Why Do We Want To Be Like Europe?


Over the weekend I heard a friend of mine defending Obamacare using this typical response:

“The United States is the only advanced Western country that doesn’t have a national health care system.”

Without specifically defining what countries are considered “advanced Western” and seeing which of these have national health care systems, I can’t definitively say this statement is correct but for the sake of argument, let’s say it is.  And I have a feeling it is correct since many of the major European countries do have socialized medicine to some degree.

It’s a fair argument and deserves a discussion but when I hear this statement, my reply is always – “Why do we want to be like Europe?”


I’ve shown in a previous post where the UK’s National Health System (NHS) has numerous issues that were predictable under socialized medicine –  Hospitals that are in the red, wasteful spending, long wait times, patients travelling to other countries for surgeries and how private (wealthy) patients making bribes to move up the list.

Those reasons alone show why we don’t want to be like Europe but there is another reason against socialized medicine that will cause our healthcare quality to slip once Obamacare is fully implemented – medical innovations.

This research paper by the Cato Institute in 2009 showed the gap between medical innovations in the US versus the rest of the world.

“In three of the four general categories of innovation examined in this paper — basic science, diagnostics, and therapeutics — the United States has contributed more than any other country, and in some cases, more than all other countries combined.”

“In general, Americans tend to receive more new treatments and pay more for them – a fact that is usually regarded as a fault of the American system.  That interpretation, if not entirely wrong, is at least incomplete.  Rapid adoption and extensive use of new treatments and technologies create an incentive to develop those techniques in the first place.  When the United States subsidizes medical innovation, the whole world benefits.  That is a virtue of the American system that is no reflected in comparative life expectancy and mortality statistics.”

Here is a key graph from the study:

Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology Recipients by Country of Residence, 1969-2008

nobelAnother analysis from Forbes in 2011 showed:

“Of almost 3,000 articles published in biomedical research in 2009, 1,169, or 40%, came from the United States.”

You can see this represented in the following graph that has the number of biomedical research publications of each country per year from 2005 to 2009.

biomed researchWith increased government regulations and compensation from the nationalized system (aka Medicare), we can expect the US to drop to European levels of medical innovations.  There will be a larger risk-to-reward ratio for companies to finance medical trials and we can already start to see that the increased scrutiny by the FDA makes it even more difficult to get new drugs/devices approved.

Add on top of that the fact that many doctors are leaving the system, as was outlined by this excellent blog post by a cardiologist and electrophysiologist:

“Some doctors have leapt from the ship. More will certainly follow. Others remain silent yet quietly discontented; they do their job as just job now, marking time with little incentive for doing more. They have become the common workforce drone increasingly asked to do more by those who go home at 5pm and have no liability for the care they provide. More risk with less reward has been the mantra for care providers in health care reform. The stress is growing for everyone. Unfortunately, the doctors that leave will soon be back-filled by well-meaning young physicians with fewer hands-on hours of training that have been sculpted by an educational system dependent on tenured med-school professors complicit with our new progressive mindset.”

I don’t fault the doctors for leaving.  Medical professionals are now finding a more, not less, regulatory environment that limits compensation and bogs them down in bureaucracy.  All of this prevents them from doing what they are trained to do – care for patients – and if I was a medical professional close to retirement, I’d leave too.

We now have a new socialized healthcare system and regulatory environment that discourages innovation, frustrates medical professionals and ultimately will lessen our ability, as a nation, to bring products and procedures to the marketplace that will not only improve the lives of people in the US but around the world.

Why do we want to be like Europe?

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5 Responses to Why Do We Want To Be Like Europe?

  1. tannngl says:

    I remember a debate I had with a liberal on line over health care. He said our infant mortality rate was much higher than that of socialized countries with socialized medicine. I knew the stats and ours was higher. On digging, it was because in the 90’s we had begun saving the babies born so early. Many of them died. But as we gained knowledge and new technics, these very premature babies lived. In socialized countries, if I recall correctly, they labeled these premature births as aborted or miscarriages. We should be very proud of our health care. Many come here for it.

  2. livinrightinpgh says:

    “The United States is the only advanced Western country that doesn’t have a national health care system.”

    This statement always cracks me up. When some Leftist/Progressive said it, my reply was always “That’s true, and I’m REALLY happy about that!”

    Then I ask them to point to ONE example of a country whose socialized health care system WORKS…..Funny, they never have an answer to that.

  3. Wolf Homma says:

    Dear Cosmocon,
    Good article, as ususal. Keep up the good work. Allow me a few comments, even though the fact that they come from a GM Volt driver may make them suspicious to you. To make things clear, I don’t think that a 2,000 page rule book, as proposed by O-care, is making lots of sense. I would prefer it simpler…
    1) When Harvard porfessors and health professionals started looking for a new system to a new health insurance system for Taiwan, the conclsion they came to was that the US was a prime example on how NOT to do it. One word: WASTE. The US is spending aroun 17% of its GDP on health care. There are many reasons for it: Nobody is really interested in making things efficient (I know from my own experience that my top-notch knee surgeon I had operate on me 4 years ago kept a paper file system and promptly managed to lose my MRI DVD), the population is happy to pop any pill as long as they don’t have to change their habits, pharmaceutical manufacturers are more than happy to sell anything, surgeons are more than happy to apply surgeries (I acknowledge they are people, too, and want to make a living).
    2) Taiwan’s insured ratio went from below 10% to above 90% within a year. Residents carry an electronic card with their data that saves them from filling the same stupid paper form over and over (as happened to me many times in the US system). Taiwan is fiercly pushing down on the rates and fees, and insurance payments have only risen twice in 30 years. The ratio to GDP for their health spending is below 10%, if I rcall correctly. Mind you, it’s a single-payer system that is apparently managed really well.
    3) When I lived in Germany we had plenty of choices for ‘public’ (or semi-public) insurance. The pool was big, and everybody below a certain salary range had to be insured. Things worked pretty well. I had full coverage as a student for the equivalent of US $50 per month. Then, the private insurance companies arranged that they were allowed to be a part of it. They pried away the young and healthy with special low rates and good coverage into their own plans. This left the old and sick in a pool that was now much worse off and had to cut coverage. Meanwhile, the private insurers did not care one bit about cost. I remember being charged thousands by the hospital for having reserved a room for my son’s delivery, which then was canceled due to a delay in the delivery process, and complaining about it with my insurances company. Their response was that they would gladly pay any amount the hospital charged, but if I wanted to contest the bill, I was on my own (and would pay out of pocket). Soon, the private insurers discovered that they could selectively split off parts of their customers who happened to be on the older side, and started charging them more. Now, there was no return for these people to the public system and they were ripped off with fees rising eight-fold over night. The take-away: Just because they are a business and not government, I don’t automatically trust them.
    4) I never understood why my knee operation cost my employer’s insurance company less than $5,000, while I would have been charged $23,000 if I had shown up at the hospital with no insurance backing me. That is a pretty good quantity discount, but was the procedure that much cheaper because I was insured?
    5) A 5-minute ambulance ride after being accompanied to the ambulance by heavily protected firefighters (who shoed up in a fire truck) cost $750. The occasion: An eye injury while playing squash. I know why this was so costly – the next two guys could not pay anything – no insurance!
    6) If you lose your house due to lack of insurance (maybe you were unemployed for too long and could not afford COBRA pay or family insurance at $12,000/year), I think you start appreciating some sort of basic coverage that we all should have. I once read that medical expenses are one of the prime factors in homelessness.
    Just my 2 cents…

  4. Pingback: Your Questions About Healthy Lifestyle Rewards | Healthy Silicone Valley

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