It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read, well, pretty much anything I’ve ever written, that I’m not exactly left wing. That being said, it should also come as no surprise that I’m vehemently against socialized healthcare.
But despite my abhorrence (on purely philosophical and moral grounds) for socialized healthcare, I am required by Tel Aviv University to have insurance through Clalit, the largest of four public healthcare providers in the state of Israel. Clalit provides services to roughly 54% of Israel’s population, which makes it an excellent socialized-medical-care specimen to dissect. Is Clalit (and other such providers) an example of why socialized care is better than the United States’ healthcare system? Does it work? Are people happy with it?
The answer to all of the above – though I can’t speak for those who have a different definition of “work” - is no.
Former students who have completed their degrees at Israeli universities, or even students who only studied abroad here, warned me about Clalit healthcare (and it wasn’t just conservative students). All of them had similar sentiments. Don’t use it – it’s horrible.
One student, Michelle Appelbaum, recalled her experience of going to the hospital for a skin issue and seeing multiple doctors, all of whom had conflicting diagnoses. “I just wasted time there with a group of about 10 doctors who didn’t make eye contact with me, didn’t take pictures of my skin to see progress and change, and didn’t have a clue what was wrong,” said Appelbaum, who was so exasperated in the end she gave up and went home.
But despite the horror stories, curiosity killed the cat… er, girl. Okay, to be fair I’m still alive, but you get the point.
A routine visit proved all the dire warnings painfully accurate. The service was abominable. And although I assume not all of their doctors and not all of their clinics are like this, this experience was a pristine example of what happens when free market competition is limited. After all, what incentive is there to provide quality care and keep patients happy in a socialized healthcare system? Oh, that’s right – there isn’t one.
My experience was a big cliché, to say the least: long lines, poor customer service, seemingly ignorant doctors, no “bedside manner” whatsoever, rude and unpleasant staff, etc.
But let’s get specific. I waited for two hours (two hours!), got sent to the wrong floor with the wrong long lines, all to finally see a doctor for five minutes (five minutes!) who didn’t examine me, didn’t ask me any questions about my medical history, gave me incorrect information (according to multiple other doctors, every medical website and common sense), and didn’t make eye contact with me for the duration of the appointment. He then informed me I needed to go to “another clinic in a week” for “another test” and come back in three to four weeks (that’s weeks, not days) to receive my results (is a phone call too much work for them?). When I asked where the “other clinic” was located, he said he didn’t know. When I asked for the phone number he said, “I really don’t know,” pecking away at his computer keyboard the entire time. Okay! Thanks for all the help, Doc. And your personal care and concern really made my day, too.
Now this is not to say that Israel does not have excellent care from private doctors, and that Israel can boast innovative techniques in new medical procedures that are setting the bar for the rest of the world. But it does mean that socialized healthcare sucks. Perhaps it’s all a matter of perspective and how one defines a “working system,” but to me, this isn’t acceptable. It’s bad enough to stand in long lines to get treated with rudeness and indifference by employees who know they can never get fired when all you want is a driver’s license. But it’s appalling to have healthcare delivered like this.
What would take me three business days in America takes five weeks under a socialized healthcare system. Now, American healthcare certainly isn’t flawless – there are many improvements that could be made. But to be fair, many of the complaints about American healthcare are not entirely accurate, and the prescribed solution, Obamacare, is only exacerbating the problem.
One hears utterly outlandish statements about how people are dying in the streets in America because of the “40 million uninsured.” Having traveled to all regions of the United States, I can say with a fairly high level of confidence that no one is “dying in the streets.” I’m quite sure the media would happily report any such occasions (“He couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment, and he died right there in the street! We blame Bush!”). I never understood why people insist on pointing to (quite possibly inflated) figures on the number of uninsured as if it correlates directly to an epidemic of “dying in the streets.” This myth does not an argument for socialized healthcare make.
I also hear quite frequently that it’s impossible to get insurance if you don’t have a job. This is simply not true. If you are laid off, there are already laws in the United States that enable you to keep your health insurance from your prior job for up to 18 months. There are also insurance companies you can contract with directly and pay your own premiums, as well as temporary insurance providers. Is it pricey? Of course.
Health insurance in the United States is too expensive. There are many reasons and the issue is complex, but let’s not forget that one of the biggest drivers of inflated costs involves government intervention. For example, some states have mandates that require insurance providers to include services such as, “in vitro fertilization (fifteen states), oriental medicine (three states), services provided by acupuncturists (twelve states), athletic trainers (three states), and massage therapists (two states).”
What, you say? You would never expect your health insurance to pay for a massage? Well, rest assured that if a government entity forces your insurance company to pay for it, then you are paying for it, too – even if it never would have crossed your mind to consider that a “medical need.” And unfortunately, this is exactly what Obamacare is going to do (and has already done) – remove more of your freedom to have a say in what you will and will not pay for, further damage the free market, drive costs further and further up – and, of course, offer us medical care with all the charm of a driver’s license bureau.
So thanks but no thanks – I think I’ll keep my privatized care (while I can). You get what you pay for and when you pay nothing, you can’t really expect too much in the way of personal service, can you? Sadly, it is in this area of healthcare, perhaps more than any other, where human beings need the most personal care – and yes, dignified treatment. I hear people demanding free healthcare and insisting “free” healthcare is a basic right, but with all due respect for an opposing ideology, this, what I just experienced and what millions of people trapped in these systems have no choice but to accept, is not “healthcare” worthy of the name.
It’s a truth that the advocates of socialism don’t want to face, but that doesn’t make it any less valid: The answer to any “lack” in society isn’t to snatch it away from everyone, or ruin it so that all are equally miserable (except of course for the corrupt elite who always emerge at the top of socialized systems – you know, the hypocrites who exempt themselves from laws and regulations they find tiresome).
The answer, instead, is to unleash the power of the free market to fix some of these problems. In the U.S., for instance, repealing laws that prevent people from crossing state lines to buy insurance is a “fix” with enormous potential as a proactive solution.
Competition lowers costs and raises service. Healthcare needs more of it, not less – and the evidence is all around us.