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Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2010

'BEST HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD'.... The notion that U.S. health care system is "the best in the world" is brought up fairly often by conservatives. It sometimes seems as if rhetorical strategy seems premised on appealing to Americans' civic pride -- the American system couldn't possibly be a dysfunctional mess, because it's the American system.

And if it's the best, why bother with reform?

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.), in the official response to the State of the Union, described ours as "the best medical care system in the world." Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) recently called the status quo "the best" system "the world has ever known."

We heard plenty of this yesterday at the bipartisan summit, too. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) urged Democrats not to "destroy the fundamental market system that's made the American health care system the best in the world." Sen. John Barrasso (R) of Wyoming went a little further:

"I do believe we have the best health care system in the world. That's why the premier of one of the Canadian provinces came here just last week to have his heart operated on. He said, 'It's my heart, it's my life. I want to go where it's the best.' And he came to the United States. It's where a member of parliament -- a Canadian member of parliament with cancer came to the United States for her care. They all have coverage there, but what they want is care."

It's probably worth pausing to clarify matters a bit, and appreciating the differences between the quality of the care and the quality of the system.

No one is saying that there's something wrong with America's medical professionals, our technology, our facilities, and/or our ability to treat the ill. The United States has many truly extraordinary doctors, nurses, hospitals, and medical resources.

The point is who has access to this quality care, who can afford it, who'll die because they lack the necessary coverage, who'll get kicked out of the system under rescission, who'll never get into the system because of a pre-existing condition, and whether families, businesses, and government agencies will go bankrupt trying to finance such a system.

And what of the Canadian premier who came to the U.S. for heart surgery? Ezra's response was the right one:

America has about 50 million uninsured people within its borders. Canada has exactly 13 premiers. People should ask themselves a very simple question: Do they think they are likelier to lose their job and fall into the health-care situation of the uninsured or become an influential politician and enjoy the health-care options available to the most powerful people in the world?

If you're a United States senator, America may have the best health-care in the world. But if you're an ordinary person with the same vulnerability to bad luck that we all have, you're better off being in Canada, or France, or Japan, or somewhere that doesn't take your insurance away when Wall Street causes the economy to crash.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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It is the same distinction as climate vs. weather.

Posted by: bkmn on February 26, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

But if we stop allowing Wall Street crashes to deny peoples' health care, then the terrorists win!

Booga! Booga! Booga!

Posted by: Zorro on February 26, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

My brother-in-law is the CEO of a prominent Canadian company, has had a couple of surgeries for cancer. Last time he investigated all the US and Canadian options and decided that the Canadian were equally good and essentially free. Guess where he got his medical care.

Posted by: David in NY on February 26, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Exra is getting a bit shrill lately. Check out his post on "philosophy".

Posted by: Mudge on February 26, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

The President shot down this and a closely related argument argument pretty well yesterday, explaining that OF COURSE those with ample disposable income don't have much of a problem, but there is simply no doubt that for those making $40K/year, which is a *lot of people, the system is broken. He seemed to be shaking his head in disbelief or frustration that the opposition remains so determined to evade reality.

Posted by: FC on February 26, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's a lot like having the world's best pottery and the worlds worst delivery service. No matter how good it looked when it was made, it always arrives broken.

Posted by: doubtful on February 26, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Senator John Murtha died after gall bladder surgery in a US Hospital -- I believe from an infection that developed after the surgery. Too often in US hospitals there is a lack of infection control... perhaps if he had gone to Canada....

Posted by: elisabeth on February 26, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

The President shot down this and a closely related argument argument pretty well yesterday, explaining that OF COURSE those with ample disposable income don't have much of a problem...

Oh, he did better than that. As I recall Obama said something to the effect "That's great, John, but we're here having this discussion for average Americans not premiers or sultans."

Posted by: about time on February 26, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Durbin also had a very eloquent rebuttal to that in real time -- the videos are everywhere on the intertubes, including his own website...

Posted by: Radha on February 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I would add that it's likely that heavy handed tort reform would "destroy the fundamental market system that's made the American health care system the best in the world."

Because who needs to be thorough when you can't get sued, right?

It reminds me of a joke.

A town passed a law that said a doctor must hang a balloon outside of their office for every patient that died under their care.

A gentleman new to town was looking for a doctor when he saw an office with about 50 balloons, so he kept looking. Then he saw an office with about 30 balloons, but thought he could do better.

When he came upon an office with just 7 balloons, he was thrilled and went in. During his exam, he told the doctor about his efforts to find a doctor since he was new to town.

The doctor heartily thanked him for choosing him, because he too was new to town, and was having a very rough first day.

Posted by: doubtful on February 26, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Was it just my imagination or did Mike Enzi (I believe it was him) look more than a bit perturbed after the meeting? It looked as if he had some sort of not too friendly exchange with Obama...sorry if this has already been discussed. I haven't been able to read all the comments yet).

Posted by: whichwitch on February 26, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

@about time - you're right! Great moment.

You know what struck me? Where are all the women? I saw two: Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius. The rest? With the exception of the President, white guys over 50. There is something very wrong with a system whose Representatives are not representative of the population, but of powerful, moneyed interests.

Posted by: FC on February 26, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

The 2010 Mercedes Benz CL - Class currently may be the "best automobile sedan in the world" but you will need between $103,000 to $150,000, depending upon options, to own one. Thus, the laughably obvious flaw in the argument that because the Premier of Canada or some Saudi Prince flies to the US for surgery we have the 'best health care system in the world'. The question of course is 'best for whom ?' and the answer of course is 'best for the rich and those who serve them'.

Posted by: robert on February 26, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Another example of why we have the best health care system in the world: insurance companies can ask for extreme rate hikes. Here's the S.F. Chronicle on the impact on small business:

While Anthem Blue Cross has been taking the heat for proposing rate increases of up to 39 percent on individual consumers, other health insurers have stunned some small businesses with hikes that in some cases exceed 75 percent.

Tom Simmons, president of an Oakland design and consulting firm with four employees, said he had just read about the Anthem increases when he opened a letter from his insurer, Blue Shield of California, informing him his monthly family premium would go up to $1,596 a month from $908, a nearly 76 percent increase.

"This industry is getting out of control. It makes me fearful of future years and what could become of things if something doesn't change," said Simmons, whose business health insurance policy also covers his family of three.

Posted by: meander on February 26, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

THIS was the argument that was made yesterday about the 'plan' being scored by the CBO. Lamar Alexander said it would cost MORE and Obama say no. What would cost MORE was after basic human care you could buy UP. THAT'S what the premiers and sultans would buy. But uninsured people in the US would be able to get CARE which they cannot do now.

Posted by: SYSPROG on February 26, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

"World's best health care" is American jingoism at its worst.

Republicans are waving a big foam finger and screaming, "WE NUMBER ONE! WE NUMBER ONE!"

Posted by: DAY on February 26, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Does the existence of Harvard and Stanford and the University of Texas prove that the US has the best "education system" in the world? This is so stupid.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on February 26, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK


Republican Dishonesty never takes a holiday.

Posted by: ckelly on February 26, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

We have the best health care system in the world but we also have the worst health insurance system in the world.

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on February 26, 2010 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Whoever utters those words should have their health insurance policy revoked for 6 months. If you want to say it fine but you better be ready for no medical insurance for 180 days.

Posted by: Rules from the Trollop on February 26, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"The best health care in the world" which explains why in recent polls at least 63% of American PHYSICIANS support this health insurance reform registration. Of course, what would the people who actually work in the field every day know about it?

Posted by: J Bean on February 26, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

FYI, Murtha died as a result of simple gall bladder surgery at the National Naval Medical Center. About 1% of all people who have this kind of surgery die as a result of complications from the surgery.

Best health care system in the world? You be the judge.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 26, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

According to all the statistics I've seen, the number of Americans who travel abroad for health care greatly exceeds the number of foreigners who travel here.

Obviously, these two groups are different types of people. Foreigners who travel here are generally wealthy people, often from developing countries, who are willing to pay an enormous premium for specialist care that is better than what they can get in their home countries. Americans who travel abroad are looking to save tens of thousands of dollars on things like heart surgery.

So our system is the best in the world if by "best" you mean it's unaffordable by most of the population.

Posted by: Area Man on February 26, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

In Sept. of 2007 the Congressional Research Service did a really fine grained comparison of the U.S. with the other OECD nations--essentially the advanced industrial democracies. Unless one counts high costs as a plus, one would be hard pressed to say that the U.S. is much more than reasonably good system comparatively.

Posted by: john sherman on February 26, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, It was stated that Health care is not a moral issue,hmmmm
Please allow me to share a little story with you. As I watched my mom die from cancer, and Health care Insurance Companies dumped on her as if she was no more than a dog dieing on the side of the road, i dropped from and out of this system for over 30 years, and now because of system failure, the IT, has come into my life. As I watch Government Officials fight over this Health care Dollar, it reminds me of a bright sunny day in Tennessee while on a friends farm and a little bug flew in to the ground, and the chickens went plum off, boy oh boy the scawking and the feathers went shy high, so I reached down and I took this scared little Health Care Bug from Government Officials, and I have it safely in my hands. As I searched for a way to help, I asked God to help me build a Reform that is of a moral building block for the better good of man kind and to rebuild the National Security of the United states Of America. And you would never guess what God has allowed me to see. This little blog statement you will find true,
I wish to give a great big thank you to all my new friends on the Internet for posting FASC Concepts in and for Pay It Forward.
This building block for a honest Health Care Reform has been a great experience and for any one who did not take part, you have truly missed out on what makes Americans Great. This diversity created by Government Officials has failed and now the eyes of 173 million American People watch as now, for the first time Government Officials sit down together as it should be. The out come is yet to be seen. But they know that a anomaly has been created and it is because of the restructuring of The Constitution, The Bill Of Rights, and The Declaration Of Independence, “has been used in it original created forum” as a factor of a peoples right to undo the amendments of Laws that protected Health Care Companies against the People, over a dollar.
And I wish to say i write what is needed in order that some how I can undo all the wrong I have done in hopes that the slate will be wiped clean....
Just because our children do not understand I wish to share this again,
“For days I worked the word diversity in my mind and it came to me that because of this it is not Americas weakness it is our greatest strength. And this is how I will show you.
Bill Of Rights -
The Declaration of Independence-
United under one forum, builds what is called the Trinity of the Protection Of Laws. This is because these Laws were built by people of faith who gave thanks to God for this wisdom. One would have to see and admire the simplicity of the three as one and at the same time they maintain their independence.”

On page 100 at our site is the early stages of what is called A Prime Directive for Health Care, so please drop on by and see 173 million peoples views in and for Health Care. And it should be known that this information on page 100 is true and documented in Law and History.
Henry Massingale
FASC Concepts in and for Pay It Forward
www.fascmovement.mysite.com on google look for page 1 American dream official site.

Posted by: Henry Massingale on February 26, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

US health care system ranked 37th, but no democrat dared counter the Republican meme that US is No 1

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on February 26, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

It's simpler to say "The US has the best system in the world... if you are obscenely wealthy. For you and me it ranks as one of the worst systems in the first world."

Posted by: Tlaloc on February 26, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

The argument is just another way for the GOP to divert attention away from the real issue: denying insurance coverage to millions of Americans, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Denying coverage, and thus blocking access to care, is nearly impossible to defend, so the Republicans are forced to change the subject. I've always thought that the Dems would have been better off calling this whole process "insurance reform" rather than "health care reform", which has only made it easier for the GOP to make their pathetic arguments about "government-run" health care. At the risk of repeating my previous comments, the Dems have lost a lot of ground by failing to craft their health reform message around the hideous "dump and deny" practices of the insurance industry, and instead focusing on impersonal issues such as health care as a percentage of GDP, etc. While the GOP was pointing to the Canadian premier, the Dems should have been pointing to the millions of Americans who get sicker or die every year because they don't have the "ticket" they need need to get through the hospital door.

Posted by: ameshall on February 26, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Screw you, Ezra. This is the greatest country in the world! Any one of us can grow up to be a Canadian Premier if we apply ourselves!

Posted by: Matt on February 26, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, our being the best health care system in the world must be why so many countries are scrambling to imitate it.

Posted by: beejeez on February 26, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Where are all the women? I saw two: Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius." - FC

Rep. Louise Slaughter from NY also rocked the house and there were a few others, but your main point is valid.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 26, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

This is what Canada's national newspaper (The Globe & Mail) had to say on the subject of Danny Williams.


Danny Williams fits in well with the GOP - if the facts are inconvenient, just lie.

Posted by: SOElse on February 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

The funny thing is that Danny "Millions", Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, could have had the same procedure right here in Canada...and his public health insurance would have paid all the bills...

Posted by: A Hermit on February 26, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Whenever I hear a republican say this it's like watching someone bragging that they have access to the best food, to the very best chefs in the world, to an audience of homeless people.

No one is debating our the preeminence of our doctors, nurses, hospitals, technology, etc. But who cares how amazing they all are if you don't have affordable access? GOP congresscritters don't consider this because THEY have the access, THEY have the best health care in the country but the rest of us don't. It's painfully stupid every time the dems don't point this out whenever the dems parrot this talking point. It's just so damned obvious how out-of-touch they are and it's begging to be pointed out, repeatedly.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on February 26, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Last night I watched a Canadian Broadcasting Corp report about the heart operation on Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland. It pointed out three things:
1. The procedure was pioneered in Toronto.
2. The world experts on the procedure are in Toronto and Ottawa.
3. Williams had a second home in Florida.

His decision to go to Florida probably had little to do with the quality of the health care in Canada.

Posted by: J from Wpg on February 26, 2010 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

pj in jesusland: I have commented on this several times, myself. John Murtha received the best healthcare money could buy, and he still died, possibly unnecessarily. I wonder if his survivors will sue the Dr./Hospital for malpractice? Wonder what would have been said if he had died in another country with "free" healthcare?

Of course, the best system money can buy is keeping Dick C. alive. Is there no justice?

Posted by: st john on February 26, 2010 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

I am an insured person with a mass my lung. I can't even get scheduled for the CT scan I need because my HMO (Lovelace in NM) evidentally has 1 scheduler who is on vacation. Seems they must be to broke to have a backup. I bet a government run operation would have more than 1 scheduler.

Posted by: beej in nm on February 26, 2010 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

There are two big pieces of the health care system in this country.

One component is medical products and services, in other words, doctors, hospitals, and medical suppliers. This is arguable the best in the world.

The other component is the payment system. Sometimes this component gets in the way of the other component and limits the delivery of products and services.

Unfortunately the first component is held hostage by the second component. Until we can improve the second component so that more people can afford the first component it is a moot discussion.

Posted by: nerd on February 26, 2010 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Here is why you need insurance:

Lack of carrying proper insurance is common due to the costs of monthly premiums. However, our society has become a 2 class system of have and have-nots with regards to insurance. For those who cannot afford the monthly premium, they rely on the government and others to assist them when they need help. They do without certain privileges and run the risk of causing greater harm to themselves and their loved ones by deferring proper care and medication.

Gravity Gardener

Posted by: Gravity Gardener on February 27, 2010 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

To see the true Health Care Tax forum you must stop thinking in 3-D,This multi tax forum is against a $100 Trillion Dollar system.. ...
To force pay into another system of failures within Health Care Insurance Groups.
This economy will not balance with this concept of a tax forum against the Health Care System. The issue of how to force pay into this system of Health Care may have worked but I am still troubled over the progressive tax forum within this Bill. It covers so many items and Countries that it only forces the system to adjust itself. In some areas, increases against the people and the troubled economy, and in other areas, less effects will be felt.
But this is my big problem, Government Officials seek help and they are to proud to ask us, the true working force of Government. It is understandable they have failed the People and within the United States Of America all we ask is to see us as who we are and not try to bring us into this world of the intellectual. I guess our Prime Directive is that of Star Trek, so it must be understood that for millions of people we are just as happy as can be making $13.00 per hour and we have no interest in this world of politics, and how to be a Enstine. Government Officials must understand that there is a level of people within different parts of this Country, that seek to be only that they find to make them happy.
As for this economy well, it is said that the U.S.A. Arms Division has created enough arsenal to destroy every last creature in the world 2 times over,built with tax dollars. This would be funny if not for the irony of it. And now as time has passed Government Officials keep failing. Before 9/11 all the way to today.
As it is in a world of a system, when employees continue to fail, one or two things happen, one; you get fired, two; if you see into a person a good, then it is political correct to implement a penalty or roll back in pay. But this implement of penalty is more favored in the course of action in the Federal Employment World. So how to fix the economy and unite it with the Health Care issue. It would be in the Countries best interest to implement a 10% per cent penalty against every State, County and Government Official within this Matrix of failures. Hey what is that old saying, what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander. I am serous about this, it is past due to show that our Government Officials they have failed, their system failure reaches into this world of warnings that they brush aside as if the information is not worthy noting. From Pearl Harbor to 9/11/2001 to 3/07/2010 of our tax system and Health Care Reform. This 10% per cent penalty should go into the Health Care Forum.
The big problem that Government Officials have is that they have no street credit. President Obama still has some but if he does not take his family and step away from these dueling Parties, that fight over this Health Care Dollar, and stand with Us he will lose all credit from the streets to the county.
President Obama, I would say to you, you have one last chance to regain the hopes and dreams of the American People. To reach out in a concept that states, if there is 250 million people in trouble because of these failures, I would give all my money to them and then I would say to all that I gave money to, I have no money left, would you all please give me $1.00 back and then I would have $250. million dollars to start all over again.

As for this $100,trillion dollar in site.............
Results 1 - 10 of about 685,000 for net worth of medicine development industry
Just to show how deep this Health Care Tax split petition reaches. The term split petition is used because of the Tax factor plan that is not seen because of the intent not to show a capital Taxing of close to a $100 trillion dollar package, a yearly system income, not profit.....

Some have stated that I clam to have spiritual in site or something of the sort. I assure you this is not true, so when I state that I asked God to help, it is my way of saying hey Bobby show me how to work on theses Chevy engines. But I do thank you for the consideration. Consider me a cross of Jethro Bodine from the Beverly Hill Billies with my 10th. Grade education and Vin Diesel from the move Pitch Black.
So drop on by and see page 100 at our site and follow the blue pill link

Health Care within a moral value, is to ,


Henry Massingale
FASC Concepts in and for Pay It Forward
www.fascmovement.mysite.com on google. yahoo, and Aol.com
please take the time and visit all my new friends on the net and if you wish to post with FASC Concepts you will be most welcomed. So join us and share your ideas as one in one voice.

Posted by: Henry Massingale on March 14, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK



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