Fact-checking LP Release: Health Care

A recent Libertarian Party member communication from Robert Kraus, posted at Donny Ferguson’s LP blog, reviews the sad case of Britain’s Katie Brickell, who is dying of cervical cancer. Kraus writes (in part):

Cervical cancer ran in Katie Brickell’s family, so she tried to get a routine pap test.  That’s no problem here in the United States, but Britain’s National Health Service refused the procedure because she was only 23.

Finally, after three requests, the government-run health care system finally allowed Katie to get a pap test.  The results were tragic.

She had terminal cervical cancer – and had she gotten the test when she first asked for it, it would have been found while it was treatable.

If that doesn’t make you angry, this will.  Barack Obama wants to abolish your health care and replace it with a rationed-care system like the NHS.

He claims government-run care costs you less.  Not only is that a lie, his system attempts to save money by simply denying you treatment.

Snuck into the details of the “stimulus” package was the creation of the Federal Coordinated Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (FCCCER, don’t say it out loud.)

Its purpose?  To monitor health care and begin “coordinating” care.

According to Obama, medication and procedures aren’t expensive because the government meddles in it.  They’re expensive because too many people are getting them.

In fact, the White House announced on “Meet The Press” on April 19 they want to ration access to medical procedures.

A moving appeal to stir up resistance to nationalized healthcare.

Except that much of it doesn’t appear to be true.

Point-by-point:

“Cervical cancer ran in Katie Brickell’s family… Britain’s National Health Service refused the procedure because she was only 23.”

In an interview in the Daily Mail, Katie says that she wanted a smear at age 19 because all her 20-year-old classmates were having one. She said “There isn’t a history of cancer in my family, but I walked past the health centre every day on my way to lectures so one morning I popped in.” She continues: ‘The receptionist said I didn’t need a smear until I was 20. The next year I went back and she told me that the government had changed the age threshold to 25 so I still didn’t need one. I checked with my GP and was reassured. If the government and doctors tell you something you accept it, don’t you?’

“Finally, after three requests, the government-run health care system finally allowed Katie to get a pap test.”

Kraus implies that NHS prohibited Katie from getting the test. In fact, they simply declined to offer to do it, or to pay for it when requested. What’s not made clear here is that Katie could have had her doctor perform the test at her own expense at any time, if she and he had agreed that it was important. From Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) web page on cervical cancer screening:

If you are under 25 years old and worried about the risks of developing cervical cancer, or about sexual health generally, you can contact your GP or local GUM (genito-urinary medicine) clinic.

She had terminal cervical cancer – and had she gotten the test when she first asked for it, it would have been found while it was treatable.

This in itself is highly speculative, since the cancer could have been unbeatable even if found at 19. But the truth is even more depressing: AFTER Katie was diagnosed, she delayed treatment by a month until she had time to harvest several eggs for in vitro fertilization. She herself admits in an interview that “I delayed my initial cancer treatment to harvest some eggs. …We don’t know if that month’s delay caused the cancer to spread but I’d make the same decision again.

“Barack Obama wants to abolish your health care and replace it with a rationed-care system like the NHS.”

Regardless of what Obama ‘wants’ for the U.S., the truth is that it is government-provided healthcare, not ‘healthcare’, that is rationed in Britain.

Snuck into the details of the “stimulus” package was the creation of the Federal Coordinated Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research … Its purpose?  To monitor health care and begin “coordinating” care.

The stated purpose of the Council is to “help coordinate research and guide investments in comparative effectiveness research funded by the Recovery Act.”

In fact, the White House announced on “Meet The Press” on April 19 they want to ration access to medical procedures.

There appears to be no mention of healthcare on the MTP transcript for that date.

32 thoughts on “Fact-checking LP Release: Health Care

  1. mscrib

    Search for “health care.” Summers believes that the government has a role in deciding whether or not a given medical procedure is overused, which implies rationing.

    “DR. SUMMERS: The president’s laid out a number of measures on the tax side and in–and much more importantly, a number of measures that involve taking costs out of the Medicare, the Medicare budget. But the really important issue for the long run, David, is changing the way in which we deliver health care in this country. You know, there have been a whole set of studies done, they look at health care, the frequency of different procedures, whether it’s tonsillectomies or hysterectomies in different parts of the country, and what you see is that in some parts of the country procedures are done three times as frequently and there’s no benefit in terms of the health of the population. And by doing the right kind of cost-effectiveness, by making the right kinds of investments and protection, some experts that we–estimate that we could take as much as $700 billion a year out of our health care system. Now, we wouldn’t have to do anything like that, we wouldn’t have to do a third of that in order to pay for a very aggressive program of increased coverage. And so really the president and OMB director Orszag have identified a number of items that they call the game changers: prevention, cost-effectiveness, research, doing a better job on, on reimbursements. And as we put those into effect we can get this growth of health care costs under control. And it’ll be a good thing for the federal budget and, frankly, a good thing for the national economy.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30291720/page/2/

  2. George Phillies

    mscrib notwithstanding, noting in this discussion by Summers suggests government control. The effective process, which has been seen regularly, is physician education, largely (at least a while back) through the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association). Once upon a time, ‘tonsilectomy’ was a routine childhood procedure, used as a response to ‘frequent colds’. By and by, it was demonstrated (1) it doesn’t end frequent colds, and (2) it has a non-zero death rate. (There was also a period when, for the same purpose, irradiation of the adenoids was used for the same reason. ) In most of the country, the incidence of tonsilectomies fell enormously.

  3. mscrib

    George,

    How does “And as we put those [policies] into effect we can get this growth of health care costs under control” not suggest government control?

  4. Deran

    What rubbish. In the US we have a higher mortality rate than do the Brits and Canadians because of the corporate nature of our so-called health care system.

    If I had the time I could find hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of people in the US who died because they could not afford our healthcare system. Especially now with free market capitalism having wrecked the economy. I know people who do have to choose between paying bills, buying food or paying outrageous prices for medication they need to keep them alive.

    This is another instance where free marketeerism is a danger to us all. Health care should not be a for profit business.

  5. mscrib

    Deran,

    What if someone has to choose between buying food and paying rent? Should the government start providing food and shelter to everyone? This line of thinking is rubbish. And to assert that the current health care system in the U.S. is free market is rubbish. The socialization and democratization of activities traditionally in the private sphere is a danger to us all.

  6. George Phillies

    @5

    The full quote is
    “And so really the president and OMB director Orszag have identified a number of items that they call the game changers: prevention, cost-effectiveness, research, doing a better job on, on reimbursements. And as we put those into effect we can get this growth of health care costs under control.”

    None of these are government controls, not at all. Mind you “preventive medicine” is the liberal equivalent of the conservative “eliminate fraud and waste”, namely it is mostly but not quite completely hot air.

  7. Michael H. Wilson

    Deran not to be rude, but we do not have a free market in the U.S. We especially do not have one in healthcare. Simple example is the history of midwives in America, the practice of which was outlawed, or severly curtailed by regulations and is still heavily controlled in many states today. So much so that expectanat mothers often have little or no choice.

    The medical profession is also self regulated to the benefit of MDs and the detrement of patients. A study some years ago suggested that only 6% of patients injured by doctors ever collect any compensation and that about 100,000 died annually from iatrogenic disease in hospitals. We might have to add those deaths in retirement homes and as out patients to that number to come up with something close to reality.

    Maybe we should let bartenders be self regulated and used car salesmen.

  8. Mik Robertson

    @7 Add to the mix the the regulation by the Food and Drug Administration and the patent laws for pharmaceutical drugs, and it will be apparent there is no free market in the US health care system. Further, it is not so much health care as it is sickness care.

    While you could argue that people have a right to health care, it is a much tougher argument that people have a right for others to pay for their health care.

    Still, I have to ask if “snuck” is a word in English.

  9. tab

    Yeah there is really no free market care in the U.S., but would it really be any better? The doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies are already collaborating with one another to drive up prices and give each other kickbacks. The consumer loses in the end.

    I honestly don’t know what the solution to health care is. We are ranked almost last in every category amongst OECD countries. That says something and you can’t just throw out those statistics.

    Something worth noting is that a socialist country like France has the #1 health care system in the world according to WHO. I don’t think it would work here in the US anyways, but it is clear our current system is a failure.

  10. Susan Hogarth Post author

    @12

    re: ‘snuck’ – from on of my favorite sites:

    http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/snuck.html

    “In American English “snuck” has become increasingly common as the past tense of “sneak.” This is one of many cases in which people’s humorously self-conscious use of dialect has influenced others to adopt it as standard and it is now often seen even in sophisticated writing in the US But it is safer to use the traditional form: “sneaked.” “

  11. Melty

    Sure “snuck” ‘s fine for yanks.
    More to the point, libertarian girl’s right. The word “healthcare” is really bad for minarchists to say. “Health care” should mean eating right and exercising and such, but no.
    This buzzword “healthcare” is a euphemism for “socialized medicine” (I’ve been saying this alot for almost two years now and don’t tire of it) and it works against the cause of smaller government. Therefore it’s not in the better interests of libertarians to go around repeating it. Just call it what it is . . . “managed medicine” or “government-run medicine” or some such. I like saying it loaded like this: “state-sponsored medicine” nuck nuck, but just so you don’t fall for socialist/corporatist-snuck euphemisms, I say.

  12. mdh

    @13 – The WHO is a U.N. organization which is extremely biased towards big government, socialism, and global governance. I take nothing they say at face value.

  13. Marc Montoni

    Sure “snuck” ‘s fine for yanks.

    Gee… Not sure, but I think we’ve just been insulted. 😉

    More to the point, libertarian girl’s right. The word “healthcare” is really bad for minarchists to say. “Health care” should mean eating right and exercising and such, but no. This buzzword “healthcare” is a euphemism for “socialized medicine” (I’ve been saying this a lot for almost two years now and don’t tire of it) and it works against the cause of smaller government. Therefore it’s not in the better interests of libertarians to go around repeating it. Just call it what it is . . . “managed medicine” or “government-run medicine” or some such. I like saying it loaded like this: “state-sponsored medicine” nuck nuck, but just so you don’t fall for socialist/corporatist-snuck euphemisms, I say.

    Hmmm… Good point, limey.

    I think you convinced me on that one. It fits right in with my general rule that you shouldn’t ever use the government’s euphemisms, simply because it just means you hand the argument over to them.

    Similarly, libertarians should never used the “l” word in any debate about “illegal drugs”. Instead, always use prohibition. We don’t want to “legalize”, we want to “repeal Prohibition”. “Legalization” suggests a connotation that we want society to be in favor of something; in this case, drugs — and that’s not what we’re trying to say.

    Using “repeal Prohibition” and its variants places your opponent in the position of defending the continuation of Prohibition, rather than you having to defend legalization. “Prohibition” has almost universally bad imagery — especially among a college readership; but also in the population at large — simply because everyone is aware of what a fiasco Alcohol Prohibition was.

    Saying we want to Repeal Prohibition also correctly suggests it was once not prohibited; especially if you mention that Drug Prohibition was first enacted in 1932 or whatever.

    The phrase also allows you to introduce the fact that it required an Amendment to the US Constitution to enact Alcohol Prohibition, which then provides you with a wedge to hammer the point that Drug Prohibition is unconstitutional (since no Amendment was passed to empower the government to enact it).

  14. Mik Robertson

    Hey, I really like the point about prohibition. Careful use of words is so important in framing any issue. The government of course spares no expense in using focus groups and advertising agencies to frame issues and present appropriately named programs.

    Locally, our county organization has been framing the issue of drug prohibition in terms of personal choice for health maintenance and nutrition for the last couple years. It goes beyond alternative treatment or pain relief to include things like vitamins and herbal supplements. The more regulation, the fewer choices people have.

    Only when people can make free choices can you get a system that will meet the needs of the people. So yes, it would be better if there were free markets for people to choose how they approach their health and how they treat their illnesses.

  15. Michael H. Wilson

    There is a lot to argue about with this issue, but back to the subject. Pointing out the errors of the other guys is one thing, but the LP, regardless of whom is in charge needs to point out what the LP will do.

    MW

  16. Jim Davidson

    @12, 15 Words change. English is not a dead language. And it is not French, with idiotic national language police attempting to limit free expression. If you don’t like a word, don’t use it. Claiming it isn’t part of the language simply means you are using an outdated dictionary.

  17. Kimberly

    The current government healthcare system (Medicare) has unfortunatly been making it increasingly more difficult for the physicians to practice medicine. With Core Measures in the name of quality they are effectively removing the physicians ability to critically think. Although sound medicine and based on research the premise of Core Measures (requiring hospitals/physicians to perscribe specific medications/treatments and plans for specific diagnosis and if they fail to do so they loose reimbursement) does not allow the physician to think and individulize the patients plan of care. More and more physicans are limiting the numb er of medicare patients they can take in their practice due to reimbursement issues and the newest Medicare reform is requiring them to,out of their own pockets without anyform of continutity, pay for electronic billing systems. Point: that government run healthcare is not the best solution for anyone (do you really want your doctor not to be able to make medical judgements on his/her own) and does not necessarily mean better cost control.

  18. Jim Davidson

    @24 That is a very thoughtful post.

    Government run healthcare is a very poor “solution.” Indeed, I believe it creates far more problems than it solves.

  19. Robert Capozzi

    jd21, I agree! “Snuck” is like the words “verbage” and “proactive.” I’m not a big fan of some new words, but if enough people use them, they become part of the lexicon.

    Resistance is futile.

  20. Michael Cavlan

    Dear God,

    Sorry but just how delusional are some of you folks? Obama wants to bring in rationalized Healthcare like the NHS?

    You all did hear about the Senator Baucus hearings, where Drs. and Nurses were arrested for asking why that option was not even on the table?

    BTW, speaking as Nurse, with your little example of a 23 year old with Cervical Cancer who was denied the pap smear. Got real big news for you. I can guarantee you that that same girl would never get it here either.

    Because the HMO’s regulate care even more so than in England.

    In fact I have a personal story for you all. My mother developed ovarian cancer but the Doctors never caught it till the tumor was the size of a football. The insurance companies “regulated” the Docs on taking one of those expensive CAT scans.

    My mother got sick, fought it with chemo, food choices, activity and with meditation. She lived for 10 years more. For her advanced stage that was 99% off the charts impossible to live that long.

    eventually though, she got sick. However, the Insurance companies denied her the pain medications she needed. She went back to her native Ireland (in the North so Brit NHS care) and she died a peaceful, relatively pain free death with drugs and Nursing provided at her home.

    Good God, get a grip you folks.

    Single Payer, ohhhhh evil evil gubment healthcare.

    ohhhh evil evil gubment.

    It is the gubment (and media and educational system) that are OWNED by the corporations that is the root of the problem.

    Jesus……..

  21. mdh

    “It is the gubment (and media and educational system) that are OWNED by the corporations that is the root of the problem.”

    Yupp. So what makes you think single-payer care will do any better than what we have now, when it’s those HMO’s and other corporations that own our politicians?

    The whole argument behind socialism in general is that a democratic society will allow us to elect leaders who represent we the people. Time and again, it’s been proven that our elected representatives don’t represent the people. Therefore the only logical conclusion in my mind is simply that government doesn’t work and that corruption is an inalienable part of the fiat authority which government imparts unto a small group of elites.

  22. mdh

    I think it kind of comes down to three points, overall.

    1. Government is corrupt.

    I’m with you there.

    2. Corporatism (the merger of corporate money and state power) is evil, and has given a small group of elites a great deal of power over the lives of the rest of us.

    Still with you.

    3. We should give the politicians more power so that they can use it to defeat corporatism.

    This is where you lose me. Every time the people have given the government more power, it’s used that power to further oppress the citizenry to the advantage of the small group of elites.

    What makes you think that this would somehow change if we gave them any additional power, such as the power to regulate healthcare, or to create a bureaucracy responsible for regulating healthcare? Why would it be any different than anything else government has ever done?

  23. scatterbrain

    If you look carefully, most of the problems with the NHS at the moment are *caused* by neo-liberal i.e. “libertarian” policies, such as partial privatisation, deregulation, “decentralization”, the added bureaucracy that comes with “decentralization”, the government cutting money to various services, “business ethic”(seeing the hospital as a business as opposed to a necessary public service), and a lack of democracy among hospital staff. Democratic planning by the people who actually do the healthcare work, not some appointed group of leech-like, penny-pinching bureaucrats, should be essential, and as soon as both governments recognize this, only then will we have a working health system that could border on the infalible.

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