Thursday, July 10, 2003

Medical comparison

Two people I know of have, in the last couple of years, been diagnosed with cataracts. Both are octogenarians in basic good health. One has private medical insurance, the other does not.

The one with health insurance had the first cataract removed within a month. The second cataract will be removed next month. The only reason both were not removed at the same time is because of the age of the patient. Because they caught it early the person was still able to drive throughout this period, although in fact this person drives little. A little under three months between diagnosis and the second op.

The other does not have medical insurance, and was forced to rely upon the NHS. Over a year after diagnoses the first cataract has just been removed. The second cataract, all going well, will be removed in later October. A little over 18 months from diagnosis to the second op.

That is the best argument against the NHS I know, having run afoul of it twice myself - 22 months wait for a minor operation from seeing a consultant (26 months from seeing the GP), and now 32 after tearing a ligament in my ankle today the offending joint was X-rayed for the first time.

I would like to make it plain it is not that staff in the NHS are any less capable than their colleagues in the private sector, they are assurdely not. My own operation was a complete success, and I was very satisfied with the whole experience. It was the wait that was the problem, a wait caused by bureaucracy. One can only assume this is because of the Treasury's insistence on knowing how every penny of public money is spent. Certainly a worth-while principle, but one carried to extremes.

What does this have to do with the US? Simple - I am continually mystified by those in the US whole thin universal health-care is so great. In all probabilty health insurance would cost no more than the extra taxes one would have to pay, and might very well cost less. Of course, on the Continent the universal health systems function better, and the taxes are higher. So higher than they have contributed to the economic difficulties of those countries. The only reason the UK economy has been keeping above water has been that people have been spending money, money they would not have had under a Continental tax regieme.

This also ties into the US, it is a very practical demonstration of why less tax = economic good, something that the US (mostly) seems to understand.

Just a side-note, have been reading up on William Hague's speech yesterday. You have been duly warned.

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