William Oddie…

William Oddie… January 9, 2012

crusty conservative English Catholic, gently reminds conservative American Catholics that GOP orthodoxy and Catholic orthodoxy are not co-terminous, and that some of the comforting myths conservatives like to regurgitate are, y’know, “simply deranged”.

What’s really deranged?

According to a reputable study published in the American Journal of Medicine, 61% of bankruptcies in the US are caused by the costs of healthcare. I repeat: 61 per cent: it is simply insane. And these people have the infernal gall to equate our system with Soviet Communism (which incidentally had no public healthcare system at all).

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  • And a new problem is that doctors are going bankrupt.

    • SKay

      Thanks for posting this Bob. I saw a Dr. discussing this problem on a news program.
      There is a real possibility that we will have a true Dr. shortage.
      It seems that-as Medicare cuts payments to Doctors–private insurance follows suit.
      In order to make Obamacare look like it would save money they took 500 billion out of Medicare and gave it to Medicaid – yet still counted that money in Medicare.(found this out through my Congressman’s office). Counting the same money twice does not work for my checkbook. Things will only get worse as they really begin to impliment this awful bill–that the Democrats passed and Obama signed
      Interesting — lots of Unions have received waivers and the Democrats in the House and Senate voted against an ammendment saying that their healthcare would be covered by the healthcare bill they were passing.

  • Carp

    Mr Oddie is simply derranged

    ***, I need an appointment with specialist podiatrists every two weeks, and I am on six different kinds of medication. These keep my condition under control but they would be beyond my means. In America I would by now be bankrupt, very ill or dead.***

    Well, that’s my father exactly. He’s not bankrupt or dead, neither would Mr Oddie be. He does the bedate no good by making the same wild claims that Rick Santorum makes. Gimme shelter.

    • John

      Mine too, with the addition of stage 4 cancer, renal failure and dialysis. Of course he only needs to see the podiatrist for one foot since the other was amputated. He also just finished 6 weeks of radiation treatment for his cancer even though it was pallative care to ease the pain caused by the size of the tumor and despite the fact the cancer will still probably kill him in the next couple months.

  • Peggy R

    Oh, come. The GOP is not opposed to people having insurance. The GOPand many conservative think tanks have several market-based ideas that would lower insurance and medical costs. I don’t know why the GOP sat on this for the last decade, leaving it ripe for the Dems. [There may have been bills introduced that didn’t get anywhere, but W wanted his big govt programs.] Also, the current condition of medical and insurance costs in the US is a failure of effective state regulation of insurers over the past 50+ years. The 50 state governments have dropped the ball, both parties.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Just as the author of this article, I am very happy that I do not live in the US. My Canadian health system serves me quite well, thank you. Of course it is not perfect; nothing on this earth is ever going to be perfect, since the world’s population is made up of imperfect human sinners… Contrary to most (it seems to me) US conservatives, it seems to me that a limited amount of so-called “socialist” policies, such as our medical “insurance” system here, can actually be a good thing. I said “insurance” because our system is not run according to the strict definition of an insurance policy, as it seems to be in the US. It protects everyone, instead of gradually excluding most long-term illnesses by using the excuse of “preexisting conditions”. As I see it, the US system seems to be going towards clearly opening the door to euthanasia through the insurance companies’ insistence that, since an insurance is only covering the occurrence of “unexpected” situations, any situation that could be expected is not admissible for coverage. Obama’s attempts at reform should have dealt with the cost of medical services, and full access for all, instead of simply tinkering with the insurance system.

    • Peggy R

      Yes, O-care will lead to govt required euthanasia. The Dems did much more than “tinker” with insurance.

      • SKay

        U S Doctors also have to carry very expensive malpractice insurance. That also adds to the bill.

        • current lector

          I’m afraid both public and private roads will lead to euthanasia given our current cultural condition. It’s coming. I think there’s a case to be made that it may come more quickly with a private system, though. Such a system is explicitly for-profit, and euthanasia would be an obvious cost-saving measure. Canada is under pressure for euthanasia but it’s been legalized already in (some of) the States, even though the US has a reputation for being more religious and “socially-conservative”.

      • Dan C

        No. Health care on a budget will require one to say that certain things won’t be covered. Just like in the NHS. That is different than euthansia. Now we say people won’t be covered.

        The market is not the answer. It will ensure a regrettably high percentage of the population will not be insured. Models to say otherwise fail to accomodate the proclivity of an unfettered insurer from denying the ill to be part of their programs. This too has been overtly discussed recently by Mr. Santorum. Only the healthy will be covered, which is what unfettering the insurance companies from regulation really means.

        The market’s invisible hand does not function by Christian principles. American society has permitted the invisible hand of the market to claim the lives of the uninsured adult who is ill.

  • Before everyone starts regurgating the arguments of My Favorite Faction, the point of Oddie’s article was that Rick Santorum’s criticisms of Britian’s NHS are wildly off the mark, and not at all based in reality, and that America’s health care system — GOP efforts at reform notwithstanding — is far more expensive and bloated than Britian’s brand of “socialized” medicine.

    Oddie did not say that the GOP is opposed to people having insurance. But Santorum should not peddle falsehoods about NHS to get votes.

    • Oh, and one more thing: Mark, you Commie!

    • ds

      GOP efforts at reform notwithstanding

      Notwithstanding or non-existing?

  • Chris M

    I’m not opposed to the idea of Universal Health Care. I’m all for it. What I’m opposed to is handing a massive bureaucracy under Federal control a mandate to waste billions more dollars and open the door further than it already is to having taxpayer funded abortions, euthanasia, ESCR, etc etc.

    • chris

      I agree entirely. I see no reason, given the population size of each individual state, that there could not be a decent health insurance program run at the state level. Then maybe southern states would implement policies that would actually focus on the huge rates of diabetes cases, and other states would address the various maladies that effect the people who live next door rather than the big sexy diseases that hollywood focuses on.

      Since the average state has between 6-8 million people…do we really think this is too small to provide healthcare effectively? Heck, that would mean 1/3 of European countries couldn’t have decent healthcare either.

      By the way, anyone ever notice that most of the foreign healthcare plans that are lambasted are in countries that have a much larger population base(except Canada) than an average state? Maybe the problem isn’t socialized medicine…but medical bureaucracy too far away to drive to the capital and burn people in effigy?

      • Dan C

        There are few sexy diseases. Schweitzer noted that his patients beared the mark of pain and illness. Such a mark still exists.

  • Jack

    As someone who has used the NHS on a very infrequent basis I think that it is excellent; it is paid for out of general taxation, the waiting times are reasonable, and the doctors and nurses I have come into contact with have been very kind, helpful and professional.

    Mark’s american readers might want to know that in Germany and France the State run healthcare systems are even better than those in the UK, Cuba despite being a communist country (and one with economic problems) has such a good healthcare service that Castro was able to trade the services of Cuban state doctors for cheap oil from his South American friends.

    As for Euthanasia that depends on the culture of a country as a whole and not upon whether the health services are publically or privately run.

    Commenting upon the original intent of Dr Oddie’s article, If Santorum had answered an A-level (equivalent of SAT’s) history question on the decline of the British empire with the idiotic remarks he made to the BBC reporter, the examiner would have laughed out loud and given him a big fat 0 for that answer. Now ask yourself this, do you want somone who with a BA in political science makes screwups this BIG to be your next President?

    • The Deuce

      Cuba despite being a communist country (and one with economic problems) has such a good healthcare service that Castro was able to trade the services of Cuban state doctors for cheap oil from his South American friends.

      Thanks for doing your own sanity check for us. Saves trouble.

      • Jack

        I’m perfectly sane thank you if you doubt my sanity you can check the following facts:

        Cubans you might be interested to know live longer on average than U.S. Citizens.

        The standard of care is so good that over 20,000 children affected with radiation sickness from the chyrnobel accident have travelled to cuba to recieve care.

        Health tourism is worth about $40 million a year to the cuban (money which is plowed back into the healthcare system).

        As I mentioned the services of Cuban doctors are bartered for cheap oil from Venezuela.

        There is 1 doctor for every 170 people.

        Not bad for a communist dictatorship

        By the way they have achieved all of this despite the fact that they suffer severe shortages due to the U.S. Embargo

        • The Deuce

          Yeah, Cuban health care is good enough if you’re a wealthy foreigner (ie, middle class by our standards) engaged in medical tourism. You go to one of the “nice” hospitals they present to outsiders. If you’re a regular Cuban peasant, not so much, Michael Moore’s demagoguery and statistics provided by the Cuban government notwithstanding.

          Btw, I find it sadly telling that useful idiot apologetics for propaganda produced by oppressive and totalitarian communist regimes apparently go unanswered here nowadays.

          http://www.therealcuba.com/Page10.htm

          • Jack

            So you are calling me a useful idiot now? Such charming behaviour, with that level of sophistication you really ought to run for congress. Perhaps now you’ll tell me that Scandinavian countries(comprising some of the wealthiest, most equitable, healthiest and well educated countries in the world) are really run by power-hungry communist regimes who will stop at nothing to impose their insidious, slavic values upon America.

            • The Deuce

              So you are calling me a useful idiot now?

              Well, let’s see, you’re carrying propagandic water for an oppressive regime that lies as a matter of routine like all communist governments, and turning a blind eye to the real plight of its people.

              So, yes, you are acting the very definition of the useful idiot. I don’t mind some criticism of the American health care system, or of Republicans’ assumptions. But if you think this means we should blindly accept statistics put out by leftist propagandists, even including communist governments, and deny the plight of their people and buy the rosy picture presented by their overlords and blame America for the repeated, predictable consequences of those governments’ policies, then count me the hell out of whatever you’re selling.

              • Jack

                I’m not ‘selling’ anything, I simply noted that (a) Cubans on the whole tend to live longer on average than Americans (admitedly this could be due to the fact that most Americans are seriously overweight) and have been able to barter the services of their doctors for cheap oil from various latin american countries.

                I didn’t say anything about the Castro Regime (which I do not support) and I don’t think that I said that Cuba is an island paradise so I’m afraid that your charges that I ‘carry water for a communist regime’ don’t stick.

                As for accepting statistics put out by ‘lefties’ the veracity of statistics does not depend on the political views of those who releasse them, I happen to disagree with Micheael More on several issues, however just because he releases statistics does not mean they are false. So please do not embarrass yourself by making stupid ad hominem attacks and comitting the Cherry picking fallacy.

                Time was that you could have a civilized debate between two people of goodwill who disagreed without all of the mud-slinging that acompanies it, you seem sir to be unable to debate without calling into question the sanity or mental capacity of your opponent.

                Whilst I could go on like this until judgement day I’m going to end it here because I see no further use in debating somone who engages in such tactics.

  • The Deuce

    I’ll say one thing that’s deranged about the American health care system. We allow our drugs to be sold to other nations at below production cost, and then we stick Americans with the R&D costs, so that our own drugs cost our own citizens several times more than they cost everyone else. Then, we make it illegal for Americans to import their own drugs back into the country, because the price-fixing is so extreme that re-imported drugs would *still* be cheaper despite the added costs of being shipped internationally *twice*.

    So yeah, let’s fix America’s unjust health care system like William Oddie says. We can start by making Oddie pay the same price for our drugs that we do, and see how “affordable” the biweekly appointments and six drugs are when we Americans are no longer being forced to subsidize him!

    • Dan C

      That IS a market action. No one is forcing the drug companies to sell to the UK.

      • The Deuce

        Dan C:

        But somebody IS forcing Americans not to reimport drugs, thus artificially enabling the drug companies to fix prices in ways that would otherwise not be possible. Without that, American prices would go way down, and Oddie’s prices would go way up (assuming the NHS didn’t just cut off access to those drugs altogether rather than pay the required price), and we would share the burden of covering R&D costs.

      • The Deuce

        Oh, and by the way, socializing American health care wouldn’t do anything about those reimportation laws which are artificially propping up the cross-national price-gouging. In fact, by having the government buy those drugs up, you’d be increasing their price further. Oddie has no idea what he’s talking about, and how much he is unfairly being subsidized by our “unjust” (to us, not to him) health care system. If we were to put an end to it, he’d find out just how wonderful and “just” his system really is.

        • Jack

          And you sir have absolutely no idea how the British Healthcare system works, the NHS subsidises the cost of the drugs so that the service is free at the point of use (it is paid for out of general taxation) a word of advice from the Geico caveman “next time do a little research”.

          As for the fact that American hospitals can’t re-import those drugs or import generic drugs from across the boarder, lobby congress to change the law on that.

  • Richard C.

    Mark, you sap, did you bother to read the crappy study Oddie cited, co-authored by Obama appointee Elizabeth Warren? Its definition of “medical bankruptcy” is outrageously broad. Only 29% of their sample claimed that medical costs had contributed to their bankruptcies, but the other factors these skewed researchers added pumped the count up to 61%. And the analysis didn’t bother asking basic questions about larger categories of debt in the bankruptcies. I don’t know about you, but I don’t look for competent economic studies in an “American Journal of Medicine”. Still less, from your blog. However, if I want to see self-righteous twaddle, I know where to find it.

    • Mark Shea

      I was unaware it was self-righteous to think bankruptcy a bad thing or to think that GOP canards about the NHS were dubious. I stand corrected.

    • Dan C

      “Elizabeth Warren’s opinions are poisonous by nature” starts this remark.

      Medical economics is covered routinely in medical journals and an economic imoact remains a routine assessment of the value of certain public health assessments and interventions. Strike two.

      So, more than a quarter of the bankruptcies had medical costs contributing to them? Somehow, this is still huge to me. Incredibly huge and suggests that I would not want to get sick without insurance.

  • Carp

    Yes, but the point is Santorum made a stupid claim to make a valid point. Then Oddie made a stupid claim to refute Santorum. It was like Mr Whipple chastizing the ladies for squeezing the Charmine and then doing the SAME thing himself! Gosh.

    • Dan C

      The point of Santorum lacks validity and any moral basis.

  • Dan C

    The US health care system has successes. First, unlike the days of yore a century ago, antibiotics exist and it is unlikely that one dies of an infection, whether it is a dental abscess or a foot infection. Many pediatric leukemias have a greater than 85% survival rate. Surgery occurs and is safe due to elaborate anesthesia interventions to ensure this. We do heart surgery on the routine- a phenomenally high tech event involving stopping one’s heart and running all our blood through a pump which circulates blood for us. Its wild.

    This is now “health care” which involves elaborate systems now for support and management of patients and for safety. The romanticized Rockwell image of a rural doc is beautiful, but he didn’t save a premature babies or do neonatal surgery with laparoscopes. Such things are tech-heavy and unromantic. More star trek than Little House. Thank God.

    • Timothy of Seattle

      “The US health care system has successes. First, unlike the days of yore a century ago, antibiotics exist and it is unlikely that one dies of an infection…”

      The US didn’t invent antiobiotics…

      • David Davies

        Dan C didn’t say we did.

        • Timothy of Seattle

          I’m not sure how else to interpret his remark. As the US healthcare system didn’t invent antibiotics, I don’t think we’re entitled to claim their existence as a success for it.

          • Dan C

            The US did not invent Pennicillin. We invented some common antibiotics today, which are frequently used to treat infections that would otherwise be fatal.

            Is that your problem? Solved now?

  • Fr. Frank

    We live in a greying nation that in the next few years will no longer reproduce at replacement level. To date, we have aborted 53 million citizens, most of whom would have contributed to the tax base. With or without nationalized healthcare, euthanasia will be the economic solution employed to lower medical costs. Whether (R) or (D), it’s always been about the money.

    • Dan C

      We live in a society of enormous wealth and incredible levels of luxury entertainment. Any suggestion that we cannot afford this health care partakes of the immoral delusion that our private wealth is sacramentally untouchable and our public wealth the community shares is a waste of money unworthy undesirables use.

      The continuous promotion of the classification of undesirables over three decades by indulging Republican propagandistic, racist stereotypes (e.g. The Reagan promoted notion of “welfare queens”) has encouraged abortion.

      It will take just as long to unwind such insidious imprints in the American conscious and conscience. Speaking out when the poor are attacked (or the middle class now-Grover Norquist has taught that the middle class is a group of non-tax-paying parasites) is the beginning of teaching that the poor and their children and babies are desirable. We have enormous wealth, invested in our Playstations. Abortion as a societal mainstay is the tragic consequence of a culture that promotes selfishness as a reward for ambition and fear as a tool to promote war. Human life was long devalued before 5 old, white, conservative Republican justices gave us Roe.

      Abortion persists not as a consequence of a minor elite controlling the government, but because each woman chooses to have an abortion in a society that really doesn’t want to end abortion. Pro-life laws struggle to pass in the Reddest of states.

      Abortion is something more than the majority of Americans desire, many women choose without governmental compulsions and requirements (like China), in a society that has devalued the poor and their children overtly in Presidential campaigns-and gotten elected with those maneuvers. And those are the “pro-life” Presidents.

      Peace and care for the poor, as witnessed by Dorothy Day since prior to WW2, was the prophetic call. It still is. Without such a call, abortion will embroider itself further into American and global existences, because first the poor’s babies, which have never been welcomed, can be eliminated, and now, the no-tax-paying parasitic middle class’s children will be perceived as a drain on our resources, a drain whose elimination is desired. Again, this is the dominant direction of our most pro-life party.

      Preach the Gospel. Teach that Christ is Present in the poor, the sick, and the old – Gospel notions, really (and back to the topic of this post, the groups benefitting most from government supports of health care). Develop a sense that biblical literalists perhaps need the discipline to perceive radical love, forgiveness, and a cessation of violent military actions that Jeus’s Sermon actually preaches (in another Imperial age, one should presume He meant what he said). Abortion, now deeply ingrained in a society drenched, saturated, and promoting total war and rejection of the poor for generations now, will then disappear.

  • Michaelus

    In the US the poor go to hospital emergency rooms and the cost of treating their ailments is grossly exaggerated. In the US we have more wealthy people who choose to spend huge amounts of their own money to replace hips, receive more chemo, get another CT/PET scan etc. – this also drives up the average cost of medical care. In the US we also have a class of parasites called plaintiff’s attorneys.

    At least in the UK nurses are still called “sisters” – which is what they are.

    • Dan C

      I am not sure you are speaking from much data and instead repeating barroom myths.

      1) ER’s are used to treat common ailments, but are frequently used because of scheduling. The poor actually, usually work at low paying jobs. They cannot get off their work, which lacks benefits, and often use the ER. Waiting times for the free health clinics are often over a year for new adult appointments and weeks for simple ailments.
      2) Hip replacement is routine for the elderly. Not just the wealthy.
      3) The role of plaintiff’s attorneys are only highlighted by their political enemies, the Republicans. They do not end up highly factored into the expenditures of most non-partisan health care fiscal assessments. It is small potatoes.
      4) Expenditures in health care, despite folks’ limited views of how much one’s individual prescription cost, is the salaries. Pharmacists are expensive, nurses are expensive, doctors are expensive. Supervising the systems are expensive. Health care, since it involves lots of personnel and is a service industry, has its largest expenditure based on salary lines. The first target of the salary reductions would likely be nurses, because there are so many and even a mild reduction in salary is big change in expenditures.

  • Richard C.

    Thanks to Dan C for his comments.

    Even the 29% figure is misused: that’s a figure of bankruptcies to which (the filers state) medical costs *contributed*. Medical costs may or may not have been the largest category of debt in the case, but the authors characterize all those cases as “medical bankruptcies”, even when some of them might more accurately be characterized as failed-business bankruptcies or accident-liability bankruptcies that happen to include some medical bills too. I sincerely would like to know how many bankruptcies are caused by enormous medical expenses, but Warren & Co.’s paper does not answer the question.