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Cheers - AE

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Health, wealth and unhappiness.

From Thoughts on Freedom, the blog of the Australian Libertarian Society, comes depressing news of proposals to make health provision in Australia a fairer and more equal system. Apologies for quoting en bloc but it's not long.
“As citizens we should all use the same health care system. Poor and rich should have access to the same health care services from teh same providers … the well-off and the poor should not have separate providers … All should share the one, high quality system.”
This is a very scary mentality. The authors of the above (McAuley and Menadue, quoted by Buckmaster (PDF - Angry Exile)) want to enforce total equality when it comes to health services. Note that their prioerity is not to improve health, but simply to make sure that it is always equal.

Enforced equality is so important to them, they repeat it four times in the same paragraph.

The above position is not simply an argument for government intervention in the health industry. And it is not an argument for improving the health care for poor people. Both of these are common and reasonable suggestions.

It goes far beyond that, and calls for the government to actually ban the purchase of extra health cover. The authoritarian policy suggestion of McAuley and Menadue would limit the amount of health cover that a person could buy to the government-approved level, with obvious negative consequences to health outcomes.

This policy cannot be defended on the basis of concern for poor people. The only defence for this policy is that the proponents simply want to hurt richer people and prevent them from buying extra health services. And the likely long run consequence would be worse health care for everybody.

Mostly when I disagree with people on the left I can sympathise with their goal, but disagree about their approach. In this instance though I think the thought process is offensive and dangerous.
Quite. I don't often comment on ToF posts but on this occasion I had something to say. Again, I'll repeat it in full here (with very minor editing).
Having moved here from Britain this sounds like someone intends to copy the UK’s National Health Service, and having been on the receiving end of what the NHS laughingly described as treatment I’d like to say a few words to the people of my adopted country:

Don’t. Fucking. Do. It.

Seriously, and with apologies for the f-bomb, just don’t. Health provision here may not be perfect, but where is? This is certainly not going to help and if you ask me is likely to prove a massive step backwards. Sorry for the length of this comment but let me describe my NHS experience to give you an idea of what an “it’s there for everyone, free at the point of delivery, one size fits no-one” system of socialized medicine is like.

I needed a minor op to drain an abscess, and since it was getting infected I was admitted in the afternoon as an acute case. The op was done that evening and I was told I’d be in for a few days. So far, so good. They took their time wheeling me back to the ward because my blod pressure was a bit low and they wanted to get some extra fluid dripped into me before then. Fair enough, though they said I’d be peeing for Britain all night long. Early the next day someone came to change the bedding and put the sheets on my feet. I was still half off my face from a combination of poor sleep and morphine and accidentally kicked it onto the floor. The staff member picked it up and put it on one side. I stumbled off to the lavvy, which had someone’s blood on the seat, to deal with the last of the previous night’s extra fluid and wake myself up with some water on the face, and when I got back apologized for making them go and get another set of bedding because of my clumsiness. Yeah, you guessed it, they didn’t bother and just used the bedding the stoned patient had kicked on to the floor. A floor, incidentally, on which I’d left a blood stained piece of dressing on my trip to or from the bog. And there it stayed for the next hour and a half before I called a nurse and asked if it might be an idea if someone got rid of it. Nobody cleaned the area of floor where it had been because the cleaners had already been around, so it wasn’t to be done again till the next day. I had regular BP checks by some patronizing woman who kept saying that it was fine even though the damn machine was next to me and I could see that the reading was still on the low side (I’d had a medical a few months earlier for work and remembered what normal was supposed to be), though being treated like I was either 15 years younger, 50 years older or simply retarded may have just been an unorthodox treatment to get my blood pressure back up again. I had a very boring afternoon because I hadn’t been able to shell out the cost (hugely overpriced having been, like the car parks, subbed out to a private contractor) of the card for my bedside phone and internet via the TV due to my quick admission the previous day, and couldn’t have used the internet anyway as the TV was bust. Nor did I feel like going to the hospital bookshop and since they had a huge theft problem I’d given my wallet and mobile phone to my wife on the advice of the doctor who’d admitted me the previous day. It was a very hungry afternoon as well because the incompetent clowns forgot to feed me, and I assumed they were just being cautious because I’d been under general anaesthetic for the op. No, it was just the good old British cock up at work, so I got an apology and a plate of stone cold beef and potatoes in what might have been congealed gravy. Given what else it might have been in a hospital and how tasteless and rubbery it was anyway I decided being hungry was actually the better option. The good news was that my blood pressure must have been fine now, though in hindsight I think they probably overdid it. So did the guy in the next bed who kindly lent me his phone card so I could call my wife. I told her what had been going on and to please come and get me the hell out of there, at the point of a twelve bore if necessary, before I either cracked or croaked. The suggestion that I was going to leave didn’t go down well with the BP monitor woman, who said it was supposed to be a 2.5-3 day stay so I shouldn’t go until sometime the next day, and that in any case I wouldn’t be allowed home – yes, that was the phrase used – allowed home until I’d moved my bowels. Not wishing to argue post operative care I checked the toilet again, only to find there was even more blood on the seat than earlier. I went back and told her that if she thought I was going to drop my arse in a khazi that was slick with someone else’s blood while I still had an open wound from my operation then she was a mad as a box of frogs and should get herself to the pharmacy PDQ for some lithium or something. Shortly afterwards my wife turned up with a banana she’d managed to get by shouting at someone. I wasn’t sure whether to eat it or use it to poke the BP monitor woman in the eye with, but since she’d wandered away I settled for eating it, getting dressed and doing a runner hobbler, telling only the main reception that I’d left the ward and was going home to crap in a clean bathroom.

Bad luck, you might think. Maybe, but maybe good luck. My dad got food poisoning in hospital (soooo glad I left that dodgy looking gravy) and thousands, perhaps as many as ten thousand, die in British hospitals every year from secondary infections they pick up while they’re there. Compared to going down with C. Difficile or MRSA (as happened to a client’s son who’d gone into the same hospital for the same op) being treated like a moron and not being fed wasn’t so bad. We must also remember that among other things Britain’s NHS – the envy of the world according to politicians, especially Labour politicians – has long waits for many treatments, regularly rations treatment according to where patients live and has one of the poorest cancer survival rates in Europe. And that’s despite employing over 1.3 million people – approaching the population of South Australia, though famously the NHS employs more admin and clerical staff than it has beds for patients – and enjoying the lion’s share of Britain’s enormous (something like 45% of GDP) public sector spending. Think Britain’s nuclear deterrent sounds expensive? Or the fleet of nuclear powered submarines, both missile launchers and hunters, that goes with it? Nope, it’s cheap by comparison with the NHS. The replacement for the Trident nuclear weapon system was provisionally estimated at £20 billion, and even allowing for a cost blow out of 25% that’s still less than the increase – the increase – in annual NHS spending proposed a year ago by the opposition Conservatives after they got suckered into a spending competition with Labour. Compared to that lot a fleet of nuclear submarines looks like a bargain, on top of which it kills far fewer people. So in Britain most people who can afford it prefer to go private, and many will go so far as to get on a plane and have elective surgery done abroad. An elderly relative tells me that India is a popular destination for Britons wanting their cataracts fixed, and she was seriously thinking about it herself until an appointment to see an eye specialist in the UK came up. I don’t want you to think that has racist undertones because it’s nothing to do with colour or India being usually considered a developing nation. It’s simply an observation that more than a few British people prefer nine hours on a plane, quite possibly with Slumdog Millionaire as the in flight movie, to get their eyes operated on in an Indian hospital to having it done on the health service for which they’ve already paid for through their taxes and which, they’re constantly told by their government, is supposedly the envy of the world. With what I experienced I’d agree with them 100%. You might be wondering why they don’t simply pay the difference between the cost of treatments to the NHS and at a private hospital and have them done privately? Or even to pay up front and get reimbursed later similar to the way I now pay $50 to see my doctor and then get about $33 back from Medicare? Well, it’s because that’s not allowed in Britain. It’s not equal you see. Can’t have “two tier” health provision, say the politicians, though if wealthier Britons with health insurance or simply leaving the country and paying for treatment abroad doesn’t qualify as “two tier” I don’t know what does. But for those who can’t afford that, and whose local NHS trust can’t or won’t give them the best treatment, the pig headed, bloody minded, stubborn refusal to allow patients to buy “top up” treatment can be as good as a death sentence.

So don’t do it, Australia. Please, just don’t.
Incidentally, that op I mentioned? The one that was supposed to be a three day stay before I was able to get my wife along and discharged myself? A mate here in Melbourne has been in for the same thing, and what a difference. He was in first thing in the morning and out again early in the afternoon, and while he’d have been happy to wait and have it done on Medicare it was a busy year for him for various reasons, and being able to pay to have it done right away made life much easier. And some fuckwit wants to end this and bring in people dying prematurely because they can't afford extra treatment from private sources. Worse still, they want to ban people buying private health insurance, thereby almost doing away with private medicine altogether. Aside from the obvious implications for health provision I hate, I mean really hate, the sort of cunt who thinks they have some God given right to say what other people can spend their money on. How dare they? How fucking dare they? Would they ban certain brands of car in the name of equality? No BMWs, Jags or Mercs? Hey, fuck it, we're going for full fairness and equality, right? So why not ban everything that isn't a Holden Barina? Well, because aside from making us look like banckwards and protectionist it'd be fucking ridiculous to restrict people's choice as to what make, model and type of car to spend their money on. And hen parties will look pretty stupid in a stretched Barina instead of something like a giant pink Hummer, though I'll concede that the Barina might be more tasteful.

So in short, it's a terrible idea. It'll certainly restrict individual freedom, and it sure as hell won't achieve equality because even with banning health insurance the wealthiest will still be able to buy private healthcare either here or abroad. And worst of all I believe it'll almost certainly sacrifice real lives on the altar of socialist beliefs. In fact it'll be a lot like the NHS really, but actually much much worse. Well done McAuley and Menadue, well done indeed. Why don't you just give Martin Bryant a gun and let the fucker out?


JuliaM said...

And the US is desperate, under The Messiah, to push through a similar scheme...

"How dare they? How fucking dare they? Would they ban certain brands of car in the name of equality? No BMWs, Jags or Mercs?"

Well, just look at Russia 30 years ago to see what they'd have in store for all of us if they could.

Zil limos for the politbureau, Ladas for everyone else.

Von Spreuth said...

Re the British "No Hospital Safe".

Just look at the oft quoted sentence seen in "news"paper comments pages "The NHS could not run without third world immigrants".

Sais all you need to know really.

Von Brandenburg-Preußen

Angry Exile said...

JuliaM, yep, though as pointed out in the comments on the ToF blog Canada is already there, which means wealthy Canadians cross the border and buy their elective surgery in the US. Would the Obamessiah rethink it I wonder?

Von Spreuth, I think the NHS now could not run no matter what. It's just too damn big and too top heavy to work anymore. If it's to be saved at all it needs to go on a serious diet - get as many who are willing and able to opt out of it to take the demand pressure off, and get rid of a shitload of admin/clerical folk so that it's about providing medical care again instead of being a bean counter jobs program. What's left can make money selling it's services to the private sector and also remain as a safety net for those who really want or need to stay with state provided healthcare. This isn't a million miles away from where Australia is now with Medicare as the safety net but a number with insurance instead (and incentives to get it instead of using Medicare), but these witless socialist fruitcakes want to bugger that up in the name of unachievable equality. Madness.

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