Another National Health Care Systems is Failing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 24th, 2011

If you want a glimpse of the future of Obamacare you can look at the UK’s NHS.  Canada’s health care system.  Or Costa Rica’s (see Costa Rica’s health-care plan falls ill by Alex Leff posted 8/24/2011 on GlobalPost).

Costa Rica’s respected universal health-care system is highly socialized. It’s also on the verge of going broke…

Now, hobbled by mismanagement, the system has become overwhelmed by a burgeoning population that includes an increasing number of elderly and new immigrants who rely on the public system for care.

A damning report by the Pan American Health Organization, an international public health agency, found that Costa Rica’s social security system, known as “la Caja,” or savings bank in Spanish, spent greater sums than ever on health care even as service in public hospitals faltered.

At hospitals considered among Latin America’s finest, waiting lists run painfully long. A tally of patients awaiting biopsies at one San Jose hospital reached 11,000 last year.

This is a common refrain of socialized medicine.  More patients than the system can handle.  Runaway costs.  Bloated bureaucracies.  And long waits.  Which equals rationing.  Even at the ‘finest’ of hospitals.  It is for these reasons that the UK is trying to reform the NHS.  And why Canada is trying to reform their health care system

“The (budget) shortage can no longer be covered by the current system, and any temporary solution will do nothing more than worsen the problem and the future situation of the institution,” Chinchilla said.

The long queues sway patients with means to opt for faster care in private clinics, popular among throngs of “medical tourists” from the United States…

But private health care prices are prohibitively high for most Costa Ricans, so they turn instead to la Caja.

To fund it, wage earners pay a little over 9 percent of their salary in social security tax. Their employer matches that with another 27 percent of each worker’s salary, and the government pays into la Caja as well to help cover the poor.

So there’s no quick fix.  And the attempt to provide quality health care services for everyone regardless of wealth has produced a two tier system.  Quality health care for the wealthy who can afford it.  And poor quality health care for the poor.  Who have no choice but to be dependent on the state.  And this despite the heavy tax burdens. 

Much of the blame for la Caja’s shortfall has fallen on previous managers. Under the former Caja chief’s watch, the public health system hired thousands of new workers and hiked wages. Pay for sick leave and overtime also ran up the bills. Social-security revenue, meanwhile, failed to keep pace.

This is why governments like national health care.  It’s BIG money.  Which invites patronage, cronyism and corruption.  The poor people stuck in the system may suffer poor quality health care.  But those in the health care aristocracy will be able to pay themselves very well.  And enjoy benefits few do in the private sector.

It’s a story as old as time.  Using the poor to live a better life.


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