Walter E. Williams

 Among other myths exposed in "Miracle Cure" is the myth that our health-care problems derive from the fact that we have a free-market health-care system. Little can be further from the truth. The government has been the largest participant in our health-care system since the 1960s. Today, the government directly pays for 45 percent of health-care spending. Government intervenes in the form of tax subsidies and costly regulations on private insurers. Regulations imposed on medical practitioners are oppressive. According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, for every four hours that a physician devotes to caring for a Medicare patient, hospital administrators spend 30 minutes on Medicare paperwork. For emergency room care, it's one hour spent on paperwork per one hour spent caring for a patient.

 Is Canada better? In her book, Sally Pipes reports the case of 58-year-old Canadian Don Cerniz, who noticed blood in his urine. It took three weeks to get his first test and another month for an MRI, and treatment for his cancer didn't begin until six months later. According to the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fraser Institute's yearly survey of medical waiting times, Cerniz was lucky: "The median wait for an MRI across Canada was 12.6 weeks. Patients in Prince Edward Island experienced the shortest wait for an MRI (six weeks), while Newfoundland residents waited longest (33.5 weeks)." Overall, Canada's total waiting time between referral from a general practitioner to treatment averaged about 18 weeks in 2004.

 Americans shouldn't imitate Aesop's dog by looking to Canada's socialized medicine as a solution to our health-care problems and lose what we have. A much smarter move is to repeal previous government-created "solutions" that have marched us nearer to socialism in the provision of medical services. In a word or two, get government out of our hospitals and doctor's offices.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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