Thursday, August 27, 2009

Call it the grass-is-greener syndrome: the French have their own problems that show there's no such thing as a free lunch — or a free doctor's visit

Health care in France is often held up as a model the U.S. might follow
writes Investor's Business Daily.
Yet the French have their own problems that show there's no such thing as a free lunch — or a free doctor's visit.
The IBD (which also features editorials on the demonization of drugmakers — "members of Congress … think they can impose whatever costs they want on an industry, with no real-world impact" — and on Ted Kennedy's death) goes on to quote Guy Sorman's City Journal story. (Be sure to also check out Bojidar Marinov's "checkup"…)
Call it the grass-is-greener syndrome. Advocates of national health care, acknowledging the flaws in ObamaCare yet despising the current U.S. system that has the best medicines, the best medical equipment and the shortest waiting lists, have turned their eyes lovingly to places like France.

As City Journal contributing editor Guy Sorman notes, the French would also love to have the low-cost, high-service system some Americans gush about. Unfortunately, they don't. France's system isn't that cheap and is financed by high taxes on labor that have heavy economic consequences.

… Regardless of the cost, does the French system produce better outcomes? Not always. Infant mortality rates are often cited as a reason socialized medicine and single-payer systems are better than what we have here. But according to Dr. Linda Halderman, a policy adviser in the California State Senate, these comparisons are bogus.

…[Furthermore] France reimburses its doctors at a far lower rate than U.S. physicians would accept.

As David Gratzer, a physician and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in the summer 2007 issue of City Journal: "In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August 2003 heat wave — when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity — 15,000 elderly citizens died."

After the tragedy, the French parliament released a harshly worded report blaming the deaths on a complex health system, widespread failure among agencies and health services to coordinate efforts, and chronically insufficient care for the elderly.

It's hard to imagine that happening here, where hospitals have enough air-conditioned beds and doctors that aren't on vacation.

Fact is, most Americans like their health care. There are ways to provide expanded coverage at lower cost, such as pushing individually owned health savings accounts, malpractice reform and allowing insurance to be bought across state lines.

We needn't be forced to sacrifice quality for cost. Nor do we need to look to the French for a better solution. They don't have one.