Death by insurance

I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room. —George W. Bush

In advance of a promised veto of legislation that would extend improved healthcare benefits to the nation’s poorest children, Mr. (well-insured by the government) Bush is off on an obfuscation bender. He’s repeating all the usual lies, his main point being that the worst thing for the American people would be “government healthcare”.

Paul Krugman answers Mr. (well-insured by the government) Bush:

The claim that the uninsured can get all the care they need in emergency rooms is just the beginning. Beyond that is the myth that Americans who are lucky enough to have insurance never face long waits for medical care.

Actually, the persistence of that myth puzzles me. I can understand how people like Mr. Bush or Fred Thompson, who declared recently that “the poorest Americans are getting far better service” than Canadians or the British, can wave away the desperation of uninsured Americans, who are often poor and voiceless. But how can they get away with pretending that insured Americans always get prompt care, when most of us can testify otherwise?

A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: “In reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American people are already waiting as long or longer than patients living with universal health-care systems.”

Let’s say it again slowly, for Mr. (well-insured by the government) Bush and the rest of our (well-insured by the government) politicians — single-payer, universal healthcare will not lead to greater waits for critical healthcare.

And it will most certainly not lead to worse outcomes, as happens when insurance companies withhold care in order to increase profits:

Besides, not all medical delays are created equal. In Canada and Britain, delays are caused by doctors trying to devote limited medical resources to the most urgent cases. In the United States, they’re often caused by insurance companies trying to save money.

This can lead to ordeals like the one recently described by Mark Kleiman, a professor at U.C.L.A., who nearly died of cancer because his insurer kept delaying approval for a necessary biopsy. “It was only later,” writes Mr. Kleiman on his blog, “that I discovered why the insurance company was stalling; I had an option, which I didn’t know I had, to avoid all the approvals by going to ‘Tier II,’ which would have meant higher co-payments.”

He adds, “I don’t know how many people my insurance company waited to death that year, but I’m certain the number wasn’t zero.”

Death by insurance — the real crisis in American healthcare.

Michael Sky