life expectancy (like the US) but spend a far lower share of their economy on health care. German data is presumably skewed by the inclusion of the former East Germany.

Overall though, it appears that the US doesn’t get very good value for its health care dollar. But hey, the public seems to like it that way.

Apos: My understanding is while there is some evidence for an increase in risky driving following enhanced safety improvements on US vehicles, this represents a partial offset and not a wholly negating factor.

But this is an empirical question, so… let’s see the empircs (with regards to US citizens living more dangerously).

Neat result regarding emergency room visits. Key question: what share of the drop in the murder rate is attributable to better emergency care? I often try to keep my eye on the magnitude figure, after significance has been established.

why are prescription drug prices important to US healthcare costs? you can buy those on the internet now. I mean, if you don’t want to pay US pharmacy costs, you can just get them from pharmacies based in india, canada or mexico.

Longevity is only one indicator of the state of health care in a population, the infant mortality rate is another. Japan leads the world on both although they spend half as much per person on health care as does the United States.

[url=“”]infant mortality rates**

Our Canadian rate of 5.02/1000 is lower than the United States (6.76/1000) but still pales in comparison to countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Japan which all have infant mortality rates that are lower than 4/1000. All three offer universal health care.

Interestingly enough, Cuba has an infant mortality rate of 6.2/1000 and this has been attributed to the recent implementation of socialized medical care.

Hawaii implemented universal health care in 1974 and their infant mortality rate has dropped from 16/1000 in 1974 to 6.2/1000 in 1996.

I have lived with universal health care my entire life as it was made available to all Canadians in 1961, a few years before I was born. I have never worried about being able to afford medical care for myself or my family.

My health care costs are subsidized (50%) by my employer and my insurance plan offers benefits that medicare does not such as dental insurance and prescription coverage. I pay less than 800.00 per year to have our entire family covered.

When my daughter had an ear infection I took her to see our doctor where I have never been able to read much of anything in the waiting room because there is never a wait.

After getting the prescription for antibiotics filled my total cost was $3.50 Cdn.

“why are prescription drug prices important to US healthcare costs? you can buy those on the internet now. I mean, if you don’t want to pay US pharmacy costs, you can just get them from pharmacies based in india, canada or mexico.”

Because besides the 40 million Americans who do not have health care coverage there are 13 million Americans who do not have prescription coverage. Medication is expensive… without coverage I would be paying 5 times as much for the prescriptions I am taking.

There are reports of seniors and people on fixed incomes splitting pills to make supplies of medications last because they cannot afford the prices of their medications.

Go and check the prices at some of the online pharmacies and you will see that even with the discounts they offer, many mediations are still quite expensive.

The online pharmaceutical industry will be put under review later this month by the FDA and Canadian regulators as although it is legal for Canadian companies to sell prescription medications to Americans via the internet, it is illegal for Americans to buy their prescriptions from another country. GlaxoSmithKline has threatened to cut off the supply of drugs like Paxil and Zyban to Canadian pharmacists and wholesalers if those drugs are going to be sold via the internet.

The FDA has, to this point, turned a blind eye to this practice and several Senators in the U.S. have even advised their constituents to utilize online pharmacies to save money on their medications.

You can read more here…

It would seem that we are experiencing many health care issues in both our nations and your health care problems may be causing problems here if the American demand for medications erodes supplies that are designated for Canadians. I have already heard of some brick and mortar pharmacies having difficulty getting adequate supplies of medications as the online sellers have purchased large quantities of medications that are then being sold and shipped south.

I am always disturbed by this idea. People speak of this “affluent country” as if the nation itself is rich, as if the wealth is in some big collective pot of money that belongs to all of America. We are a nation made up of affluent individuals. Just because lots of folks have money does not mean that you have a right to it. The wealth of our individual citizens is not yours to manage and redistribute.

As a person who has been responsible for health insurance purchasing for a small firm, I feel that I should point out that the OP greatly understates U.S. health insurance premium costs. Just as an example, my employer paid $273 per month for my coverage – $3,276 per year. This is for a no deductible, low copay PPO plan with no vision or dental coverage for a healthy 38 year-old female. Good but not extraordinary coverage. The same plan would cost around $120 for a 21 year old male and could get up to the range of $500 per month for a person in his or her fifties.

These were rates for a small group where all participants were considered to be in good to excellent health. Someone with serious preexisting conditions trying to buy individual health insurance would face higher premiums and serious limitations on coverage.

Obviously the discussion has moved on from the OP, but I thought it would be a mistake to allow the rather misleading picture of non-socialized health costs presented to stand.