Walter E. Williams

One of the campaign themes this election cycle is "affordable" health care. Shouldn't we ask ourselves whether we want the politicians who brought us the "affordable" housing, that created the current financial debacle, to now deliver us affordable health care? Shouldn't we also ask how things turned out in countries where there is socialized medicine?

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fraser Institute's annual publication, "Waiting Your Turn," reports that Canada's median waiting times from a patient's referral by a general practitioner to treatment by a specialist, depending on the procedure, averages from five to 40 weeks. The wait for diagnostics, such as MRI or CT, ranges between four and 28 weeks.

According to Michael Tanner's "The Grass Is Not Always Greener," in Cato Institute's Policy Analysis (March 18, 2008), the Mayo Clinic treats more than 7,000 foreign patients a year, the Cleveland Clinic 5,000, Johns Hopkins Hospital treats 6,000, and one out of three Canadian physicians send a patient to the U.S. for treatment each year. If socialized medicine is so great, why do Canadian physicians send patients to the U.S. and the Canadian government spends over $1 billion each year on health care in our country?

Britain's socialized system is no better. Currently, 750,000 Brits are awaiting hospital admission. Britain's National Health Services hopes to achieve an 18-week maximum wait from general practitioner to treatment, including all diagnostic tests, by the end of 2008. The delay in health care services is not only inconvenient, it's deadly. Both in Britain and Canada, many patients with diseases that are curable at the time of diagnosis become incurable by the time of treatment or patients become too weak for the surgical procedure. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to introduce a "constitution" setting out the rights and responsibilities of its health care system. According to a report in the Telegraph (02/01/2008), "What this (Gordon Brown's plan) seems to amount to in practice are the Government's rights to refuse treatment, and the patient's responsibilities to live up to what the state decides are model standards." That means people who have unhealthy habits such as smoking, heart sufferers who are obese or those who fall ill because of failure to take regular exercise might be refused medical care, even though they pay taxes to support government health care.


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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