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The urban myth of 'free' health care

By Ben-Peter Terpstra - posted Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Dr David Gratzer, a Canadian-born psychiatrist, thought his country “had the best-run health care system in the world”. He explains: “Because the system was publicly owned, I assumed that compassion came before profit and that everyone got good care.”

After entering medical school, however, Gratzer’s views shifted towards the right.

“The more I was exposed to the system,” he states, “the more familiar I became with the shortcomings of government run health care. I trained in emergency rooms that were chronically, chaotically, dangerously overcrowded, not only in my hometown of Winnipeg, but all across Canada.” Ouch.


How would you feel if your son had to wait nearly 18 weeks for surgical therapy in socialistic Canada? In some regions, pet dogs receive better care. Seriously.

The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care by Dr David Gratzer is an authoritative book for empowering human patients - and that’s a good thing in light of what’s happening in Europe. Indeed, the late, great, Nobel laureate, Milton Friedman, described The Cure as “a thorough account of what is wrong with medicine today”.

So what is wrong with America’s healthcare? Well, for one thing, it is wrongly described as a “private” system when in truth, for every dollar spent in the United States, 46 cents comes directly from government sources.

The cure? Less regulation is key. Amassing eye-opening resources of data, Gratzer shines the light on how bureaucrats work the system to feed their own bellies, and, more importantly, what communities can do to rectify the systemic problems.

Admittedly, nothing in life is free. To pretend that there is such a thing as “free health care” was always an urban myth paid for by blue collar workers in order to feed hungry white collar bureaucrats, and sold to us by greasy politicians with ulterior motives.

But what’s right about America’s health care system is also important, asserts Gratzer. On the plus side, America’s hybrid system is not as nearly as bad as Europe’s socialistic system. American cancer patients, for example, have markedly higher survival rates - and, yes, an American woman, with first-stage breast cancer is more likely to survive than a British woman.


Encouragingly, America’s imperfect but healthier system can do better. In other words, libertarians will be happy to know that, according to the World Health Organization (PDF 756KB), the United States consistently beats Europe in the war against cancer (“For leukemia, the American survival rate is almost 50 per cent; the European rate 35 per cent”), but there’s room to grow. What if, for example, capitalism could lift survival rates even higher?

Of course, there is always room to grow. Forget the bureaucrats: Washington’s partly socialised system, after all, is holding America back - and why have a good system when you can have a great system? HillaryCare is soooo yesterday.

Other questions we could ask, prompted by the WHO’s findings, are:

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About the Author

Ben-Peter Terpstra has provided commentary for The Daily Caller (Washington D.C.), NewsReal Blog (Los Angeles), Quadrant (Sydney), and Menzies House (Adelaide).

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