Reason has a good review of the latest Michael Moore movie. Moore is both a practiced liar and not-too-smart. The implication that "free healthcare" run by the government is somehow immune to the laws of economics is classic Moore boilerplate:
One of the systems Sicko suggests as a template for a remodeled American health care is the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS). The "first way [the British] decided to pull together after the [Second World War]," Moore says, "was to provide free medical care for everyone."
Viewers are taken to London's Hammersmith Hospital, held up as a shining example of socialized care, where doctors are well-paid and patients well looked after. Moore ambles through the corridors interviewing patients that acclaim the NHS's free care,' and express horror at the barbarism of the American system. Indeed, the facility's "cashier" exists to give money to patientsfor travel reimbursementsrather than taking it from them. But as is often the case with Moore's films, the reality is more complex.
In 2005, London's Evening Standard reported that Hammersmith Hospital would slash hundreds of jobs; the hospital, the most debt-ridden in Britain, was hemorrhaging money and desperately needed to cut costs. And while the hospital was "downsizing", Hammersmith's CEOyes, even the NHS has an executive classcollected a year-end bonus of close to $20,000. Small beer by American standards, but enough to provoke tabloid headlines in Britain.
Much like the American hospitals Moore excoriates, Hammersmith Hospital, the Evening Standard reported, faced pressure from administrators to limit the number of patients treated in order to cut spending. In a country where the government promises to winnow down queues to 18 weeks, this isn't an anomalous problem. A recent BBC documentary accused the NHS of using dangerously high doses of radiation on patients "to save time and money."
I'm sympathetic to reforming the availability of health insurance, and could live with the Romney healthcare initiative, which mandates individual insurance, but lets the private sector run the show. But allowing individuals to own their own health insurance and carry it from job to job would be a more meaningful reform - and univeralism can be over-rated. On this, I'm in agreement with this National Review editorial. And yes, I see no problem with the wealthy having access to better care than the less wealthy.
Moreover, a wholesale shifting of healthcare from the private to the public sector simply means replacing rationing by wealth with rationing by number, and a drastic decrease in individual freedom on both sides of the medical equation. You'd replace insurance company bureaucrats who deny care with government bureaucrats who deny care. Removing the financial incentive from doctors simply means they will provide sloppier treatment. They're not saints. They're human beings. And slashing the profit motive from the drug companies will simply mean fewer new drugs for fewer illnesses. This is the trade-off the left will deny till they're blue in the face. But it's a real trade-off.
The European health systems have, of course, been free-riding on private U.S. drug research for decades. Name a great new drug developed in Europe these past ten years. Their own pharmaceutical industries have been decimated by the socialism Moore loves (and many of Europe's drug companies have relocated to the US as a result). But I fear the left is winning this battle; and the massive advantages of private healthcare are only appreciated when you lose them.