Exposing health care myths

I am by no means a health care policy expert; however I have made health care my profession. It is with this bias that I feel I must respond to the inaccuracies of Mr. Whittaker’s letter (No to nationalised insurance, Caymanian Compass, 25 October).

I find it amazing how anyone can write with such conviction in his opinions, and lack any evidence or credible example to prove his position. The facts as provided by the World Health Organization contradict nearly every assertion made by Mr. Whittaker. Here are a few brief myths vs. facts regarding health care:

Myth #1: Nationalized health care is more expensive and inefficient than a ‘free market’ system.

Fact: The USA is the richest and perhaps the only developed country without a nationalized health care system for all citizens. If the above myth were true we would expect to see substantial government savings in the health care field.

According to WHO data the USA has one of the highest government expenditures of any nation. Higher than the UK, and even higher than countries like Sweden, Canada, France and Denmark that are routinely attacked as ‘socialist’ and ‘tax heavy’.

This begs the question: how can private systems be more inefficient than government? Simple, they spend 20 per cent of your premiums trying to deny your claims. Eventually the lack of medical attention causes a small problem to become so large you go to the emergency room without insurance, and the public ends up footing the bill (but hey, the insurance companies make a good profit).

To further emphasize my point nearly 50 per cent of personal bankruptcy cases in the USA revolve around unpaid medical bills.

Myth #2: Nationalized health care results in longer wait times.

Fact: This myth is not so simple to dismiss mainly because of the political funding battles being played out in many of the nationalized systems. However, in general, the wait times in nationalized systems depend on the acuity of your condition while in a private system it usually correlates to the size of your wallet. If you’re Bill Gates the system works great, but for the average family making $40,000 a year medical attention may be unaffordable.

Myth #3: Nationalized health care results in poorer service.

Fact: This is one of the most obviously false myths to any one who cares to look objectively. If the USA is compared to Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Cuba, France and Sweden for health outcomes, they do very poorly. A brief review of a few health indicators shows: All-cause under five child mortality, the USA ranks last; low birth weight babies, the USA ranks last; life-time risk of maternal death during child birth, the USA only beats Cuba.

Admittedly this is a very narrow selection of indicators, but how a society treats the most vulnerable speaks volumes to their priorities.

Lastly, the prevalence of diabetes is eight times higher than Canada, and over 30 times higher than countries like Sweden. With all the morbid conditions associated with diabetes the USA is in the middle of a public health crisis.

Lack of access to family physicians means these people end up in the emergency department acutely ill with costly medical bills.

Is this the system you champion Mr. Whittaker?

Daaron McField, MD – SMU Grad 2007 Mayo Clinic