My youngest bullied me into a haircut and as it was a warm day, I stripped down and perched on a high stool in the sun, telling the world I still had enough hair for it to matter. She had a look over my back and poked a spot she didn’t like. “Get this looked at, Dad.” Now you don’t mess with Jessica, she’s a cop, so I did and a biopsy later, I am booked in to have it removed.
Don’t worry, it is a basal cell carcinoma so it is not dangerous to health or pocket. The cost of consultation, pathology and operation are all bulk billed. To my friends across the Pacific, that means my wallet stays in my pocket. The doctor is paid from the public purse, (a little less than the standard fee) for all patients seen that day according to a formula, so there are no charity cases and paper work is minimised.
Negative publicity following Obama’s proposal for a universal national medical scheme got me thinking about a discussion I heard recently that was prompted by a question asked on radio about eye health in New York, USA.
The question, asked by an Aussie tourist upon her return to Sydney was; “Why do so many people in New York have cross eyes or splayed eyes? Why are there none here?”
The answer from Dr Norman Swan, radio presenter of medical programs was: ‘If a child is born here with an eye muscle defect, testing is done and if the parents agree, surgery is performed before mother and child leave the hospital, all free of charge. If the same child were born in a public hospital in New York, the condition would most likely not be treated because the operation would cost the already cash strapped parents many thousands of dollars and the same operation on an adult costs tens of thousands.’
Now, you can argue all you want that publicly funded health is socialism, which it is, but so are 'free' roads and bridges, not to mention parks and public schools. All these publicly funded facilities pay a dividend to the community and so does public health. Good eyesight is clearly an advantage in the workplace and people who are limited by less than optimal health are less productive. Public funded health here is not the first step towards totalitarianism, but is an investment in a more productive society.
However, idealism of any colour encourages us to defend nonsensical positions and that is what I think is happening in the US health debate.
Having visited the USA myself, I have experienced the similarities with home, the friendliness and help generously offered by individuals and the support Americans give to each other. So I am amazed at the anti-anything-collective rhetoric that seems so out of place in a caring society!
Obama is spoken of in the same sentence as Stalin and Lenin! But I guess we need to ask; who is saying it? Here, family doctors and doctors in the public hospital system will never be super rich. So, I guess a system that has many doctors on salary must pose a threat to those who are mainly there for the money and are terrified their income might be reduced from fabulous to merely high.
Our total health cost per capita is way below that of the USA, despite much of it being publicly funded and universal. Every doctors know he/she will be paid, so they go ahead and do what is best for the patient. The system does suffer from overloaded demand for elective surgery, but in any emergency, comprehensive treatment is available, free of charge, to anyone who needs it. I don’t think any President ever achieved that, but neither did Stalin!