Few Americans look forward to going to the doctor or dentist. We usually have to wait an hour or so, thumbing through outdated magazines, for the privilege of being poked and prodded. What could be worse? Well, try not being able to see a doctor or dentist for months.
Americans are about to spend a hot summer listening to complaints about how bad our health-care system is. “Documentarian” Michael Moore is back with “Sicko,” a film that purports to explain the evils of the American health system.
He claims other countries provide citizens better health care. Of course, it’s all free, provided by a benevolent government, “just like we have our government provide police and fire and libraries and schools,” Moore says. But here’s the dirty little secret Moore won’t be put on the big screen: We get what we pay for.
Americans may spend more on health care (15.3 percent of GDP in 2004) than people in other countries, but we get more care. American doctors perform more life-saving open-heart surgery than doctors in other countries. We boast more MRI machines than any nation except Japan. We focus on preventative care. And so on.
Canadians have the sort of socialist, government-provided care Moore wants. Yet a Canadian government report recently noted, “American women aged 50–69 were more likely than Canadian women of the same age to have had a recent mammogram.” In fact, “82 percent of American women aged 50–69 had a mammogram in the last two years, compared to 74 percent of Canadian women in the same age group.” That’s the sort of care that catches problems early, while there’s still time to take action and save lives.
Our health-care system has flaws, but it works. Compare that with the socialized care our cousins in Britain “enjoy.” In his book “After the Victorians,” A.N. Wilson attempted to laud the formation of Britain’s National Health Service, calling it “one of the most stupendous British inventions.” Yet, he admits, “as soon as it was started, it was in a state of ‘crisis,’ and it has been in a state of crisis ever since.”
So why does Wilson think the NHS was a good creation? Apparently because it was started with the best of intentions.
But good intentions won’t cure diseases -- good doctors will. And it’s difficult to see a doctor under the British system. In June 2004 The Times of London reported that Tony Blair’s Labour government had made a campaign pledge “to cut the time that people wait between seeing their GP and receiving hospital treatment from 13 months to 18 weeks by 2008.” Since Blair’s party cruised to reelection, that pledge was presumably popular with voters. But even if the government succeeds in its reform, Brits will still have to wait 18 weeks for hospital treatment. Impatient Americans would never accept a wait that long, nor should we. Long waiting times mean people die while in line for care.
It isn’t merely our health-care system that Moore dislikes. He also brags that, in France, the government sends nannies to help new mothers. Maybe he’s been watching PBS (your tax dollars at work). On Mother’s Day, many public broadcasting stations aired another ridiculous “documentary,” the “Motherhood Manifesto.”
Like Moore, the group behind this production, “Moms Rising,” wants to see more government involvement in our lives. For example, on its Web site it claims, “Businesses that create flexible work environments find that productivity goes up, they attract more talent, turnover is reduced and their bottom line is improved.” Therefore the group wants Washington to mandate all those things.
But if these benefits are real, there’s no need for government involvement. After all, businesses always act in their own self-interest. Any business would want “more talent,” more “productivity,” and a better bottom line. The Motherhood Manifesto also claims it “shows dramatically just how far behind all other industrial countries the United States lags in its support for families.” Hum.
That must be why we’re the only Western society with a birth rate at replacement level, 2.1 children per couple. France, Britain, Germany, even Canada are all below replacement rate. Parents there might enjoy great nannies, but they’re not having many children.
The Motherhood Manifesto tries to tell Americans how bad things are here, but if that’s true, why are we having a big fight over illegal immigration? At least 12 million people have voted with their feet. They’re so eager to live here they’re breaking our laws to do it.
These documentaries aim to frighten us, when there’s really nothing to fear. If we want to reform health care, we should harness the free market, not lash everyone into a government-run system. The government should be providing police and fire departments, but it shouldn’t be making medical decisions.
Simply put, Moore’s proposals, like his movies in general, are a prescription for disaster.