the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Socialized Medicine, My Experiences – Pt 1

Posted by Jeff Id on October 24, 2009

Well the laptop has a virus now so I’m flat out of working computers. This means no climate blogging today but no problem, I can still use notepad in safe mode and I’ve promised a story about my experience with China health care. This is a little story about my experience with socialized medicine China style. Since our glorious leader chairman Pelosi and Obama are recommending full marxist style medicine, I want people to understand how what they are proposing works. I’m not claiming that single payer would do this immediately but destroying what IS the finest health care system in the world (despite what European, Asian, and US Leftist news says) in favor of socialized medicine is something every American, and European (Asia is lost) should consider carefully.

==========

A few years ago, at the tender young age of 38, I had just gotten off a 12ish hour flight from Chicago to Bejing exhausted as always from not sleeping, I needed a connecting flight to Schenzhen which is adjacent to HongKong in the South – like a 4 1/2 hour flight. It hurts even writing about this story.

While waiting for the connecting flight in Bejing, my back started to hurt. I don’t have back problems but thought I must have pulled something – it was a 12 hour flight after all. I stretched, twisted walked but nothing would stop the pain. It wasn’t terrible but the constantness of it was irritating. By the time the plane was boarding my back really hurt but what could I do, I didn’t know anyone in Bejing and thought I would just ride it out.

The 747 took off about 45 minutes later and the pain had increased even further. Oddly, I was getting nauseous and my skin was clammy from the pain. Another 10 minutes later, I was explaining to a ridiculously beautiful flight attendent who spoke little English that I didn’t feel well and the pain was becoming unbearable. I’ll leave some of the more gruesome and embarrassing detail out here but suffice it to say that in 45 minutes they had cleared an entire 5 seat row out on the 100% packed full 747, I’ve got no idea what happened to the people. I was stretched out drenched in sweat rolling on the seats in pain which had grown so bad everything I had eaten since I was12 left my body from every orifice I own.

They had a Chinese doc on the plane who spoke no English but communicated through a translator who thought he could speak English. He was wrong! After some time a few words and hand signals got through and I learned that Doc thought I was in possession of my first kidney stone. I din’t know if he was right but it seemed reasonable. They decided I was in no danger so they weren’t going to land the plane, I did my best Clint Eastwood impression and tried to be tough. Of course I ended up with my face buried in the butt crack of the seats groaning and whimpering in pain periodically stopping to search for ever more food to eject from the deepest pit of my stomach.

People were very nice to me but I didn’t really care. It was embarrassing and miserable to an extreme which is impossible to describe. I didn’t know how long the flight was supposed to be so I kept asking and kept receiving the same answers – we’re almost there. I would ask – what does that mean? Oh a half hour or 45 minutes. Well after well over 2 hours of this I finally yelled at the American guy across the aisle to stop lying to me and tell me how soon the fucking plane was going to land. That shook him out of his moronic mode and I got a good answer – another hour and a half or two.

He wasn’t mad b/c he was trying to be nice and probably hoping he wouldn’t watch some guy die or something. I was hoping I would by then. He began asking me all kinds of questions like, what do you do,and why are you going to China. It was an obvious attempt to keep my mind off my imminent death, but better than being lied to.

After a while, the ridiculously gorgeous flight attendant (China’s got that right) came by and started mopping my forehead and neck with a hot towel. When she left, I lifted my head while stretched out on 5 seats of the packed plane and to the guy across the aisle deadpanned – – – “I do this on all the long flights for the attention.” He laughed so hard it made me laugh.

It was the only humor I remember on that flight. Tears, old lunches, sweat and pain took up the rest of the time.

When the plane finally landed, it seemed like they had lied again. It was at least a 27 hour flight. No question. The pilot probably had a refueling tanker come by to keep it up for the extra time. You think I’m kidding!

Anyway, I watched the causeway come to the side of the plane. The plane door opened and it was time to get off but….. not yet.

You see, in China, everything is a negotiation. Food, drinks, where to go, how to get there, everything requires a long discussion. You have to see it to believe me. After landing, the flight attendents were talking with what appeared to be a paramedic at the OPEN plane door. It was an in country flight Bejing-Shenzhen so no border crossing was required. Why they were yammering, I’ll never know. I stood up and started walking toward the door. A passenger stuck his arm out and blocked my path by grabbing the back of the seat preventing me from getting from my personal five seat 747 row into the plane aisle. He was trying to be helpful but like most Chinese men, I had 6 inches of height on him so I grabbed his wrist and wrenched it from the seat and told him – ‘Thanks but I don’t need that kind of help’. He has no idea to this day what I said.

I walked to the door, where I had a view of the rest of the passengers who were staring and wondering what happened. I mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ and asked the flight attendant why I couldn’t leave the plane yet. Normally when the doors open people are lined up to the back of the plane but everyone was sitting.

The girl told me to wait and just kept talking with the paramedic and the Chinese doc had joined in. I was standing and miserable and had already but I patiently waited several minutes longer. The ambulance on the tarmac was visible below, lights on and the causeway door had been left open to the stairs. The engines had spun down mostly so I made a decision and walked past the endlessly yammering Chinese people who were talking about me while ignoring the obvious fact that it was time to get off the friggin plane. I went through the crows to the stairs completely ignored by the paramedic and proceeded downward shakily from the experience. I was halfway down the stairs before my rescuers decided to rush after me.

One guy grabbed at my elbows to help or something but they were behind me and gave up after a moment. I walked to the ambulance in extreme pain and pulled at the handles. The damn doors had been locked – Why is a good question! Is someone going to steal the ambulance next to a 747 in the middle of an airport tarmac? I couldn’t get in and the doc from the plane and the ambulance drivers were yacking again about something. “I need to go to the hospital, I’ve waited long enough!” I said. I got madder and said it again but it was clear they didn’t understand. Eventually they understood my yelling, pointing and yanking at the handle of the ambulance and opened the fucking door. Sorry for the language but remembering pisses me off. I pulled myself into the ambulance and laid on the bed. It was incredibly bare inside. No equipment whatsoever, dim lights and very dirty.

After 5 minutes of rolling back and forth on the narrow gurney, the ambulance wasn’t moving yet. I got mad enough to start yelling again to get moving. They stopped yammering about whatever they felt was so important and got in. After the ambulance started rolling, the paramedic pulled out the cheapest sphygmomanometer, I’ve ever seen and proceeded to try and work the thing on my arm. After 3 tries he gave up, unable to take my blood pressure with the wal-mart style piece of junk.

After several minutes of begging, I found out there were no fluids for IV’s or pain medicine in the ambulance. NOTHING! The doc explained it with his 3 words of English as he generously rode with me to the hospital. I was horribly dehydrated from the low pressure on the plane and constant expulsion of every fluid in my body from every possible orifice.

The ambulance ride was amazingly long. Another 45 minutes of rolling in pain. The driver didn’t use the lights and was in no hurry whatsoever. I asked and even yelled several times while waiting at traffic lights to go through and drive faster. In China, people run lights all the time – this was just before the automated cameras took over enforcement but the ambulance driver was having none of it. Now I know it was impatient of me but I’d been suffering from the worst pain in my life for 6 hours straight now and had enough.

When I got to the hospital, I didn’t wait to be carried from the Ambulance b/c they all started yammering again behind the vehicle leaving me alone inside – ignored again! I got up while in extreme pain and walked from the ambulance myself past the idiots to the sign that seemed to indicate the emergency room. This time the idiots caught up quickly.

The state hospital in this 8 million person city was dimly lit and the halls were dark and EMPTY! There was noone at what appeared to be the check in window at 9 pm. Finally my rescuers actually led me down one hallway and I found myself face to face with about 20 sick Chinese people all waiting outside the single lit room in the deeply shadowed hall. I remember one man holding his finger which looked broken patiently waiting. There was 1 doctor for all these people and three nurses. They sat me on a bare grey wood plank bench in the hallway which was obviously what passed for the waiting room but I couldn’t sit. I walked around moaning trying to find a comfortable position. The nurses grabbed my arm and sat me on the bench again. Ten minutes later it became clear that I was expected to wait for these 20 people to be seen by the doc. Well I laid down on the bench which after a few more minutes seemed to upset the nurses. They would pull me up to a sitting position and say some non-english stuff and I would lay down again. I’ve got no idea why it was so important not to lay down but it happened several times.

The doc from the plane had hung around and was periodically injecting himself into the endless negotiations between nurses and what I now understood to be the emergency room doc. The doc stayed seated at his desk and I don’t recall him ever leaving the chair. After 30 minutes he had showed very little concern for rushing along. Really, every single thing is a negotiation in China and he spent his entire time yammering back and fort with the three nurses who would periodically leave to do something.

Finally, they brought out a gurney for me well ahead of the other patients. A nurse had pushed it from the little treatment room telling me to lie down. There were only two beds in the little room with the doc and both had been empty. The pain and suffering of the last 6 or 7 hours was indescribable but when I saw the sheet, it was covered, I mean covered with what were obviously blood scabs, with a huge 2 foot yellow stain which appeared to be wet puss (not piss) in the middle. The nurse tried to force me by pushing onto the bed, the pain was still excruciating.

Being of the human race (despite what Tamino will tell you}, I resisted her efforts to place me in that amount of filth. I was in enough pain that I tried to brush the scabs onto the floor with my hands so I could lay on the 8 inches next to the puss – kidney stones suck. The scabs were too numerous though (hundreds of particles) and the nurse pushed my hand down and took the bed away. I laid back on the grey painted wood bench.

Two minutes later they pulled me up again the other gurney from the little room had arrived. It had a smaller 1 foot yellow stain on the sheet which appeared dry but was NOT clean. No problem I decided. It’s hard to explain how bad it hurt.

They pushed me into the E room only 30 feet from the fancy split/splintered wooden bench I’d spent the last half hour on. I proceeded to watch the doc talk for another 5 minutes while I was rolling and moaning in pain. My patients was lost again, I started hollering for some pain medicine.

I reached into my pocket and grabbed my wallet, pulled out all the money in it and held it out in my clenched fist. ‘Don’t you people have anything? I’ve wated long enough, give me something for the fucking pain. Please!!’

Finally the e-room doc looked up from his little shit desk and said something the nurse who went to a nearly empty 3 foot wide wooden, glass windowed cabinet straight from the 40’s and found a syringe (it was the only cabinet in the room). Normally I hate shots but this time I would have pulled it from her hand and jammed it in myself. She tugged at my belt and I responded by yanking my pants down to my knees on the gurney in the crowded little room with dozens of men and women in room and others staring through the open door in the hall looking in at the only white guy they had seen that week.

It did nothing!

NOTHING!!!

NADA!

ZIP!

Now I understand that it was either water or a particular medication given to stop spasms of the ureter which is often highly effective in stopping pain from kidney stones. However, as I have learned, in some cases it is not effective at all. At the time all I knew was that I was still dry vomiting (from pain) into an empty and completely unneccesary bucket after having worked very hard to clear my body of any form of liquid for the past 7 hours. Do you think I’m exaggerating??

After 20 minutes of some of the worst pain yet, I was clutching the $400 again in an extended fist and yelled at the doc – who spoke ZERO English. The doc from the plane was still around and he told the other guy something which resulted in yet another negotiation.

Eventually the nurse came with another VERY SPECIAL syringe. Five minutes later, I was on my stomach with a distant unimportant ache in my abdomen hugging the disgusting stained gurney face down because the vertigo was so powerful I was afraid I would fall off the sideless gurney. The pain was bearable and I was happy. I fell asleep/passed out for what I believe was a few minutes.

The medicine from the first shot dries your mouth out. I mean to the point where your tongue couldn’t wet an envelope – drier than anyone who hasn’t experienced it could imagine. So dry that you could lick desert sand and get moisture. But it’s worse than that because after 7 hours of violent expellation – you get thirsty. Just a little.

My business contact in Shenzhen had arrived and I asked for some water, the doc from the plane explained something to my contact who allegedly speaks English something in Chinese. Now I say allegedly because you have to understand my buisiness associate speaks 12 English words with an accent of a degree such that of several American friends who’ve met him, I’m the only person I know who understands him. It was still better than the doc’s English and he translated to me that the medicine dries your mouth out – you’re not thirsty!

I wasn’t in pain anymore but was horribly dehydrated from… well …. everything coming out of every orifice a person has for SEVEN HOURS in LOW pressure!! So I explained that I understood that the medicine makes your mouth dry but I was ACTUALLY thirsty. This is far to complex a thought to express having only 12 common words between us to work with. I kept trying anyway. After 15 minutes of every kind of negotiation and argument TO GET WATER! from these people, I finally convinced them that I might actually BE thirsty. Jackasses.

The nurse promptly (yeah right) – brought me a glass of water. Well not a glass really, actually it was a sub-dixie cup, less than 2 ounces and made from ultra thin paper. I grabbed the sides eagerly and lifted but promptly scalded my fingers as the water was boiling hot! Truly boiling hot!

Ya..see, in China they need to boil all the water before drinking because they don’t have modern processing plants and distribution, even in Schenzhen which by appearance is in many ways more modern than Chicago.

Well I didn’t drop the scalding hot cup of transparent liquid hope – oh no, I’d worked too hard to get it. Instead I grabbed the rim with my other hand crushing but not dropping the beautiful clear liquid. I spent 20 seconds sipping down my boiling water with a shaky (actully burned) but fortunately partially numb hand gripping the top rim of the ONE-ish oz cup. I’ve had bigger shots. Of course it did nothing so I began asking for more which didn’t come.

Eventually I started motioning my finger into my arm vein begging for an IV which I definitely needed saying the Chinese word for please. The ceaseless yammering of negotiation between the doc and other patients sitting at the desk in front of him shifted to me again. More yammering ensued and eventually the nurse opened the little cabinet again and pulled out a bag of IV fluids.

Now, normally a blind nurse could hit my veins with a crossbow across the room. Oddly TO THEM she found it difficult to find my probably crusty dry dehydrated veins. She was sticking me over and over, I even helped tighten the turniquit and it finally worked.

The plane doc finally decided to leave and said goodby – I think. I took a moment to thank him now that my head was clearer from the pain but far too dizzy to walk.

I was pulled off the bed then and IV in hand. The nurse just handed it to me and sent me to another room about a quarter mile away through what turned out to be a huge empty dark hospital where they wanted me to pee out the stone.

Of course there was no Fucking fluid in my body so it wasn’t going to work but I’ll never forget walking with the Chinese contractor down the dark halls no medical personnel around, holding my own IV bag over my head so dizzy from drugs it was hard to walk. At one point I spent 15 minutes sitting by myself in a deserted large hallway holding my own nearly finished IV bag all alone in China while the contractor tried to figure out where I was supposed to go. They don’t have drinking fountains in China. After a while, he returned and took me to attempt to pee in a bathroom unsuccessfully several times apparently at the encouragement of the hospital doc who was nowhere around to disagree with.

The pain came back and I went downstairs again. They gave me another happy shot and put me in a room with 7 other patients in the otherwise empty building who were to a person very old and very alone. Old 1940 dirty beds were the preferred means of furnishing. Several of the men had IV’s running into their arms and a 13 inch TV in the corner blaring state news to them – there were no electronics monitoring anyone here.

After a while a different doc came by and spoke a few words of English. I asked about getting the stone out of me. The doc said they had a machine for breaking stones – being my first experience I didn’t know the term for extracorporeal lithotripsy.

I said hell yes, enough pain. The second shot they had given me wasn’t as good as the first.

They took me down a very long dark hall to another dark room. When they turned on the lights I saw a bed with a U shaped channel in it and a robotic machine crudely cut from plates of aluminum with a latex diaphram tied crudely with a piece of wire on the top of a 6 inch cylinder. It was the business end of a homemade acoustic lithotripsy machine- China style. Honestly, it looked like it was made in a farmers machine shop in the US.

It didn’t matter, enthusiastically I hopped on ready to go. I didn’t have a clue the violence the machine contained within and didn’t care. The pain was just too much. There was a girl there who was a doctor and younger than me was messing with the ultrasound and obviously had little confidence in what she was doing. She said my stone was very small and the ultrasound of the machine couldn’t see it. Looking back now, I was very fortunate that the machine couldn’t resolve my “little” stone because she didn’t try to use it.

Two hours later, I was leaving the hospital. I asked for a pain perscription just in case it got bad again and was taken to a window where someone took a blood sample from my finger tip. – I don’t know why!

They then sold me some pills and gave me my bill for the night– $56.00. They took the money before putting the pills in my hand, not bad for communists eh?

The stone had settled down and the pain went away almost completely. I slept well in my $120/night 5 star hotel, did my business the next day and requested to go to a pharmacy to get some serious meds before I got on the next plane. I wasn’t going to do the trapped in a plane thing again! Can you believe there were no meds on the plane!

The story isn’t over yet though but I’m tired. Part 2, I spent with a different vendor who’s well connected politically, very wealthy and his wife is a famous neurosurgen in China.

34 Responses to “Socialized Medicine, My Experiences – Pt 1”

  1. cogito said

    Incredible. You must have had a bad dream …
    In reading this, I can almost feel the pain you must have gone through.

  2. [...] rest is here: Socialized Medicine – Pt 1 « the Air Vent October 24th, 2009 | Tags: a-little-story, china, experience, full-marxist, little-story, [...]

  3. Lao said

    you are probably a fat American, with poor health to begin with, and shouldn’t be traveling. Why did you not have a physical examination in the USA before you flew to Asia?

  4. Jeff Id said

    #2 6′ 180 lb at the time no medical conditions. Does it anger you that I saw your countries system.

  5. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Jeff ID that is an interesting story and well told, but, in the meantime, I feel the need for a sermon on socialized medicine.

    You have pointed to some differences that can arise from socialized medicine in the US and other countries.

    In a country like China, I suspect the people there do not have expectations of any medical system much different than they have had as a second world nation. European countries are willing to see their health care rationed and are not particularly interested or motivated in encouraging drug technology (particularly if the US can be depended on for doing that). All these “economizing measures” might help those systems put off the day of reckoning when the system runs out of funds or makes taxes so high that sustaining the system will make their economies suffer.

    In the US we have much higher expectations for our health care, and with a government run system or more government regulating and run system, I think we will see both deteriorating health care and a system where the day of reckoning (going broke or requiring funding at a tax rate that will not sustain a growing or even stagnant economy) will approach faster than in those nations were the expectations are lower.

    Medicare in the US will go broke in a few years with the current rate of funding and/or without rationing, yet we have no compunction about taking on more government run health care. The cost of Medicare is 10 times the original estimate and, by the way, the system cost my wife and me about $8000 a year for supplemental coverage.

    I get a kick out of those who think when the time finally comes for “saving” SS and Medicare, a simple increase in the withholding rates or the incomes for withholding will do the trick with no further consequences. Not true. Those increases in tax rates, in order to sustain the system, will veritably stymie the economy. Nobody, but nobody, in Washington wants to talk about that.

  6. Tiny CO2 said

    Sorry to hear you had such a horrible experience, I’ve had gallstones and they’re painful enough.

    There is a tendency to compare the UK medical system (NHS) with that in the US and it’s true that it doesn’t match it in excellence. Everybody gets mediocre treatment but rarely does anyone get NO treatment. A lot of people forget that the UK spends about half as much money per person on health care than the US.
    7.7% GDP UK $2,680,000 mill pop 61,634,599 cost per person $3348
    16% GDP US $14,250,000 mill pop 307,776,000 cost per person $7407
    So health care in the US should be better, no?

    Having a ‘free’ health service doesn’t prevent you from seeking private health solutions, though private hospitals aren’t always as good as they could be (probably due to a lack of customers). It’s not unheard of for private treatment patients to end up in state run hospitals because it’s all gone wrong and they need help that was either unavailable or unaffordable in the private sector.

    State run organisations do have the problem of staff who are only as good as they can get away with but that type of attitude is endemic in the UK as a whole, due to too much unemployment benefit, poor education and a younger population who thinks the world owes them a living.

    Problems have actually been introduced while trying to adopt competitive practices. MRSA started here because hospitals were scrimping on private cleaning service contracts instead of sticking with an excellent in house system. A series of catastrophic changes in contracts that were intended to modernise the system, meant doctors get more money for less work. That’s evidence of a useless government, not a useless health service.

    When I recently discussed the NHS with friends we agreed that we wouldn’t be without it but we wouldn’t trust it either.

    Anyway, wouldn’t the AGW community say that your kidney stones were the result of global warming ;-)

  7. Kenneth Fritsch said

    The stone had settled down and the pain went away almost completely. I slept well in my $120/night 5 star hotel, did my business the next day and requested to go to a pharmacy to get some serious meds before I got on the next plane.

    Jeff ID, you see their system “works”. It cost you $56 and you did not die. It is all in the expectations.

    You might be considered a shrewd business man who planned your attack so that you could get inexpensive medical treatment in China (the other costs could be written off as business expenses and you had to go there anyway). What’s the worst that can happen? Being called a fat American by an impolite someone named Lao?

    The devil may be in the details, but when comparing health care systems those details never seemed to be discussed. If the conditions deteriorate slowly enough, I think the politicians think the recipients will get used to it like the frog in hotter and hotter water – and better if they can continue to enjoy the best part of that system.

  8. Jeff Id said

    Kenneth,

    Don’t worry there’s more. I’d say this is about 1/3 of the story. I’ve got another Chinese part and a US part. Something that the leftists which of course include Chinese have a hard time accepting is criticism. Us skeptics have no problem with discussing flaws in anything. Lao, may want to read back.

  9. michel said

    “Well the laptop has a virus now so I’m flat out of working computers….”

    You need Debian on a dual boot system. Everyone who has vital data, or even data its important to have available, on a Windows system, should have a dual boot with a decent Linux distribution. If you don’t like Debian, get Mandriva, or PCLinuxOS. Or Zenwalk, if you want to be a little bit different. whatever, get yourself an installation on your machine that is basically immune to malware. Think of it as insurance. Its like wearing a seatbelt. That way, no matter what happens to Windows, you can still work, and you can still get at all your files.

    Why perfectly smart people do not see this escapes me. But then, they also think that they or professionals can clean up an infected system without doing a clean install and formatting the drives. They cannot. Or at least, once in a while they can, but they have no way of knowing for sure whether its succeeded, so for all practical purposes they cannot.

    At least if you have another install to boot into, you can just copy your files over, reformat the Windows partitions, and reinstall. And carry on working in Linux while you do it.

  10. Adam Gallon said

    You experienced the wonders of a Communist, not a Socialist Healthcare system.
    Now, imagine you are an old, unemployed black man down in the Deep South.
    Would you get any better treatment?.
    Here’s how we British treat an in-flight medical emergency!

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/what-a-week-it-was-for–coat-hangers-1621136.html

  11. Jeff Id said

    #10,

    Adam, I know that in the UK the impression is that uninsured or the poor in the US don’t get treatment. Actually these are lies absolute intentional unequivocal lies by the media in Europe and in some cases here. The opposite is true, the federal laws require treatment of emergencies and a person, especially an old black person or non-citizens here illegally get all the free care a person could want.

    People pile in here across the borders when they have a bad medical problem specifically for the free care, its one of the reasons costs are so high. They can get emergency medical care they need including the best drugs and machines in the world. I don’t know how the plane would have been handled in the US but I suspect a landing would have occurred. I had a different China manufacturer go through some medical problem that put him in the hospital for a week here. His bill was 50,000 usd – no insurance. He travels here all the time still and never paid a dime. If I tried that they would simply take the money from me. To make up for it, the poor and the illegal aliens, hospitals charge legal insured payers huge money.

    Canadians used to be known to save money just for access to the US care, I don’t know if they still do. One difference in the US is that if you take medical care legally without insurance they will try to get that money from you and it will bankrupt you if the bill is big but you will get the required care.

    But I’m not claiming the US system is perfect by any means, my experience in part 2 and then when I returned will explain some of that. You’ll have to come back for that story though.

  12. Raven said

    I don’t understand why you would put a post up describing your experiences with health system of a third world country where you did not speak the language and imply it had any relationship with the ‘socialized medicine’ in countries that are comparable to the US.
    .
    In any case, as a Canadian who regularily works with Americans and has had to “put up” with the Canadian medical system I can tell you the Canadian system has issues that need correcting but on the whole it much better than what most Americans have primarily becauses Canadians do not need to depend on their employeer for healthcare coverage.
    .
    The waiting lists do exist and people do need to purchase private medicine but that does not alter the fact that the vast majority of people receive timely care at no cost. As am I writing this I am going over all of the friends, acquaintances and family that have used the system extensively and I can only think of 1 case out 20+ where they had complaints. And in that case, the person with the complaints was also extremely satisfied with the cancer care given to his daughter.
    .
    Canadian taxes are also lower than many US states despite the fact that these taxes pay for healthcare. On top of that Canadian governments were running surpluses until the meltdown and will likely be back in a surplus position within 5 years. To make matters worse (for Americans) the “payroll taxes” imposed on employers in the form of healthcare plans make it much more expensive to base a business in the US.
    .
    Most climate sceptics know that when it comes to climate science that every claim must be questioned – even if those claims happen to support one’s political/economic views. I don’t understand why so many American climate sceptics are willing to treat every negative claim about “socialized medicine” as gospel. American’s would much better served by a honest discussion of the pros and cons of the systems used in different industrialized countries.

  13. Jeff Id said

    #12, China isn’t exactly a third world country. When I finish the story it will become more clear what my point is. I’ve got a working computer again and am going to work on climate matters today instead.

    In the meantime – this is ShenZhen

  14. Joe said

    Raven,
    I don’t believe that Canadians pay a lower % of their income to the government. Wiki says not so much. An average income Canadian couple with 2 kids pays about 21.5% in taxes and an average income American family pays 11.9%. Call me crazy but 12% is less than 21%. I think.

    Also one needs to factor in defense spending, which Canada can neglect since America is her neighbor. For that matter all of Europe has neglected defense spending instead paying for silly welfare states, thanks to America’s decision to protect both Europe and Canada.

    And yes we in America pay more for healthcare. Maybe that is because the rest of the world decided to let America come up with all the new innovations and drugs. Well not all but damn near. So be thankful your country can hide behind America’s protective shield and be thankful that we pay a bit more in healthcare so you can take advantage of all our new medical toys, well when your government decides you can have them anyways.

  15. MikeN said

    So how do you get out of a virus? I am leaning towards ghosting my harddrive and just resetting back to a good position.

  16. Jeff Id said

    I use a variety of software, hijack this, msconfig settings, registry searches, free commander critical directory searches then I follow it up with malwarebytes, spywaredoctor, spybot and adaware – all free stuff. It takes a bit of time to learn how to wipe them out but in 25 years of managing other peoples computers, I’ve only been forced to reinstall one time.

  17. Retired Engineer said

    #15 Virus. To avoid, a good firewall, and a large dose of paranoia. Do not download, or open, anything. Anti-virus software and common sense. No “plug-ins”. Frequent backups on separate media, so you can go back if AHBL.

    One of the biggest problems in the health debate is lack of truth. Consider: we have far more MRI machines (like 50x) than Canada, with a bit less than 10x the population. They cost money, but are quite useful when something goes wrong inside. The MSM won’t report it, but waiting times and limits on treatment can have fatal consequences. For most folks, the Canadian/British model works well, they don’t get sick. For those that do, there are problems.

    Cost of drugs? Sure they are expensive. And it costs a bunch to develop them. Someone has to pay for that.

    I have catastrophic coverage health insurance. Doesn’t cover routing stuff, only serious problems. Costs $200/mo. That’s affordable. If our government decides I need more coverage, who will pay for it?

    The last part of this rant concerns statistics: Infant mortality? We don’t count it the same as nearly every other country. Here, if a newborn dies 5 minutes after birth, it counts. Most other countries wait 24 hours. Low birth weight? Counts here, not there. Take those two into account, and we are better than most of the other industrial nations. Life expectancy? Depends on what you count. If you die in an accident that wasn’t your fault, other nations don’t count that, as you would have lived longer otherwise. Ditto violence. If you didn’t start it, doesn’t count over there. So, if we figure things the same as most of the rest of the world, we live longer than almost all of them.

    Honesty is a scarce commodity.

  18. TAG said

    JeffID wrote:

    ——————
    Canadians used to be known to save money just for access to the US care, I don’t know if they still do.
    ——————

    I’m over 60 and I have never heard of anyone doing that. However, there is a very inconvenient practice that one must hand over one’s health insurance card at every doctor visit even if they know you and have the billing information on file. This was a regulation put in place a few years ago. It was done to stop the practice of people “lending” their health cards to Americans so that they could get the free care. I recall at the time that there was one American woman who obtained a very expensive operation free of charge using her Canadian cousin’s health insurance card.

  19. Raven said

    Joe,
    I am comparing all taxes – including payroll taxes like social security and medicare. I also said “some states” (i.e. California and New York but not Texas). I probably also should have excluded Quebec which has European style taxes and drags up the Canadian average. My point was that the idea that “Canadians are excessively taxed” is not supported by the numbers when you dig into them.

    Here is a second opinion with some hard numbers:

    http://captaincapitalism.blogspot.com/2009/02/maybe-you-should-move-to-canada.html

    The problem with drug innovation being paid for US citizens is a fair comment, however, it is problem that affects many R&D intensive industries. i.e. have you checked out the retail price of legal DVDs or software in India or China? Canadians and Europeans are screwed along with the Americans on that front but I don’t see any reason why Americans should volunteer to pay higher prices so the world can get cheap drugs and software. Drug companies would be forced to raise the prices they charged others if the US had a health care system that used its buying power to negotiate lower prices.

    Military spending is higher in the US but it is not clear how much of that is necessary to maintain the security umbrella that Canada benefits from and how much is simply used to advance US interests. Canada could match the UK by doubling its military spending (to 2.4% of GDP) and still compare favourably to the US in terms of total taxation.

  20. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Canadian governments have amassed huge obligations which current tax rates leave unfunded. As a result, young Canadians and future taxpayers are on the hook for the over-promises governments have made in the form of public pensions and medical services. We estimate that the unfunded liabilities of these government programs amount to a $1.6 trillion fiscal hole or $102,168 per Canadian taxpayer.

    Unfunded liabilities are commitments made by the current and past generations that a future generation will end up paying for. When a government program promises to provide certain benefits for a specific period but lacks the necessary resources to provide them, the program is said to have an unfunded liability.

    Consider the Old Age Security (OAS) program, the “cornerstone” of Canada’s retirement income system. Old Age Security pensions are available to all Canadian citizens and legal residents 65 years of age and over, providing they have lived in Canada for a minimum of 10 years of their adult lives.

    Current Old Age Security benefits (including the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Survivors Allowance) are paid for out of current federal tax revenue. In 2005, these benefits accounted for 16.3 per cent of total federal program spending up from 13.1 per cent 20 years ago.

    http://www.fraserinstitute.org/Commerce.web/article_details.aspx?pubID=3634

    While the unfunded liabilities vary from nation to nation they present a looming problem for nearly all developed nations. I get a kick when I hear many people in all of these nations, including my US, say how in love they are with those government run programs. The very programs that are leading to a very major and yet neglected unfunded liabilities problem in all these nations. They might be in love with these programs, but their kids and grandkids might not be. The programs are primarily huge Ponzi schemes (for all to view I might add) that are based on demographics that are unfortunately changing and revealing these schemes for what they are.

    Here in the US, you can read articles in the mainstream media that refer to trust funds, for example, for SS and implying not to worry because that trust fund has funds for 30 some years. Of course, the real situation is that all money put into the trust funds is almost immediately spent by the government and replaced by IOUs. It is these IOUs that make up the trust fund that will last 30 years before running dry. To the more observant, it is rather obvious that these programs will have to start supplying funds out of current revenues to make those IOUs good, if the promised payments are to continue, and in the current case of SS in the US that time is a few years down the pike. In fact, we will be paying out more than is collected for the next two years and then a two or three year period of excess and then paying out faster than collecting for as far as the eye can see. Those payments required to sustain the system will require a much greater percent of GDP in taxes, and, as any half way observant person knows, those higher tax rates have a very negative effect of the growing or even sustaining the overall economy.

    At their inception, programs like OAS were based on the assumption that the demographics prevailing in the 1960s would persist. It was considered favourable social and economic policy to transfer a small amount of money from a large group of younger workers to benefit a small group of relatively poor retirees.

    Unfortunately, demographic assumptions have proven false. In 1956, only 7.7 per cent of Canadians were over 65 years old. That proportion increased to 13.3 per cent in 2006 and is expected to rise to 24.9 per cent by 2050.

    This change in Canada’s demographic makeup has and will continue to increase the portion of federal revenues needed to fund OAS benefits. We estimate that the difference between the stream of promised benefits and the expected future stream of revenues – the unfunded liability of the OAS program – currently stands at $470 billion.

    Canada’s Medicare obligations suffer the same ills. In 2005/06, Medicare consumed 19.3 per cent of total federal, provincial and local government revenue. Given that those over 65 years old account for approximately 44 per cent of all health spending, and the fact that the per cent of the population over 65 years old will increase dramatically, the portion of revenue currently used to fund Medicare will not be sufficient to deliver future medical expenses. As such, Medicare’s unfunded liability stands at $555 billion.

    Adding the unfunded liabilities of the Old Age Security program and Medicare to that of the Canada & Quebec Pension Plans ($599 billion) puts total Canadian unfunded liabilities at $1.6 trillion. Further, these unfunded liabilities have increased by nearly 20 per cent over the most recent five years for which data is available (1999-2003).

  21. Lorne said

    Dear Jeff,

    Here we go again – a American versus a Canadian view on the merits of Universal (Government Run) Health Care Insurance: Personally I think the Canadian system is fine, within the usually limits of any human devised and managed system. It could always be better run, better funded, more efficient, etc…..

    I do have an observation, however, followed by some questions:

    According to Wiki – the CIA 2009 fact book says that Canadians live 2.7 years longer than Americans. The UN stats indicate an even bigger (4 yr) differential in life expectancy. Is the relative longevity of Canucks vs Yanks, due to Canadians having:

    1) Less Body Fat,
    2) Better Gun Control Laws,
    3) Fewer Foreign Wars,
    4) More Months of Cold Weather – resulting in reduced metabolism rates/partial stasis conditions during the winter,
    5) Universal Health Care, or
    6) All of the above

    I will not stoop to mentioning the relative quality of our beer, and related potential health benefits.

  22. Jeff Id said

    #21, Ya got me on the beer. American beer isn’t fit for sale, but the population doesn’t know.

    The rest (besides body fat) we may disagree on.

  23. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I get a kick that Lorne loves his system but does not bother to mention the unfunded liabilities and how they will affect future generations. Not that Americans or other nations people do. It is something we do not (want to) discuss.

    That state of mind is also why I think that there is some hope that we will not see a crushing (and unreasonable in my mind for both current and future generations) policy for AGW mitigation – if the current generation thinks it will have to pay for it.

    Jeff ID, I agree that name brand American beers are not that good (not that Canadian beer is that good when compared to other countries beers) but we have micro brewery beers that are quite good.

    Of course, if Americans thought things were that much better in Canada we would perhaps see something like the migration of Mexicans to America. People vote with their feet.

  24. TAG said

    re 20 and 23 on unfunded liabilities in Canada

    Until the recent financial meltdown, governments in Canada were having healthy surpluses year after year. The OAS or old age security pension is soundly financed. As well the contributary Caanda Pension Plan has been shown to be actuarily secure. No one in Canada is concerned that these plans are not going to be tere when they need them.

    The Canadian medical care system has problems with ever increasing costs. This has resulted in rationing. However, the ratio of health care cost to GDP is much lower in Canada than in the US with the Canadian system providing for better outomes.

    Whatever objections that many in the US have to a government-sponsored universal medical sysem, the Canadian results show that cost and performance cannot be valid objections.

  25. Raven said

    Kenneth,

    OAS/GIS are not unfunded liabilities like social security or medicare because they nothing more than welfare programs for seniors. i.e. there is no legal obligation to provide a certain level of benefits based on premiums collected by individuals. OAS/GIS is an unfunded liability then so is regular welfare and that would make no sense. The government can/will control the costs of those programs by lowering the income level at which benefits are clawed back via the tax system.

    CPP is the Canadian equivalent to social security and it is currently actuarily sound but it only promises benefits about 1/2 of what social security offers.

    Healthcare is the biggest unknown because costs are exploding as the population ages. The government will have to deal with this through rationing and Canada is already moving slowing to a parallel private system where people who can pay will be able to get faster care in Canada. However, I still see rationing within single payer system as preferable to a private insurance system where the same rationing is done by employers and insurance companies through exclusions on converage.

  26. Geoff Sherrington said

    Near the border of Tibet and Yunnan, I slipped a neck disc and was also in great pain. Ended up in melbourne having a grafted pair of vertebra. My Chinese host drove a hundred km or so to get some special medicine, which arrived by mail after my return. There were 6 fragile glass vials, 2 broken, filled with white powder which was all over the wrapping of the parcel. This came from Dali near the Golden Triangle. The parcel was stamped in purple “Tested by Australian Customs” To this day I still do not know if I am on a wanted list. Or if my host is.

    The Chinese doc in the Hong Kong hotal in transit recommended I eat raw chicken strips a particular type of dried mushroom. What does that do for a disc that is pressing on the spinal cord?

  27. Jor throm said

    While my wife and I were driving around Ireland, we had plenty of time to listen to the radio. The news kept reporting two stories. 1) Ireland had just gotten its first 24 hour ambulance service (think about that for a moment). The kicker, it was privately funded. Their system couldn’t provide round the clock emergency service until a citizen or citizens contributed more to make it happen. 2) The other story, was the release of funds for a nation wide campaign on the benefits of washing your hands. The kikker, it was aimed towards Doctors and Nurses. How do you get out of medical school without knowing the benefits of good hygiene? They talked about the millions they were going to spend on posters and PSA.
    While on the same trip we meet a couple of interesting men (blokes) from England. After several cocktails, we began discussing the finer points of our health care systems. They both had the belief that we just stacked up the dead bodies, of those who couldn’t afford insurance, in the alleyway. When I explained that even they would receive the best care, they stated that was not the way our system was portrayed in their media.
    My two roommates previous to getting married were both from Canada. They both let me know that before they became US citizens their parents kept considerable amounts of cash handy for any medical emergency that needed immediate response.
    Wasn’t there a story about a year a go that an English gentleman was denied medical services because he wouldn’t quite smoking? I believe that he had broken his wrist or ankle, but the hospital wouldn’t set it, until he promised to stop smoking, because of the complications.
    Bad taste in beer is a global epidemic, not just American. Budweiser is the best selling beer around the word, including places like Scotland and German, where you can get the best crafted brews. Maybe the governments of the world should start policing bad beer! I am all for a united beer summit in Copenhagen.

  28. Kenneth Fritsch said

    OAS/GIS are not unfunded liabilities like social security or medicare because they nothing more than welfare programs for seniors. i.e. there is no legal obligation to provide a certain level of benefits based on premiums collected by individuals. OAS/GIS is an unfunded liability then so is regular welfare and that would make no sense. The government can/will control the costs of those programs by lowering the income level at which benefits are clawed back via the tax system.

    Raven, I doubt very much that the benefits for OAS/GIS are budgeted for each year. Rather I suspect that promises are made for payment levels far into the future. In the US this is what is done with SS and Medicare. I should add that there are no legal obligations (tested by the US Supreme Court) to continue it at any point in time. I would also surmise that the difference between Canada and the US in these systems is that the Canada does not have a trust fund and rather has a pay as you go system. Of course, the US trust fund is phony and is merely a way for the government to get its spending hands on another source of money and offset some of the deficits each year. Eventually, without major changes the US, the phony trust funds will run out and SS and Medicare programs will be pay (a lot) as you go. Actually some fractions of SS (SI payments) and Medicare do come out of general US revenue funds currently.

    The unfunded liabilities for Canada and the US are not legal liabilities but liabilities that are made, at least in the US, in the form of legislation and assumed by the citizens as a long term obligation. I have seen some initial attempts by various nations’ governments to reign in these liabilities by attempting to make very small decreases in future funding. I do not recall a signal success in doing this – and in fact the ruling parties suffered from the unfavorable response of the electorate. A number of European nations will have to make these fights first as their unfunded liabilities are going to suffer sooner due to their changing demographics.

    Therefore, if you want to call the unfunded future promises something else for the sake of the argument, I would then remind you that when you commend these programs, you should also note that they may be loved now but we cannot know what they will be like in the future or even whether they have a future. And, of course, we cannot forget that the funding was less onerous in the earlier years of the Ponzi like scheme because the demographics were favorable and are now becoming progressively more unfavorable.

    In conclusion, if one can avoid discussing the issues of unfunded liabilities, the Ponzi generational scheme for funding and issues of unsustainable future benefits or sustainable benefits and the negative effects on the economy of much higher payments into the system, then one can better make an argument for these government programs (and many do) for at least the present time. Unfortunately these features of these government programs seldom enter the comparisons with private approaches.

  29. Raven said

    Kenneth,

    The term “unfunded liability” has a specific meaning in accounting and only applies in situations where specific future benefits are promised to specific individuals based on payments made by the those individuals. It applies to pensions, the CPP and social security. It is not a term that applies to all government expenditures. The distinction is important because the government could cancel the entire OAS/GIS program and face no legal consequences. This is not true of CPP because the contributors to the plan are entitled to benefits because they made contributions.

    However, terminology aside we will have to have a political discussion about how these programs will be reduced to make them affordable as the number of workers decreases relative to the number of retirees. Expect to see the retirement age increased and benefits descrease/clawed back because the math simply does not work otherwise.

  30. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Raven, my previous posts are not in disagreement with what you have stated above.

    My point was that when one points to how well these government programs perform currently one must remember that the underpinnings are not strong and depend upon lots of younger people supplying funds for fewer older people and that in order to maintain the current level (you know, the level that makes the ordinary citizens, who perhaps do not understand the details of the financial requirements to keep these programs going at that level, favor them overwhelmingly) will require real changes for the worse in the future.

    When one notes that these are not unfunded liabilities in the true accounting sense, because the government has no legal requirement to continue them through even tomorrow, then at the same time one must point to this situation as being a very negative one for this type of funding, not only for the individuals involved, but for the functioning of a government and maintaining any semblance of the necessary confidence in it by the citizens.

    We can talk all we want about definitions of unfunded liabilities in order to minimize the obligations of the government and we can use the phony concept of a trust fund (full of IOUs) as putting off the day of reckoning, but for any aware and not disingenuous person it is rather obvious that major problems are looming in the not so distance future for these programs.

  31. JamesD said

    It is important not to get caught in a false dilemna: the present system vs. a complete socialist system. Our present system is already over 50% socialist if you consider Medicare and Medicaid. To call the present US system “private” is a joke. A few points in no particular order: The medical malpractice problem has to be dealt with. One option is to allow PATIENTS to purchase malpractice insurance if they want. Doctors couldn’t be sued. Another thing, eliminate the tax deduction on medical benefits. Offset that with a tax cut. That way self employed could use the tax cut to purchase insurance, and those with the benefits would use the tax cut to compensate for the loss of the deduction. Next, remove all government requirements on insurance and let out of state companies sell plans across state lines. Next eliminate Medicare, and give the Medicare tax to the States to fund medical charities. Finally, eliminate doctor and nurse licensing, and allow pharmacists to prescribe meds. You would only require that doctors and nurses post their credentials and prosecuted fraud. So you could use a doctor with 8 years of medical training, or you could use a doctor with 2 years of training to give you stitches, for example. This would also open up a lot more medical schools.

  32. JamesD said

    Last point, on the elimination of licenses. This would allow military medics to start up medical practices after leaving the military. Probably could handle 80-90% of what is thrown at them. I’d use a military medic for most medical problems. Greatly increases the supply of doctors, which is what we really need.

  33. TerryMN said

    One need look no further on whether practices creeping into our health care system are Socialist or Capitalist than the H1N1 flu anti-virus distribution debacle to see what Universal Care will be like.

    I make a decent living, and my youngest is a 13 year old diabetic. He’s in the highest of high risks group for H1N1 mortality. Given that, I’ll gladly pay a LOT of extra money for an H1N1 flu shot, for his health and my peace of mind. Know what? I’ve tried daily every day for the last few months, and I can’t. They’re distributed via a federal government lottery in which states/hospitals/clinics get a doses in a drawing. And I can’t pay private hospitals money to reserve a dose, or get a call or e-mail that they “won” some doses if and when they get some. Meanwhile, I’m glad that Mr. Obama’s daughters both got the shot without (apparently) having to make several phone calls every day for several months. He’s a more fortunate dad than I am, I guess.

    Of the people, by the people, for the people… indeed.

    Doesn’t seem like the same country I lived in when I took my oath to serve it as an Army officer, but

    I’ll self-snip the rest of the rant.

  34. I came here by Msn and now have got to say this is a great website for skating!

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