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HEALTH CARE: Our ‘system’ pales in comparison

Letter by Kenneth E. Christopherson, Tacoma on April 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm with 74 Comments »
April 3, 2012 2:00 pm

By chance or design, articles that appeared Tuesday displayed the shame of American health care, topped out by Dr. Daniel J. Stone’s article on our disgraceful “free-market” health system. Yes, we can obtain world-best health care – if we can afford it. But the United Nations ranks U.S. health care as 37th! It is much exceeded by European countries’.

My wife and I lived in Norway’s system two years. Their system assures the best possible health care: single-payer (the government) pays for whatever is best care. Doctors can opt out and charge whatever they want, but competition keeps their charge low. Most doctors opt in and are paid good salaries (not our pay-per-treatment, thus eliminating overtreatment).

We had a son, age 4, who got knocked unconscious but “came to” in a few minutes. In the U.S., we’d have avoided “wasting” hospital expenses. But the “park aunt” sent him to the hospital, where X-rays showed he had a potentially dangerous concussion. They kept him hospitalized three days, until tests showed he was OK.

My Norwegian cousin developed incurable cancer, but their system gave him five more years of life at home. In our “richer” United States, he’d have lost his life much sooner.

I also have two cousins who are professionals in their system. He is a world-recognized kidney specialist, she a nurse. Both are proud of Norwegian health and puzzled by our “system.”

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Leave a comment Comments → 74
  1. alindasue says:

    I’m puzzled by our system too and even more by those who fight against reforming the major flaws in it.

  2. TheLawOfUnintendedConsequences says:

    Yawn, I’m concerned that you chose to leave paradise.
    You may need to return to Norway for a mental health check up.
    I will continue to take my chances here…

  3. cclngthr says:

    I have Cerebral Palsy, which allows an insurance company to deny any coverage due to the disability I have. Even IF they would cover me, the insurance premium would be over $2,100 a month.

    Our system denies coverages due to conditions that are preexisting and are according to the insurance industry as too costly to treat. While they may treat conditions that occur after the insurance coverage commenses, they also may choose to deny coverages.

    Our system also can deny therepy for other consitions. A couple who have a son with autism in Renton are suing their insurance company who denied coverage for the boys therepy.

    Our system is dependent upon those who are healthy and are rich enough to afford the care they would get here.

  4. I’ve had the pleasure of 16 years ( almost from it’s inception ) in the national health care system of Taiwan. It’s great, we here in the
    States refuse such a system out of ignorance, and too much fox news.

  5. TheLawOfUnintendedConsequences says:

    Pre-existing conditions is a problem and should be addressed without tearing down the entire system.
    I think 99% of Americans would support a law requiring insurance companies to accept applicants with pre-existing conditions as a condition for them being allowed to do business.

  6. fatecreatr says:

    First off, if your child is knocked unconscious for any reason (especially for “minutes”) you seek medical help. Secondly, yes, we get what we pay for here, as they do in Norway. If you’d like to pay an additional 15% in taxes each year, I’m sure we could accommodate top of the line “free” health care too.

    Moving from a free market system to 100% socialized would be a difficult transition on both sides, but we’d all have to pay much higher taxes for a system like that to work.

    Your comparison in a vacuum isn’t fair, complete or constructive.

    For example, the US has 65 times the population, at double the density with half the average income. When you take into account the different tax rates and mandatory 7.8% medial tax, that boils down to Norwegians spending a lot more on health care then we do. It’s taxed instead of paid at the time of service.

    I’m not saying there aren’t big advantages to a system like that, but we’d have to be willing to pay for it, with all that implies.

  7. alindasue says:

    15% is not much more than we are currently paying in premiums for insurance through my husband’s work. When we add in co-pays, $600 per person deductible, and out of pocket expenses, that “additional 15% in taxes” is starting to look pretty good!

  8. SandyQue says:

    15% additional taxes for 100% paid health care would be a tax decrease for my family

  9. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Alindasue, are you really advocating that an additional 15% of EVERYBODY’s income goes to our inefficient govt?

    The European model is failing. The socialist model is not only unAmerican, it does not work. Why did the author move back?

    Look at the bureaucracy in our education system, or any other massive govt system. Now give them healthcare! Nope.

    Individual responsibility, period.

  10. olympicmtn says:

    Ken
    No where in Europe are you taxed because you have private good health care. No where. Yet now if you have a Cadillac plan you will be taxed by Obama. My family has lived in Norway and Germany, and had private insurance and were not taxed for having added care. BTW you also don’t get treatment for salmonella unless you go to Austria where they will give you antibiotics for severe Salmonella. So when you hear about those European Salmonella deaths you may want to consider what if any treatment they got.

  11. sandblower says:

    The European model is not failing. Concerned is spouting more FOX nonsense.

  12. olympicmtn says:

    Fatecrea is right, population of Norway is quite small but even more so it is also extremely expensive to live there even in Oslo. Ask anyone people don’t go out as it is too expensive alcohol is $20 a drink, people go to 711 to get Indian food or eat scrambled eggs and lox daily due to high food prices and forget about driving as the oil rich Norway country keeps their wealth and gasoline is higher than western European countries. The socialist country also has no property rights so anyone can park a tent (99 percenters) on your private land and stay. You have no property rights so don’t kid yourself it’s a huge change for any American loving their current freedoms.

  13. sandblower says:

    Taxing “cadillac” plans is a good idea for several reasons (look it up)and there is no way to equally compare the health care system in any European country with the US system. Olympic man is opposed to anything our President does and that is all the excuse he needs to spin, spin, spin.
    By the way, how about some sources for your salmonella story.

  14. LornaDoone says:

    olympicmtn – and the price of tea in China is?????

    Are you saying that if the United States converted to a single payer plan (as if we don’t have one for seniors anyway) that Obama would come and take your house from you, while taking your gun and your wife?

    “Individual responsibility, period”

    OK. So, no more stock market. That isn’t individual responsibility, period.

    No more insurance programs at all, they are all co-ops, period

    If you want to drive a car you must have $100,000 in the bank as liability, period Pay cash for your health care, no insurance policies, period

    How are we doing so far? Question mark

  15. LornaDoone says:

    Did someone say salmonella?

    “A recent analysis of death certificates in the United States identified a total of 1,316 Salmonella-related deaths from 1990 to 2006.” Why isn’t this number “0” in the Land of the Free?

    “Life expectancy is increasing in Norway. In 2010, the highest ever Norwegian figures for life expectancy at birth were registered; 83.2 years for women and 78.9 years for men.” (number 12 in the world)

    The US trails at number 36.

  16. LornaDoone says:

    “Alindasue, are you really advocating that an additional 15% of EVERYBODY’s income goes to our inefficient govt?”

    Run by the GOP majority House of Representatives?

  17. lylelaws says:

    Let’s face the facts. If health insurance companies had to accept people with pre-exisating conditions, would insurance companies have to insure people after they wreck their cars, or homeowners after trees fall on their homes?

    The whole purpose of insurance is to cover people “IN CASE” they develop medical problems, wreck their cars or suffer losses from natural disasters.

    Should survivng family members should be allowed to purchase life insurance on their breadwinners who have passed away?

    Death is definately a pre-existing condition.

  18. LornaDoone says:

    Lyle – Nice thoughts. Sort of a death panel thing you got going on.

    If insurance companies are the problem, let’s go with a taxpayer financed single payer program and see if there is money left over because we don’t have to pay CEO salaries and stock holder earnings.

  19. alindasue says:

    lylelaws said, “Should survivng family members should be allowed to purchase life insurance on their breadwinners who have passed away?”

    Now you are getting silly. Once a person is dead, you cannot purchase any kind of insurance for him.

    In answer to your other questions, yes, insurance companies should not be able to cancel a policy holder so easily. Right now, the home and car insurance companies have quite a racket going on. A person can pay for insurance for 20 years, then as soon as the company has to pay even a fraction of what the policy holder paid in over the 20 years his rates or threaten to cancel his policy.

    Have you not noticed that insurance companies are often also in the “investment” business?

  20. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Lardnos, nice try. Medicare and SS are subsidized by the tax payer and govt debt, rapidly bankrupting our nation. Lets not pretend that they actually pay/paid into the system what they actually take out.

    The Sal deaths are not zero because some people (i.e. old people, weakened immune systems) die when they catch a treatable disease. Are you really this dense?

    The Republicans control the House. Who controls the Senate, the Admin, DOE, EPA, State Department, etc.? And the bureaucracy grows under both parties, so the solution is not just a party, but a smaller govt.

    Your DNC talking points are weak…

  21. cclngthr says:

    lylelaws,
    Are you saying, because I have CP, I should never have insurance because I’m too costly to remain alive?

  22. menopaws says:

    Our daughter used to work at a program at the Univ. of Washington’s Med School. Her boss was a physician who was married to another physician on the faculty there. He accepted a position at the University of Toronto and they have both been there for almost 4 years. When they come back to visit–they tell my daughter they will NEVER return to practice medicine in this country. The Canadian system puts care first and patients and Dr.’s don’t have to deal with mountains of paperwork and run arounds from insurance companies. Care is prioritized according to urgency of the condition and patients get wellness checks for everything, every year……Years ago I had a friend who was involved in a terrible auto accident in Rome Italy……Her mother told me when they arrived, the Dr.’s there had done a surgery on her that probably saved her shattered leg. There was no bill when they left the hospital and they were told she would require more surgery back in the States. Her Mom said their biggest cost was buying her 3 seats on the plane home so she could stretch out and elevate her leg, which was in a special cast. That was in the 1970’s and Italian system was better that long ago.
    Other people come online and talk about this–we are FAILING in our health care. We aren’t doing a good job. What does it take to convince people that this situation is 1. Too expensive 2. Not very efficient 3. Not very good in delivering needed health care……….This is important to our economic health as a nation. We need to get this under control or it will affect our economic power in the world. The same people who don’t want to pay higher taxes are the ones screaming for help from FEMA in Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri, etc……….There is no free ride and you get what you pay for in this life. We have paid a lot of money and gotten very little in return……..Don’t you think it’s time to change this system and get more bang for our hard earned bucks? Or do you enjoy higher premiums and poorer care as part of your freedom to be stupid?

  23. concernedtacoma7 says:

    CCL- are you not lucky? Your lifelong costs are great. You rely on the charity of a nation.

  24. cclngthr says:

    concernedtacoma7,
    Not exactly. When I worked full time, the insurance premium would have been $2,100 a month, even IF the company accepted me. I could not afford that premium, plus pay my bills. The district has 4 separate plans by different companies, and only one accepted me. The rest refused to cover me.

    I still have to pay out of pocket for most things because what I need is not covered.

  25. lylelaws says:

    cclngthr,

    I am sorry that you have cp, but my point is that privately owned insurance companies have the right to determine who they will or will not insure and the rate they will charge.

  26. cclngthr says:

    Concerned,

    I take a medication that does damage to gums and teeth (gum receding and tooth decay). It is recommended by the drug manufacturer that the user of this kind of medication have more frequent dental cleanings and tooth repair work. They recommend a bimonthly dental checkup and professional cleaning to keep gums and teeth healthy. However most dental plans only allow biannual cleaning and dental checkups. I cannot change the medication, which has been in the market for 35-40 years since it works and other medications may not work. The state or medicare does not cover this.

  27. cclngthr says:

    lylelaws,
    So it is your belief that a person who an insurance company feels it is too costly should be immediately killed?

    Private insurance companies are not concerned about the health or welfare of its clients. All they are concerned with is how to make an easy buck.

    I think the healthcare system here needs a complete overhaul. I think the healthcare system needs to be heavily regulated and the costs of care be controlled where healthcare providers must justify the cost of what care they provide. I also think insurance companies should be NON-PROFIT where no profit is allowed.

    For example, the drive tires for my wheelchair are $104 each (wheel included) where the actual tire only costs $25.00. Granted, the tire color is gray, the color does not warrant the high cost.

  28. volvo1999 says:

    Hey Ken,

    Your story about Norway is the complete opposite of my good friend from Norway, he lost his high school sweetheart and father in a years time, 3 years ago. He and his family believe that if they had been in the USA for treatment that they would still be alive.The doctors in Norway had no idea how to treat their ailments. Sorry I am staying with the good old USA, I don’t believe your story, I think you are full of it, oh, by the way only 4.9 million people live in Norway, pretty east to cover 4.9 million people. I am sure the USA pays for far more illegal aliens healthcare.

  29. sandblower says:

    Ah yes, the good ole illegal alien schtick with no source or anything of value to back it up. A 99 volvo is well past its prime in more ways than one.

  30. tree_guy says:

    Norwegians get hungry too…does the government supply their food too?

  31. alindasue says:

    volvo1999 said, “He and his family believe that if they had been in the USA for treatment that they would still be alive.”

    Maybe. Maybe not. It’s quite possible doctors in the USA wouldn’t have know how to treat their ailments either. People die in our hospitals every day.

    The thing is, even if they did know how to treat the ailments, under our current system, they may have died anyhow due to lack of insurance coverage.

    By the way, 4.9 million people live AND PAY TAXES in Norway. They can afford to cover that many people because the taxpayers pay for it. We have more people here in the USA, but we also have a proportionate amount more people who can pay for it. The number of people in the country isn’t the issue.

  32. took14theteam says:

    Can someone please tell me what the hell this means?

    “We had a son, age 4, who got knocked unconscious but “came to” in a few minutes. In the U.S., we’d have avoided “wasting” hospital expenses. But the “park aunt” sent him to the hospital, where X-rays showed he had a potentially dangerous concussion. They kept him hospitalized three days, until tests showed he was OK.”

  33. bobcat1a says:

    Volvo, your story of Norway is a little hard to swallow because:
    adult mortality rate per 1000:
    Norway 67 US 106 Canada 70 UK 77 France 85 Germany 76
    total healthcare cost as percent of GDP
    Norway 9.7% US 16.2% Canada 10.9% UK 9.4% France 11.7% germany 11.7%
    I threw in the other countries just for comparison purposes.

    They pay less, get more. Not a one of them pays more than 3/4 what we do and the chances of dying are less. I prefer less costly and alive. Spin it however you wish, if they can do it, why can’t we? Could it be, horror of horrors, that there are some things the government does better than private industry?

  34. bobcat1a says:

    took1, it sounds like pretty clear basic english. What has you confused?

  35. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Blame our court system and te cost of insurance (for doctors).

    Alindasue, remember only 1/2 for the bulk of the services

  36. cclngthr says:

    Alinda,

    One issue I see with our system, as you likely have seen with your son is the lack of insurance, or insurance not covering conditions. People with disabilities are often denied coverage of medical treatment by insurance companies because of the financial reason.

    concernedtacoma7,
    Court cases involving insurance denying coverage for proper treatment is necessary. A couple from Renton sued their insurance company for denying coverage for medical treatment their son, who has autism. This clearly violates state laws on treatment of mental conditions. They won. Now it is being considered as a class action suit because insurance companies are arbitrarily denying coverage for something they are mandated by law to cover.

    Or are you suggesting companies continue denying coverage because you prefer to eradicate society of people who don’t have the sustinance to be independent? If you believe this, what you are suggesting is we automatically kill people because they’re too expensive to treat and they are unworthy of life.

  37. It’s time that Ju Do be applied to the health care system
    in America. A system of using the problem’s own energy
    by selective leverage.

  38. blame our court system and te cost of insurance (for doctors).

    Why? In the states that have severely restricted the ability to sue there is NO REDUCTION in medical costs.

    Evidence. Blaming lawyers for the price of doctors and drugs might feel good to you but ya gotta show some evidence.

  39. scott0962 says:

    The government of Norway can afford generous social programs like free health care given it’s small population and large revenues from North Sea oil.

  40. hansgruber says:

    Sounds like most the commentors should move to Norway or Taiwan for their medical care.

    Fox news in Norway?

    Here in America, I pay 15.7% of my income on meedical insurance. I like my medical insurance. I like my doctor.

  41. “The European model is failing.”

    No it isn’t, in fact it is doing quite well.

    The facts are simple, the only real solution to our health care is single payer.

  42. “Here in America, I pay 15.7% of my income on meedical insurance. I like my medical insurance. I like my doctor.”

    What makes you think any of that would change, eight under a single payer system or the evil dreaded ‘Obamacare’? (which if you knew anything at all you would know NOTHING will change for you)

  43. harleyrider1 says:

    I’m sure we would have health care for all too, if our country was less then 5-million people.

    How do you propose paying for 360-million people to have “free” health care, when less than half work during the good economic times?

    People travel, brag about another country, but no one stays there. America, for all these peoples’ complaints, is the best Country to live in. And when 46% of Americans are supporting the rest of the hyphenated-Americans that tout allegiance to another country, it’s even a wonder we are still that.

  44. As long as the narrow minded persist in entertaining the notion that those who need medical care the most will have the least access to that medical care due to the insane logic promoted by “for profit” healthcare insurance corporations whose bottom line depends on their ability to deny treatment to those who need it. Health insurance corporations have outlived their usefulness and should be replaced by a single payer system. Obamacare should be outlawed because it doesn’t go far enough and replaced with a plan that works for everyone. We should be ashamed that anyone in our country is denied access to needed healthcare…..for any reason.

  45. I always love how American Exceptionalists maintain that America can’t do what other countries manage to do because….well…we’re an exception.

  46. A coupla points…

    First, RE-form does not mean TRANS-form. Changes in our system to make it more efficient and fair are not a problem for me. My problem is the same one SOTUS seems to be having with the current proposed changes because it seeks to transform the fundamentals that DO make this country exceptional.

    Second, thanks Volvo for reminding us that anecdotal stories are not worth much. They just aren’t. As has been shown here, for every one of them there is a narrative that “proves” the opposite point.

    And thanks for a dose of common sense, Harleyrider, and a reminder that this remains the best place in the world to live.

    Finally, at what cost do these countries with “the perfect plan” have the perfect plan? Count the cost.

  47. menopaws says:

    Like I said–the freedom to be stupid overpowers our needs……..

  48. averageJoseph says:

    An x-ray showed a concussion? Wow. That’s like startrek medicine man.

    Sounds like Norway would make you very happy.

  49. Maybe we should help all of these free-loaders to move to Norway. We’ll see then just how great their system really works. While we’re at it, maybe we can convince Norway and the rest of Europe to start financing their own miltary and get America out of the business of being the sugar daddy for the rest of the world.

  50. Move back to Europe, health care will improve once everyone vacates

  51. How ’bout those freeloaders on Social Security and Medicare?

  52. Bandito, if they never paid into the system, they should be cut off.

  53. scooter6139 says:

    I think we should start a simple experiment. All those who want to be on a single payer system provided by the government and paid for by increased taxes against those who wish to keep their individual healthcare plans. (To be fair, they don’t have to pay the extra tax but have to pay all their co-pays and monthly premiums and deductions out of pocket, as they do now.) To further balance the field, lets take away the dreaded health care reforms currently being implemented and let the free market determine how the insurance companies price and implement their plans.

    Now lets wait a few years. Anyone want to take a bet on which coverage most people will be using? (Here’s a hint: the government isn’t about profits or the bottom line.)

  54. bobcat1a says:

    Frosty, exactly who do you think is threatening to attack Norway?

  55. reminding us that anecdotal stories are not worth much.

    That is why the facts and figures are important:

    While Norway spends quite a bit on medicine compared to other countries, it still is far below the US ($7,538 per capita in the US v. $5,003 in Norway). Norway’s health system is ranked 11th and US ranked 37th by the WHO. Life expectancy – Norway 80.2, US 78.3. Infant mortality (deaths/1,000 live births) Norway 3.51, US 7.07.

    I can’t see any statistic that doesn’t suggest that Norway does it cheaper and better than we do.

  56. Beer boy, Facts will make the heads pop off of these idiot repukeicans!

  57. LornaDoone says:

    “frosty says:
    April 4, 2012 at 8:51 am Bandito, if they never paid into the system, they should be cut off.”

    No one pays into Social Security or Medicare what they take out, but let’s not let simple math or logic get in the way.

  58. LornaDoone says:

    The conservative mantra:

    1. The European system is failing.

    2. Social Security and Medicare is bankrupting our country.

    3. Repeat

  59. LornaDoone says:

    “The doctors in Norway had no idea how to treat their ailments.”

    What a crock.

  60. “Yet now if you have a Cadillac plan you will be taxed by Obama.”

    When will the right stop the mis-information/lies?

  61. “the current proposed changes because it seeks to transform the fundamentals that DO make this country exceptional.”

    More right wing mis-information and lies.

  62. LornaDoone says:

    “scott0962 says:
    April 4, 2012 at 6:18 am The government of Norway can afford generous social programs like free health care given it’s small population and large revenues from North Sea oil.”

    The health care isn’t free, it’s paid for via taxation.

    As to oil revenues, if the United States took control of natural resources or taxed private industry to fund health care or redistributed the money to the citizenry, that would be “socialism” in the alleged minds of the conservatives, even though they applaud Sarah Palin for arranging such in Alaska with oil revenues.

    Now, that being said, maybe if the United States would take 50% of the military spending and put it to use on health care subsidies for citizens (add in the $4 billion handed to oil companies) we might solve the problem.

    Of course, if the problem is solved, the conservatives would have to come up with a new complaint about Obama, other than health care mandates that they supported in the early 1990s.

  63. LornaDoone says:

    “taxed by Obama”

    You can see that the mind control tactics directed at the right wing are working perfectly

  64. LornaDoone says:

    “The Republicans control the House. Who controls the Senate, the Admin, DOE, EPA, State Department, etc.? And the bureaucracy grows under both parties, so the solution is not just a party, but a smaller govt.”

    Who needs a civics class?

  65. SandHills says:

    I always see those comparing a small, homogenious, polulated country with our large, multi-cultural, masses. The Japans, Koreas, Denmarks, and Swedens, of the world do not have all the magified issues of a national healthcare system that would face America.

    Besides, the size – most of these nations eat and excercise better than all the Big Macs we eat here. And yet they still pay much higher premiums in terms of taxation than we pay here. I seriously doubt if our taxation was raised to pay for a comparable national healthcare as these small nations we would still get far less for our money. I’m thinking more of a USSR model of healthcare – or at best the Canadian version (much more a realistic comparison than a small nation like Norway).

    Naivete at it’s best in the letter writers comparison…..

  66. bobcat1a, in answer to your question about who is threatening to attack Norway, I could add, who is threatening to attack any European country where we spend billions of dollars in their defense. This country has been supporting Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico, Canada and many other countries for a very long time. Why can they afford to build their infrastructure and sit around sipping wine in out door cafes? The answer is simple, they know that good ol’ Uncle Sam is always there to do their heavy lifting for them.

  67. bobcat1a, in answer to your question about who is threatening to attack Norway, I could add, who is threatening to attack any European country where we spend billions of dollars in their defense. This country has been supporting Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico, and many other countries for a very long time. Why can they afford to build their infrastructure and sit around sipping wine in out door cafes? The answer is simple, they know that good ol’ Uncle Sam is always there to do their heavy lifting for them.

  68. One too amny Canada’s

  69. on too many Canada’s

  70. frosty – it looks like you have partaken in one too many something’s……You are calling them “Canada’s” these days huh?

  71. Just big fingers b.b.

  72. I’m sure that my last comment will be taken out of context by some of the straight -haired, thin- lipped girls who comment here.

  73. frosty – you sure are doing your best to secure your role as poster-boy for the GOP’s “non-war on women”…..

  74. beerboy. I love women, why would I want to make war on them? Or are liberals the only one’s who love women?

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