Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Numbers don't lie

I suppose it is no surprise that the world is currently focused on America and the health care debate, especially from countries where socialized medicine is a given. I didn't, however, expect to be attacked en masse for defending my view that socialized medicine is not necessarily a good thing or that taking a stand against socialized medicine makes me a heartless and selfish bitch.

Some of the comments ranged from viciously personal to calling my intelligence into question and every one of the comments bordered on, and was often colored with, outright hostility. I finally had to delete the comments because nothing new was said and the same old lines were used to bludgeon me into abject submission. However, anyone who knows me at all knows that I may occasionally back out of a heated discussion, but that does not in any way constitute abject submission, merely a breathing space to marshal some facts and figures of my own.

It may seem callous to fight against anything that is supposed to be for the good of all or to not want to extend full medical coverage to illegal aliens, but the situation here in the United States is different from that in any other country.

To begin with, most people in other countries, and even here in the U.S., have no idea the scope of the problem or the size of this country. They know the United State is big, but not actually how big. I checked out some numbers to clear up any misconceptions.

Now for the facts and figures

The United States encompasses a physical area of 4,459,726 square miles/11,550, 690.34 square km and has 305 million residents (legal residents). This does not include visitors, tourists, foreign diplomats, ambassadors and their staffs, illegal aliens or immigrants seeking either asylum or holding green cards. Now let's put that up against some of the countries touting their systems as more workable and better.

  • France:
    Population 64,057,792
    3,794,080 sq miles / 9,826,630 sq km

  • United Kingdom:
    Pop. 60,943,912
    94,600 sq mi / 60,943 sq km

  • Australia:
    Pop. 21,007,310 (population concentrated mainly along the coastline)
    2,967,909 sq mi / 7,686,884.31 sq km

  • Canada:
    Pop. 33,000,000
    3,559,294 sq mi / 9,218,571 sq km

  • Israel:
    Pop. 7,411,000
    8,522 sq mi / 20,770 sq km

  • New Zealand:
    Pop. 4,173,460
    103,737 sq mi / 268,021 sq km

As you can see, none of these countries have the total area or the population in the United States. Our problem is much bigger and more complex, especially when considering how to pay for socialized medicine that would cover every individual in the country without stinting on medical services to at least some portion of the population. We do have a system in place that has been covering the uninsured and indigent portion of our population, in actuality two systems. They are called Medicaid and Medicare. It comes as no surprise to Americans that Medicare is almost broke and working in shifting sands with the high tide coming in.

I read an article just yesterday that stated there would be no cost of living raise for Medicare recipients for at least the next two years and the fees for medications, which are paid for by the recipient, are going up. Both of these actions mean that everyone on Medicare is getting less and being charged more. Medicaid, however, will continue to percolate since it is covered by taxpayer dollars and taxes have not and will be abated.

It would seem that, with a much bigger population, there would be more money to spread around, but that would be in a perfect world where government hasn't grown beyond the bounds of reason and common sense and hasn't been picking the American taxpayers' pockets for a very long time. You see, the taxpayers pay for those cushy government jobs and all the benefits that government employees receive, some of which continue to the end of the employees' lives, as in the case of presidents, vice presidents and members of Congress, which also includes paying for their premium health care.

One of the other factors in the well oiled machine that is socialized medicine in all the countries listed above is how they pay for it. Obviously, taxes subsidize a good portion of the health care costs, but all of those countries get a boost from -- you guessed it -- foreign aid from the United States of America.

  • France: $10,168 billion

  • United Kingdom: $12,217 billion

  • Australia: $3,038 billion

  • Canada: $4,577 billion

  • Israel: $2,250 billion

  • New Zealand: $355 million

Puts things in a different perspective. And let us not forget all the aid given to Germany and France in the wake of World War II, none of which has been repaid.

One of the misconceptions that the rest of the world has about the U.S. and its lack of cradle to grave socialized medicine is that there are millions of people dying in the streets for lack of health care, dying of treatable illnesses. While there are 46 million uninsured people in this country, which comprises about 15% of the population, there are services and free clinics in place to cover most of their health care needs. However, that doesn't mean these people don't die of treatable diseases.

Most of the time, the uninsured don't seek medical treatment because of the costs, but that is a small percentage of the 46 million uninsured. The people who don't seek treatment are not aware that medical care exists that will take care of them, and has always existed. There are free clinics and community health care centers that charge on a graduated basis, but most people don't know they are out there because they have not been educated or made aware of their options.

Almost all of the free clinics and community health care centers are funded by -- wipe that surprised look off your face -- the rich and by the upper middle class, the very people whose pockets the current administration seeks to pick to spread the wealth around. During times like this when socialized medicine is being debated and talk of redistribution of wealth is rampant, those very same benefactors stop contributing to the free clinics and community health care centers.

The increasing numbers of people applying for and being granted Medicare and Medicaid show that the system does work, albeit slowly, but do you really believe that a government run cradle to grave health care system would work any better? Did you forget that the government currently runs Medicare and Medicaid and Medicare is nearly, if not already, bankrupt? And you want more of the same?

As long as insurance companies have the country by the throat, and the pocketbook, the cost of health care will continue to rise. We don't need a new system or to add more government agencies and employees that the taxpayers will have to support, in addition to taxes and surcharges for socialized medicine. We need to fix the system that is in place and put it back within reach of the average person. It's insane to reinvent the wheel when all that is needed is to fix the broken axle or replace the missing and dysfunctional spokes, and that is what the proposed health care plans, each and every one of them, are designed to do.

We do not need more government and we don't need to redistribute the wealth. What we need are intelligent people in office who are working for the common good and not for their own vain egos or to line their pockets. We've paid enough, and, by we, I mean the American taxpayers whose voices have been ignored once their representatives get into office.

Funding socialized medicine in a small country with less than half the total legal population of the United States is child's play compared to dealing with a country the size and complexity of ours, especially when you're being underwritten by the United States.

Most of the world resents the United States' involvement in their affairs, and I think it's time we returned the favor. I, for one, resent the world telling me how our country should be run when they are accepting our money to keep their systems afloat. If you like your system, please feel free to keep it -- and your noses -- out of our debate. We had no say or comment when you decided to socialize your health care, so you have no say in how we do or do not run our health care.

To believe that tens of millions of Americans are dying in the streets for lack of affordable health care is naive at best, and gullible at worst. You've obviously not heard of hyperbole or scare tactics, both of which are being used to stampede Americans towards the socialized abyss. To equate an American tourist to Canada who becomes ill and is taken to the local hospital for care with our health care debate is disingenuous and fatuous. An American tourist in any country is spending money, thousands of U.S. dollars, and likely will pay for the health care received in your country. If a Canadian tourist, or indeed a tourist from any country in the world, became ill and was taken to the hospital in the U.S., they would receive quality care, too.

The United States has the best and most advanced medical care in the world. If not, why would Russia send their prima ballerinas to the U.S. for surgery if their socialized system of medical care could handle a delicate and highly technical operation like ankle surgery so that a national treasure could return to dancing?

Our system isn't perfect, but if the politicians and administration get their collective heads out of their collective backsides long enough, or lift their snouts from the trough long enough to hear the voice of the people, we could fix our system and get health care costs back in line with what they should be. It takes time, but it also takes wisdom and the willingness to see beyond the end of their greedy snouts that the answer was a simple one. Fix the wheel, don't reinvent it.

In the meantime, how about this? The United States will no longer subsidize the rest of the world with foreign aid and keep the money to fund Medicare in perpetuity and keep health care costs low so there are no more millions dying in the streets of treatable diseases and the rest of the world will no longer have any need to debate our fate.

That is all. Disperse.

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