Letter: Is there something that can be learned?

Published 8:00 pm Monday, August 7, 2017

A letter this past Tuesday equated the tragic situation of a British infant with “bloated and mindless bureaucracy” and “what government-run socialized medicine looks like.” A single example cannot define the entirety of England’s health care system; nor can it be generalized to include all single-payer, socialized health care systems in the world. In this child’s case, highly qualified medical personnel disagreed on various aspects of the child’s condition and potential treatment. Who knows what publicity would have been if there hadn’t been such huge financial donations.

While there are similarities, there are also differences in the health care systems operating in Finland, the Benelux countries, Denmark, Norway and others. All of them have debated the diversity of health care needs/issues and established universal coverage. It is generally possible to obtain care that may be limited or not available in their formal system.

Health care in those countries certainly differs from that in the U.S., which has a rather convoluted mixture of services and payment methods. In most of the studies/reports I have seen (including by the World Health Organization), comparing health care costs and administrative costs of the wealthiest countries -—the U.S. usually ranks highest.  Quality may find the U.S. in the middle of the group. Countries such as Germany, which does not have socialized health care, utilizes a mix of public and private payment methods — yet their per capita costs are about 45 percent lower than in this country.

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There are studies indicating about 20,000 people dying prematurely every year in this country due to lack of insurance/funds to obtain care. People (adults and children) have died from complications of gum infections that went untreated due to inability to pay for medications. These are not the rare conditions experienced by the child in London, nor do they gain much media attention.

Discussion about health care revisions at federal or state levels that involve something done in a socialized system is frequently castigated like it’s a dirty word. Instead, the question should be —  is there something that could be learned from what they do? There is also an old statement — a lot can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.

Darryl Meyer

Albert Lea