Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

September 1, 2009


Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review - In [the] Washington Post, T.R. Reid, a former Post reporter . . . busts five myths about foreign health care, in an article based on reporting for his new book, The Healing of America. . .

Myth one: It's all socialized medicine out there. No, says Reid. Some countries, like Britain and Cuba, provide health care in government hospitals with the government paying the bills. But in other countries, like Canada, private-sector providers give the care that is paid for under their national health systems. "In some ways, health care is less socialized overseas than in the United States," he writes.

Myth two: Overseas care is rationed through limited choices or long lines. Generally not, Reid points out. In most places, patients can go to any doctor or have choices of providers. There are no limits like we have in the U.S.--no lists of in-network doctors and pre-authorization forms. In Canada, he acknowledges, some people wait for non-emergency care, but Britain, Germany, and Austria outperform the U.S. when it comes to waiting times for appointments and elective surgeries. Waiting times are so short in Japan, most people don't bother making appointments. . .

Myth three: Foreign-health care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies. All other payment systems are more efficient than ours, Reid writes. U.S. health insurers have the highest administrative costs in the world, spending about twenty cents of every dollar for paperwork, marketing, and claims review. Japan controls costs better than any other country, even though its population uses more services than Americans use. Quality is high, and life expectancy and recovery rates for major illnesses are better than in the U.S.

Myth four: Cost controls stifle innovation. That assertion is just plain false, Reid says. While groundbreaking research comes from the U.S., it also comes from other countries with much lower cost structures--like France, where hip and knee replacements were invented, or Canada, where the breakthrough in deep-brain stimulation to treat depression was made.

Myth five: Health insurance has to be cruel. In America, insurance companies routinely reject applicants with preexisting medical conditions, and rescind policies of those who accumulate big medical bills. That doesn't happen in other countries, where all the national insurance schemes must accept everyone and pay all the bills that citizens present. Reid observes that the key difference between the U.S. and other systems is that foreign health plans exist only to pay medical bills; they aren't in business to make a profit.

The most persistent myth of all, says Reid, is that "America has the finest health care in the world. We don't." When you compare results, most other industrialized countries have much better statistics. . . .


Blogger deborah said...

well written. a breath of fresh air in the market place that markets and sells fear very well.

September 2, 2009 12:52 AM  

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