Monday, March 23, 2009

Logic problems for the single-payer cabal

Believe it or not, Jay Leno is not the biggest clown with that particular last name. No, really, he’s not. That dubious honor instead falls to my State Senator, Mark Leno. Leno’s latest clown move is again introducing a single-payer health care measure that would impact all Californians:
The new version of the bill, SB 810, would provide medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits to every California resident and make state government the single payer of all benefit claims. Both employees and employers would be required to contribute to pay for the coverage.

So, in Leno’s California, every person would be dependent on a single agency to get health care. He sidesteps the issue by saying the following:
“It is not socialized medicine. Your doctor doesn’t change. Your hospital doesn’t change. Your clinic doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is who pays for the health care provision.”

That’s wonderful. It really is. I can choose my doctor, my hospital, my clinic, my medical marijuana club, and anything else. But to actually pay them and get anything in return, I have to crawl to a bureaucrat in Sacramento. That sure sounds like socialized medicine to me. However, I don’t just want to argue semantics about what is and isn’t socialized medicine. I want to take a look at how single-payer health care squares with some other sacred cows of the political left.

First, let’s take a trip back to the late 1990s. The fashionable thing among the left was to bitch about the big, evil corporation Microsoft and their monopolistic behavior with their operating system. I don’t dispute that monopolistic behavior is bad, but it must be remembered that this monopoly dealt with bits in a computer and was never complete. The fact that I’m typing this from Mac OS X is proof enough of that.

In comparison, the Leno bill comes off just a bit worse. Where the maligned Microsoft monopoly allowed other OS players in the space, the Leno bill creates a true, iron-clad monopoly. This brings up logic problem number 1: Why is a quasi-monopoly on computer software evil while a real monopoly on medical services is good?

Next, let’s come back to the present day and talk about the death penalty. Even after all the appeals and reexaminations of the evidence, innocent people still wind up on death row. The left, along with libertarians, argue that systems composed of human beings cannot justly hold the power of life and death in their hands.

However, the Leno bill would require that the State of California to hold the power of life and death in its hands in the form of authorizations and declinations of medical care. Here’s logic problem number 2: Why is it unjust for the courts to decide whether criminal defendants should die but just for a bureaucrat to decide whether an innocent person should die?

Finally, let’s visit a topic rarely touched on the pages of the Liberty Papers–abortion. The left argues that it is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. There are legitimate questions about when a life begins, and that’s part of why the debate continues to rage.

The Leno bill places the choice about what happens to my body in the hands of a bureaucracy in Sacramento. This brings us to logic problem number 3: Why is choice for abortion sacrosanct while choice for all other procedures can be sacrificed for the common good?

How can the left support single-payer health care when it seems to go against their own principles? Discuss.


NHS a goldmine for lawyers

While mistreated patients get peanuts

LAWYERS are earning 800 pounds an hour from the National Health Service and taking “indefensible” fees of tens of millions of pounds in legal disputes. The money is coming from a government scheme intended to compensate patients for medical blunders and inadequate care, an investigation has found.

The compensation lawyers are claiming costs and “success fees” worth about 100m pounds a year out of the scheme. In some cases the payouts claimed are 10 times more than the damages won by the patient. Health professionals warn that it could get much more expensive. There is an estimated backlog of cases against the NHS amounting to 12 billion in claims, of which lawyers could get up to 6 billion.

The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), which operates the compensation scheme, has lambasted the fees in a submission to Lord Justice Jackson, the judge. He is reviewing civil litigation costs. The document warns that some “no-win, no-fee” lawyers are allowed to charge the NHS compensation scheme £804 an hour to pursue patients’ claims. It states: “The whole costs structure is indefensibly expensive in relation to the compensation awarded or agreed. It is difficult to believe that it would be sustained were it not for the lack of motivation to change it.”

Mark Simmonds, the shadow health minister, said the huge fees being earned by the lawyers would be better spent on patient care. “It is unacceptable in some cases that the legal fees are many times higher than the awarded damages,” he said.

Bertie Leigh, a lawyer who defends the NHS in litigation cases, said he regards many of the cases he sees as a “buccaneering attack on the funds of the NHS”.

In one case involving Barking, Havering & Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust, a legal firm claimed nearly 78,000 in costs and fees, having won just 7,000 for a female patient. A Liverpool firm submitted a legal bill for £4.4m for a single case.

The figures for 2007-8 show that more than one in four NHS trusts are paying out more in legal costs than in damages. The clinical negligence scheme paid 264m in compensation in 2007-8 of which 90m was in claimants’ fees.

Compensation lawyers say the success fees help to cover the cost of fighting cases they lose.


NHS patients ‘died of neglect’

VULNERABLE patients with learning disabilities have died because of neglect in NHS hospitals, an official report is expected to say this week. The report by the parliamentary and health service ombudsman will find widespread failures by doctors and nurses to care properly for people who are mentally handicapped.

The inquiry began after a report by the charity Mencap, Death by Indifference, found six patients had died through neglect while in NHS care.

One man, Martin Ryan, 43, from Surrey, died after he starved for 26 days while in Kingston hospital following a stroke. Staff had failed to use a nasal feeding tube to prevent his condition from deteriorating. This left Ryan too weak to undergo surgery to have a tube inserted into his stomach. Kingston hospital NHS Trust has apologised and says it has improved care for such patients.

Another patient, Emma Kemp, 26, from Buckinghamshire, died from cancer in 2004 after doctors said she had a 50% chance of survival but delayed treatment, the charity claims. Doctors believed Kemp, who had behavioural problems, would not cooperate. Mencap did not say which hospital she was in.

The three other cases the watchdog examined follow similar patterns, with warnings ignored or problems missed until it was too late.

The watchdog is likely to find NHS failings were responsible for some but not all of the six deaths. An earlier independent inquiry by Sir Jonathan Michael, managing director of BT Health, found that although people with learning disabilities had more physical health problems than the general population, they received less effective treatment. Michael found “appalling examples of discrimination, abuse and neglect”.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, said: “Mencap’s Death by Indifference report exposed the horrendous deaths of six people with a learning disability who suffered a catalogue of neglect while in NHS care.” Mencap is calling for disciplinary action against the doctors and nurses responsible.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Preventable deaths of people with learning disabilities are absolutely unacceptable. We are now taking action that will lead to people with learning disabilities getting equal access to healthcare”


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