By Steve Levy, Commentary
California’s Senate just passed a single-payer health care system. Great headline for progressives. Buried was the fact that the system would bankrupt the state, with a cost of $400 billion that eclipses the entire state budget of $180 billion.
New York legislators are contemplating doing the same.
I once was enamored of the single-payer concept. I detested that we were the only Western democracy that didn’t provide universal coverage. Having more than 40 million Americans just a slip and fall away from bankruptcy was untenable.
Democrats commendably sought to address the issue in the 1990s, but submitted a flawed plan that the GOP tore apart. But while gleeful in defeating Hillarycare, Republicans did nothing to address the underlying problem.
Democrats got their way under Obama’s leadership. But, alas, the results of the still-flawed law didn’t match the flowery rhetoric that was laden with lies such as “you can keep your doctor” and premiums will drop by $2,500.
Many believed that the true aim behind the Democrats’ push was to ultimately morph it into a single-payer system. No more markets or evil insurance companies. Medicare for all. Just like in Europe.
Single-payer proponents accurately note that these countries cover all their citizens and at a much lower cost than we do. But they falsely attribute these lower costs to single-payer. The truer reasons are the prevalence in the U.S. of too many frivolous lawsuits, too few doctors, too high prescription costs, and too much spent in the last six months of life.
Before adopting single-payer in New York, legislators should hear the story of Northwell’s CEO, Michael Dowling. He recalled a phone call from his ill brother in Europe. He quickly diagnosed that his brother was suffering from a dangerous heart murmur. That May, the brother sought help and was told he’d get it. One catch: the appointment would be in October.
Such is the consequence of European-type rationing. The brother flew to the states, and received the services needed within a matter of weeks. Had he waited in his home country, Dowling said, he’d be dead.
This is why, despite all the flaws in the American system, and despite the exaggerated accolades heaped upon the European socialized model by the media and the left, those who get dreadfully sick in Europe still flock to the U.S. by the thousands to take advantage of the quickest, most innovative and most thorough care possible, to save their lives.
This is not to say that the European system is all bad and ours is the pillar of perfection. Actually, the best system we could develop would be one that took the prime cuts of both, while ditching the worst.
So what are the Europeans doing right?
First, the Europeans don’t waste precious resources on frivolous malpractice claims. Our litigious culture forces doctors to perform numerous unneeded tests and devote more than half of their hours to simply logging in data to comply with volumes of regulations, to understandably cover their tails.
Second, Europeans made the decision that they will not unnecessarily spend at will in the last six months of life to the point it cripples their ability to provide needed care for other patients who can recover with treatment. Here, we pejoratively label such deliberations “death panels.” There, they wisely conclude that extending life an extra two months for those in pain and with no chance of recovery is cruel to the suffering patient, as well as those denied care because the cupboard has run bare.
But here’s what we do right:
We innovate. Socialism takes away incentive. That’s why the vast majority of inventions that enhance our quality of life, and our life duration, emanate from the good ole USA, and not Europe.
And we provide choice. Choice for a second opinion, or for a doctor who will take us quicker or has a better bedside manner.
Even though Obamacare is unsustainable, as evidenced by collapsing markets and skyrocketing premiums and deductibles, the debate has changed. Most now believe basic health care is a right for all. The trick is to provide it without bankrupting us or putting us on the kind of rationed system for the non-terminal we see in the single-payer socialized systems in Europe.
Steve Levy is president of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County executive, as state assembly member, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.”