Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Superiority of American Medicine

Patriots boast that American medicine is the best in the world. My view is more nuanced, but let me take their point of view. You’ll be amazed at the dumb things foreign doctors do!

They don’t give antibiotics for ear infections!
If your child suffers a miserable, painful ear infection, your doctor prescribes an antibiotic. In many European countries, doctors give medicines for pain and fever but no antibiotic. If you’re wondering what happens to these poor children with earaches, the answer is: they get better. Even in America, experts are debating whether or not antibiotics work for ear infections. Maybe they don’t. Until experts make up their minds, American doctors will prescribe antibiotics.

They don’t care for hysterectomies!
Many women develop lumpy growths on the uterus called fibroids. Although harmless, fibroids may cause pain and irregular menstrual bleeding. A gynecologist can cure this by removing the uterus. Called a hysterectomy, it’s the second most common operation American women undergo (after caesarians; America leads the world in both). Naturally, a woman without a uterus can’t have children.

The French have the odd idea the world would be a better place if there were more Frenchmen, so French doctors don’t sterilize women if they can avoid it. Mostly, they perform an operation that cuts off the fibroids but leaves the uterus intact. The surgery is more complicated and takes longer than a simple hysterectomy. American gynecologists could do the same, but they don’t, and they rarely discuss it with patients because they know American women aren’t interested.

They don’t try to cure every patient.
American doctors order more tests and prescribe more antibiotics, chemotherapy, and other powerful drugs than foreign doctors. They also perform far more surgery. All these extras don’t necessarily cure. Sometimes they make patients sicker, but the important thing is that we’re doing something. American like aggressive doctors.

Foreign doctors spend a great deal of time making patients feel better – for example by ordering physical therapy (massage, exercise, heat, baths). American doctors prescribe physical therapy to help recovery after surgery or injuries. European doctors prescribe it after childbirth and for migraines, irritable bowels, arthritis, fatigue, depression – dozens of problems. European doctors actually send patients to health spas for baths, massage, etc., and health insurance pays for it! If you believe this is a waste of money, American doctors agree. Patients may feel better after a spa treatment, they explain, but it’s psychosomatic (in other words, if someone feels better -- but it’s only psychosomatic -- that’s bad).

They give free medicine to children!
No discounts, no deductible, no co-pay – just free. In a dozen countries including Canada, the government also pays for hospital care, doctor visits, nursing homes, and it even pays women to take off work to care for newborn babies. These foreign countries claim their citizens live longer, have lower infant and maternal mortality, and enjoy better health. This sounds wonderful, and it’s also true, but American advocates of the free market point out the soul-destroying price those nations pay: higher taxes. Americans must never follow that path, they warn.

We haven’t. President Obama took for granted that the most efficient, lowest cost universal program, the single-payer (i.e. everyone pays a tax; the government pays for health care) would never pass, and he was probably right. The result is Obamacare, a tortuously complex Rube-Goldberg program that avoids direct taxes and relies on individuals and businesses buying insurance.

Liberals point out (with complete lack of success) that single payer systems benefit the free market. Employee insurance premiums have always burdened American business. We’ve all read that $1,500 of the cost of a Chevrolet is what General Motors pays for medical benefits of those who built it. The companies that build Hondas and Volkswagens don’t pay employee health insurance.

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