Effect Measure

Medicaid, Medicare and real terrorism

[Another post from two years ago. Everybody is talking universal health care now. Two years ago, nada. Well, almost nada. Below is what we said then (and continue to say, now). But first this, to show the original post is still current:

Americans are living longer than ever, but not as long as people in 41 other countries.

A major factor in the U.S. lagging in life expectancy is that 45 million Americans lack health insurance, experts say.

For decades, the United States has been slipping in international rankings of life expectancy, as other countries improve health care, nutrition and lifestyles.

Countries that surpass the U.S. include Japan and most of Europe, as well as Jordan, Guam and the Cayman Islands.


A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. That life expectancy ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier, according to international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics.


Forty countries, including Cuba, Taiwan and most of Europe had lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. in 2004. The U.S. rate was 6.8 deaths for every 1,000 live births. It was 13.7 for Black Americans, the same as Saudi Arabia.(AP)]

Now the post from August 2005:

When the government financed health insurance programs of Medicare and Medicaid became law in the US in 1965 I was halfway through medical school. The profession for which I was being trained had fought government financing tooth and nail but couldn’t stop it this time (consider what the chances would be in the current Congress!). Ironically, “third-party payers” paid physicians for services they had previously performed for free or very little and did it at a handsome rate. The uniformly high incomes most people associate with the medical profession is largely a post-Medicare phenomenon.But not just doctors benefitted. So did millions who previously could not afford any medical care, especially the elderly covered under Medicare. Today we have gone backwards. An excellent article by Holly Sklar (via Common Dreams) makes the required points:

If Americans without health insurance were a nation, the population would be bigger than Canada — plus Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire and Vermont. Canada, like other industrialized nations besides ours, provides universal health coverage.

Contrary to myth, the United States does not have the world’s best health care. It has the costliest.

In the words of Dr. Christopher Murray of the World Health Organization (WHO), “Basically, you die earlier and spend more time disabled if you’re an American rather than a member of most other advanced countries.”

The United States is just No. 29 in the WHO healthy life expectancy ranking. We lag Canada by nearly three years and Japan by nearly six.

The United States does worse than 36 countries in child mortality under age five — well behind South Korea and Singapore.

We are distinguished in some important health indices, however. We spend more than anyone else on health care, 15% of our Gross Domestic Product (the European average is 8.6%). We have the fewest physicans, nurses and hospital beds per person and fewer MRIs and CT scanners than the average of the 30 countries in The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). And if you believe having a single-payer government financed plan in the US would cause long waits for medical care, Sklar reports that “Americans had more difficulty making appointments with physicians quickly than people in Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, and were more likely to delay or forgo treatment because of cost.”

If you think about the money squandered in the self-inflicted Homeland Security debacle and consider how much genuine security could have been purchased for the humdreds of millions of Americans being held up for their money and put at risk of life and limb by pharmaceutical and insurance companies and their paid representatives in Congress, you wonder who the real terrorists are.

If we had Health Care for All, paid for by all, for the benefit of all, we’d all be safer and more secure.


  1. #1 John
    August 18, 2007

    “f we had Health Care for All, paid for by all, for the benefit of all, we’d all be safer and more secure.”

    The people who have decent insurance don’t believe this, they think you’ll raise the average by lowering their quality of care while bringing up the quality for the uninsured. I think they ignore statistics about “US is 29th in health care” because they believe that the real issue is that americans with good insurance are 1st or 2nd in health care and americans without are 50th or something.

    Are there stats like the above split among insured and uninsured?

  2. #2 Stephen Downes
    August 18, 2007

    An additional undocument (to my knowledge) effect is that of the U.S. system on countries such as Canada that have universal health care.

    We face incessant lobbying from American insurance companies, drug companies, and others, to eliminate our system and set up a ‘competitive’ system offering ‘choice’.

    The main tactic is to undermine the public health care system, to make it work worse instead of better, in the hope that people will give up on public health care and embrace a private system. Additionally, these agencies lobby for privatization around the edges – single-day operation clinics, for example, MRI and imaging clinics – in Maitoba, under a Conservative government, they even privatized hospital food services (the company promptly centralized and began serving flash-frozen meals).

    The only reason these lobbyists do not prevail is that, in Canada at leas, the public system enjoys massive support.

    Without the constant pressure on politicians to reduce health care spending (by companies hoping to step in and fill the gap) we would have a much more robust system, one that responded more quickly and offered more personalized services. Our system, which is already much better than the one the lobbyists would impose in its place, would be significantly enhanced.

  3. #3 John
    August 18, 2007

    “An additional undocument (to my knowledge) effect is that of the U.S. system on countries such as Canada that have universal health care.”

    I wasn’t aware of direct lobbying like you mentioned but I have wondered if the US system was pushing down quality in other countries by pulling better doctors over here because they could make more money.

  4. #4 MikeB
    August 18, 2007

    Its not just Canada where the lobbying of US companies hurts. Here in the UK we’ve seen both the Tories and New Labour pushing for ‘choice’ in the NHS, complete with a (non-working) ‘internal market’ and the privatisation/outsourcing of many services. Its no accident that Tony Blair’s former healthcare adviser went to work for a a very large US healthcare group, or that Kaiser is held up by ministers as an organisation that the NHS should be copying. Want to know why there are so many problems in the NHS at present? Because stupid UK politicians are only to eager to see US style healthcare as ‘solutions’.

    The lobbying by US drug companies is also huge, with at least one attempt to sue NICE in order for certain drugs to be approved for NHS use. They have even threatened to pull research out of the UK if they dont get access( the NHS spends about 20% of the total amount the companies spend on research in the UK).

    Its bad enough that the US fails its own people with regard to healthcare, but its even worse when the same forces seemingly responsible for the current situation in the US decide to have a go at the (admittedly imperfect) systems in the UK and Canada.

  5. #5 Melanie
    August 18, 2007


    We’ve been exporting our bullshit for a long, long time. This shouldn’t surprise you.

  6. #6 another
    August 18, 2007

    John wrote:

    I have wondered if the US system was pushing down quality in other countries by pulling better doctors over here because they could make more money.

    Perhaps that’s mitigated by the number of mediocre but avaricious doctors who would also find the US system attractive.

  7. #7 MikeB
    August 19, 2007

    Melanie – I have to admit that there is more than enough bullshit exported from this side of the Atlantic as well – Simon Cowell for starters….

  8. #8 M. Randolph Kruger
    August 20, 2007

    UHC is a debaucle waiting to happen. I now have amassed some 70 articles from Scotland, the UK, Sweden, Germany, France about what a disaster it is. Utopia doesnt exist unless someone gets something for what is perceived to be free. I can cite and cite here and have but apparently no one takes the time to read them. The UK healthcare system is even fighting now with representatives of the Alzheimers relatives in court because they dont want to fund the newer drugs.

    The description is that rationing is inevitable because the pot to draw from is shrinking. Everyone here can rant all they want. It would bankrupt the US in under 5 years and then take ten to close it down afterwards. But by then damage done. All of the research grants would be gone having been sucked up by the government and we will have done our economy in.

    This is a taking pure and simple. Our Constitution doesnt give this right to the government and thats where this one is going to head south. We make the ASSUMPTION that we will pay less than we are now. Not so. We are a graduated income tax country. The people who make the money will get soaked and those that dont will pay nothing. That makes it a taking. This is what knocked it down in Tennessee, and its what will knock it down in the US.

    Anyone want all the cites can hit me at


    Sorry Mel, I know its tough but do you stop people on the street and tell them the money they made that day belongs to you or someone else because you or they have a condition? As for exporting bullshit, the UHC countries have all had increases in rates, taxes, co-pays, refusals to pay for procedures, refusals to pay for medications, what they will cover has dropped, what they wont increased, lawsuits are off the scale, doctors and nurses are opting out to private service and thats what this is folks, its a service. Its not a right. Some would tell you its disgraceful, I call it economics. I will have to lay off at least 1/3rd of my workforce immediately as they will hit employers with new taxes to pay for this horseshit. Once government gets into a tax mode they will not stop. We are enjoying a great economy in the US. Some are not enjoying a perfect lifestyle and to them this is a necessary thing. It isnt. Health insurance is not out there economically for people who have conditions. Healthcare is there if they take the time to go and do the legwork. They will get healthcare if they need it. Its not going to be great, but it will be a lot less great if UHC is in. UHC takes the money out of the economy and puts it into the hands of government. The stock market will fall apart if they implement this. Thats money thats being constantly reinvested into the economy. The other way it will take 3 bucks just to account for 1 and we have been down that road before.

    My own docs say that they will not even enter the system as they have all had to bail on the previous disaster. And as with the MedShares disaster where the Clinton adminstration just quit paying the bills when he ran out of money for six months we could see not only rationing, but not being sent at all. Just because a hospital/doctor filed a claim it doesnt mean that the government will pay it. Its like dealing with an insurance company now. Big difference. The poor will still end up waiting for something that will never come.

  9. #9 uninsured for 3 years
    August 22, 2007

    Wow. That took delusional to new levels. I can get health insurance if I do the legwork? I’m a healthy, 25 year old college graduate and I still can’t afford it. And from what I’ve been reading I’m exactly the norm for my generation. We have no employer coverage, our parents’ plans don’t cover us anymore, and we’re so in debt from student loans that it’s not worth the few hundred bucks a month when we think we’re feeling fine. But I have a 25 year old friend who’s not the norm, as well. She’s had a recurring pancreatic condition since she was 12 (4 full abdominal surgeries involving removal of most of her pancreas, an adrenal gland, and her spleen) and was routinely dropped from her dad’s military coverage when she was 23. They now pay close to 1000 a month to keep her covered privately in case she develops more tumors (under a cheaper plan she was required to never speak about her medical history with a new doctor for 10 years before having any treatment for her condition covered). You tell me that’s right and good and good for America’s economy. Oh, and neither one of us are what I would call “the poor.”