T.R. Reid's 5 Myths About Health Care Around the World

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His new book, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care,” was published this week. But this myth column was published in the Washington Post on Sunday.

Here’s the tease of the five myths. Read the full article to see how he backs up each of the five.

1. It’s all socialized medicine out there.

2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.

3. Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.

4. Cost controls stifle innovation.

5. Health insurance has to be cruel.

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Comments (10)

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Mike Hancock

August 26, 2009 at 7:18 am

My gut tells me these are likely accurate. The problem is that it then makes me very mad that we have so many looking at ways to better our system here in the US and we can’t seem to get it done correctly.
Can it really be that “money” is the root? Is it possible that the money associated with big insurance is preventing our leadership from figuring out that our current healthcare model is broken – too inefficient and costly and must be scrapped? And are we not smart enough to quickly evaluate the systems Mr. Reid describes, take the good, combine it with our experience, and truly implement the world’s best healthcare system?
Something is drastically wrong here if we can’t. Any suggestions on how I can rally “the folks” to help do something? And what should we do?

A J Cohen

August 27, 2009 at 1:51 am

Given our remarkable medical assets — the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced hospitals, world-class research — the United States could be, and should be, the best in the world. To get there, though, we have to be willing to learn some lessons about health-care administration from the other industrialized democracies. T.R. Reid
Mr Reids summary paragraph codifies my overall feelings for many of the medical marvels we are able to accomplish within our HC system. It metaphorically has me (nay, all of us in the states..) staring planned obsolescence in the face, wondering when the vacuum of our hubris-as-quantifiable-outrage (recent town hall meetings and “don’t tread on me” raucous demonstrations outside) mental capacity to actually COME INFORMED to any debate…..will simply crush/crash the HC system before we and our congressional leaders can discern the-next-step reality.
This final paragraph is also the perfect jumping off point for an entire debate surrounding our current 2009 ability – with our past 100 years of business/social/political/ecumenical/financial fits & starts glaring at us from the sidelines – to ‘couda, shoulda, wouda” become “contenders” in the grand scheme of leading the world in anything.
Posit 1: Try balancing the scales of successful American business programs with the malevolent rise of Corp capitalism, especially these past 20 years. We have all seen the stress filled impugnment of the American worker and the rapacious after affects from the thousands of M&A’s that have constantly changed the face of the work landscape, the worker, the end product/service and ultimately the customer’s ever distant relationship with that newly overhauled company. Ummmm…before its call/service center was outsourced to Bangladore. Couple that with the October 2008 destruction of our former platform / benchmark for financial stability – which is STILL looking for a new benchmark or standard by which all can measure a starting point for comprehending the new investment model. Now season this with the profit driven, publicly traded, stockholder profit appeasement 1st-B4 patient granted treatments….of the current HC company model. And now you really want to debate how they might bring sense & sensibility & respect & fair premiums to the negotiation table?
Posit 2: The small-to-medium sized business owner, the boot-strapped startup, or the on-a-financial-leash entrepreneurial yet very innovative/fleet of foot at getting goods/services to the market quickly, company. Could they really try to compete against a new Congressional decided HC world, whereby the publicly traded, large corp giant HC companies have more lobby, special interest, political sway, marketing, etc…power to hold them down or back??
Besides….if you recall our nations history….once the small-to-medium sized company get their toe-hold into the “new HC system” our government / its agencies is fraught with over-burdening rules / controls / paperwork / too much time to communicate / making everyone wait / politically motivated restrictions / etc….for these size of companies to achieve a sincere level of efficiency.
Posit 3: Again, we review our federal agency history. And again….my greatest fear is that with the growth of our agencies, the inherent bureaucracy that is built up over the course of months to years with new or “add-on” programs…the recalcitrant nature of government agencies to actually communicate on a rapid/just-like-a-bsuiness level, those in all management levels and feet-to-the-street workers at different levels of support/communication that HAVE NEVER been part of a start-up or mid-sized growth oriented company…………..will not have the skill sets to address a government run HC program. Check the CBO…..besides the news on the Post Offices past 2 years of being billions in the red( gee…only $7Bln so far this year) almost every other federal agency is both having their budgets cut, and are in the red for the budget they had. A recipe for efficiency and program support/ communication disaster………….is looming!
Before this entire HC debate started…..numerous people on both sides of the HC debate, no matter their party affiliation, people with a brain….should have sat down with the TR Reids……should have already analyzed all existing HC systems from around the globe, laid out what did & did not work for them in the early years of launching their programs, noted the changes/improvements to the citizenry whenever the system was fine-tuned, and then compared all of this data to GDP expenditures of these nations. Then and only then would one safely toss the HC live grenade into Congress right before the summer break and ask for level-playing-field miracles and economical epiphanies to be written in blood by September. Yet now the partisanship is sooooo irreverent on all sides of the debate – Public/Political/Private – that hearing the wind of change inside the forest………….is now becoming a Grimm’s Fairy Tale.
Sadly, having reached a state of entropy on sooooo many issues affecting the forward progress of humans on this planet – knowing that we are but a speck out here in our own vast universe, not to mention the other universes surrounding our own – the current approach, with the current limited consciousness, can only produce ___________ results. Whoever is up next, can fill in that blank!

George Robinson

August 29, 2009 at 11:50 am

Hows this then…..
Name one country that has a single payer system, ie a NHS that actually works. The Swedish NHS. Works as good as one can expect. Same day appointments if needed, cost up front a fee of $17, and it costs the same to see a specialist, and it costs the same for minor surgery, and it costs the same for extremely expensive surgery. Medication from the doctor costs a max of $245 for the first year, then 50% of that for the following years, no matter how much the medication costs, even the expensive cancer drugs which in the states could cost up to as much as $48000 a year. Medication from the doctor is available at any drugstore across the country within minutes, all done by the internet. Dental care is also cheap costing about $55 a year for care of the teeth. Waiting times vary from district to district, but are as low as a couple of weeks


April 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Am enjoying the thought provoking “The Healing of America”. On page 18 Mr Reid states that patients receive no bills in the VA system. Most veterans do receive bills, e.g., $50 for a visit in a specialty clinic. Most are also billed $8 a month for each med they receive.


August 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Its surprising to see that US insurance firms spend almost 20cents of $1 towards administrative costs. Is this one of the major contributing factor towards rising health costs?