Being without health insurance is no big deal. Just ask President Bush. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said last week. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”
This is what you might call callousness with consequences. The White House has announced that Mr. Bush will veto a bipartisan plan that would extend health insurance, and with it such essentials as regular checkups and preventive medical care, to an estimated 4.1 million currently uninsured children. After all, it’s not as if those kids really need insurance — they can just go to emergency rooms, right? ...
Actually, the persistence of that myth puzzles me. I can understand how people like Mr. Bush or Fred Thompson, who declared recently that “the poorest Americans are getting far better service” than Canadians or the British, can wave away the desperation of uninsured Americans, who are often poor and voiceless. But how can they get away with pretending that insured Americans always get prompt care, when most of us can testify otherwise?
A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: “In reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American people are already waiting as long or longer than patients living with universal health-care systems.” ...America ranks near the bottom among advanced countries in terms of how hard it is to get medical attention on short notice ... and ... is the worst place in the advanced world if you need care after hours or on a weekend. ...
On the other hand, it’s true that Americans get hip replacements faster than Canadians. But there’s a funny thing about that example, which is used constantly as an argument for the superiority of private health insurance over a government-run system: the large majority of hip replacements in the United States are paid for by, um, Medicare.
That’s right: the hip-replacement gap is actually a comparison of two government health insurance systems. American Medicare has shorter waits than Canadian Medicare (yes, that’s what they call their system) because it has more lavish funding — end of story. The alleged virtues of private insurance have nothing to do with it.
The bottom line is that the opponents of universal health care appear to have run out of honest arguments. All they have left are fantasies: horror fiction about health care in other countries, and fairy tales about health care here in America.
Monday, July 16, 2007
New York Times: By PAUL KRUGMAN