Thursday, June 28, 2007
In the Wall Street Journal is an article that attacks the central theme of Sicko, namely the idea that socialized medicine will actually benefit patients. Although I would prefer to see, in addition, a little indignation at the idea that physicians deserve slavery for all their trouble along with a rousing defense of individual rights, the article does at least offer some food for thought. New to me was how common privatization has become in Europe:
Market reforms are catching on in Britain, too. For six decades, its socialist Labour Party scoffed at the very idea of private medicine, dismissing it as "Americanization." Today Labour favors privatization, promising to triple the number of private-sector surgical procedures provided within two years. The Labour government aspires to give patients a choice of four providers for surgeries, at least one of them private, and recently considered the contracting out of some primary-care services--perhaps even to American companies.Although it is important to remember that such moves may fail -- because they are not necessarily moves toward actual capitalism -- the take-home message is unmistakable: If socialized medicine is so great, why are Europeans fleeing "paradise" in droves?
Other European countries follow this same path. In Sweden, after the latest privatizations, the government will contract out some 80% of Stockholm's primary care and 40% of total health services, including Stockholm's largest hospital. Beginning before the election of the new conservative chancellor, Germany enhanced insurance competition and turned state enterprises over to the private sector (including the majority of public hospitals). Even in Slovakia, a former Marxist country, privatizations are actively debated.
This will not save us in the long run. An uncompromising and proud stand for the individual rights of physicians and patients will ultimately be required for that. But such arguments might at least buy us some time to make the better ones that will carry the day.
6-29-07: Corrected a typo.