Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Future of Health Care?

The Future of Health Care?

Dr. Lemuel Calhoon, magister maximus of Hillbilly White Trash, posted this gem at the end of one of his weekly re-postings of Ann Coulter's op-ed genius. I wanted to bring it here because, well, he is exactly right.

Read it for yourself here, or go there and read it.

Lemuel Calhoon:

"The absolute worst thing about socialized medicine in the US is that it will slow the advancement of of medical science in the whole world to a glacial pace.

Right now the vast majority of new medical techniques, drugs and technology are discovered in the United States. This is because America still has a thriving free market health care system. For-profit companies which develop and manufacture drugs and medical equipment are free to pour their profits into research and development to bring new medications and medical equipment to market. All in pursuit of profit.

Because our doctors are not employees of any kind of National Health Service they are not required to see X number of patients per week and to choose only from a government approved list of treatment options (approved more for reasons of cost than effectiveness). Doctors in the US are free to innovate and experiment.

The fact that in America we attempt to keep our elderly people alive as long as possible and give them the best quality of life possible (in addition to proving our moral superiority to other nations) provides a test bed for methods of managing, treating and even curing chronic conditions which are associated with (but by no means exclusive to) aging. You can see that this is far more conducive to creating an upward spiral of medical knowledge than the "give granny morphine until she stops breathing" approach taken by nations with government run health care.

Let me tell you a true story about Mother Calhoon, who is 76. Earlier this year she broke her leg. In 1950 the doctor would have set the bone and put her leg in a cast. The bone would have taken the better part of a year to heal and would have never been the same. During this time her mobility would have been so severely restricted that she would have not been able to live at home alone. So mom would have gone to a nursing home where she would probably have spent the rest of her life. But the doctor's bill for setting the leg and applying the cast would have only been a few hundred dollars.

Today mom was taken to an excellent hospital where a doctor operated on her leg installing a metal rod to support the bone so that it would not break again. She was given a battery of tests which determined that she had mild osteoporosis and was put on medication to treat the condition. After a few days in the hospital she was sent home where a nurse looked in on her three times a week for the next three months. The cast on her leg was designed to allow her to walk and she was encouraged to do so (with the aid of a walker, then a cane). As time went by she was instructed to put more and more weight on the leg until now, less than a year later, she has no cast and no longer needs walker or cane (unless she is going to walk for more than two miles or so, then she brings along the cane). The cost of the entire episode came to around $40,000.00 - which comes to $4500.00 in 1950 dollars.

Assuming that we do not plunge down Barack Obama's rat hole of socialized medicine and freeze the advancement of medical science what can a 76-year-0ld woman with a broken leg expect in 2050?

With the proviso that no one can predict the future with absolute accuracy I would assume based on current trends in medical science that it would go something like this:

The ambulance brings the patient to the emergency room where a doctor scans her leg building a detailed three dimensional picture of the injury, including damage to tissue and blood vessels caused by the broken bone. The doctor then looks over the computer's recommended course of action and signs off on it. The patient is then sent to surgery where the surgeon adds a few refinements to the computer generated plan.

In the operating room the woman is sedated and her leg is immobilized. A robot surgeon will then set the bone and repair any other damage to the leg - while a human doctor and nurse observe ready to step in if required. The leg will then be placed in a rigid cast and the woman will spend the next few days in a hospital room while bone regenerators heal the fracture.

A few days later she leaves the hospital with her leg as strong or stronger than it was before. While it is impossible to estimate the dollar amount of the bill for this treatment I very much doubt that it will be more, in 1950 dollars, than the 2009 bill. But look at how much better the outcome for the patient!

But what if we adopt Obama's plan for government run health care? What will a 76-year-0ld woman with a broken leg face in 2050?

The doctor will set the bone and put her leg in a cast. The bone will take the better part of a year to heal and will never be the same. During this time her mobility will be so severely restricted that she will not be able to live at home alone. So she will have to go to a nursing home where she will probably spend the rest of her life. But the doctor's bill for setting the leg and applying the cast would have only been a few hundred dollars - in 1950 dollars.

This assumes that the hospital's rationing panel (we won't call it the "death panel") doesn't decide that at her age she (who will never again pay income taxes) simply isn't worth the money to treat. Then she will be put in a bed and given morphine until she stops breathing. The bill for that will be under a hundred bucks.

The problem with a government solution to anything is that government is a piss-poor innovator. Let the government decide that something is so important that the private sector cannot be trusted to run it and whatever "it" is becomes frozen in time. It cannot be otherwise when a powerful entrenched bureaucracy has a massive vested interest in keeping things exactly as they are.

Someone suggested this thought experiment. Imagine that some visionary in government had looked at Henry Ford's Model T and realized how important the automobile would be to America's future. Suppose that this visionary had been able to convince the legislature and the president that the development and manufacture of cars was too important to be left to the profit-seeking private sector.

You don't have to imagine what the result would have been. All you need do is look back to East Germany before the Wall fell and remember how an East German could spend his fifteen years on the waiting list dreaming about what he would do when he took possession of his new Trabant.

Some things are too critically important to be taken out of the hands of the private sector. Our health care is one of them."

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