October 31, 2007

Rudy and health care

Filed under: Health care, politics — ubikcan @ 6:00 am


Update: Seems Rudy’s treatment was invented in Europe! Klein:

So Giuliani’s case for the superiority of our “free market” health care system goes something like this: While on health insurance provided by New York state, he was treated, using a surgery developed by Europeans, for prostate cancer, a disease that most commonly afflicts those covered by the federal government’s single-payer health care system. Take that, Europe/national health insurance.

Update II: Oh my God this Rudy story’s got legs! An article in today’s Salon by Joe Conason provides an update on prostate-gate:

The Giuliani ad’s problems go well beyond a pair of phony numbers. Among the blogging wonks scrutinizing the relevant health data is Ezra Klein, who asked a separate but penetrating question: “Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out if the gold-standard care Giuliani got during his prostate cancer came while he was on government-provided health insurance?”

As Klein surmised, Giuliani was serving as mayor and participating in a city of New York health plan when his doctor informed him that his prostate biopsy had come up positive. The coverage he enjoyed — which resembles the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan — permits all city employees, from trash haulers and subway clerks up to the mayor himself, to select from a variety of insurance providers, and it is not much different from the reform proposals adopted by his nemesis Hillary Clinton.

Update III: OMG this story’s still got legs: the New York Times (Paul Krugman, natch) wraps everything up into just the neatest package you’ve seen:

It would be a stunning comparison if it were true. But it isn’t. And thereby hangs a tale — one of scare tactics, of the character of a man who would be president and, I’m sorry to say, about what’s wrong with political news coverage.

* * *

Rudy can’t count (and doesn’t think much of the UK health care system)!

“My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States: 82 percent,” Giuliani says in a new radio spot airing in New Hampshire. “My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England: Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine.”

But the data Giuliani cites comes from a single study published eight years ago by a not-for-profit group, and is contradicted by official data from the British government.

According to the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics, for men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1999 and 2003, the “five-year survival rate” — a common measurement in cancer statistics — was 74.4 percent.

Nice reminder of his health during a presidential campaign!

I think one of the things that most amazes non-Americans is this insistence on thinking of national health care as bad or “socialized” (not sure what that means). In Britain, as in most industrialized countries around the world (including Canada) there is some form of national health care, which exists completely uncontroversially day in and day out to provide much needed medical care for its citizens.

Both my parents benefited from the NHS. My mother used to work for them and my father was rushed to the Countess of Chester (aka Princess Diana) hospital following his stroke ten years ago. He received excellent care and when he got sicker was given a private room after briefly sharing a room with two other people. It had a great view over the Cheshire countryside as I remember.

I’ll never forget that the hospital gave me a private room as well to stay overnight (!) down the corridor from my father. That morning in the hospital canteen my sister and I were approached by a nurse who told us that we should return to my father’s room. She was very professional and refused to say what had happened; rather than passing on the bad news to us that my father had died, she gently led us to the room, providing support for us. This gave me time to compose and prepare myself–unlike on TV they don’t come up to you and say “I’m sorry your father died while you were away and his breathing tube has been removed.”

Instead they composed him and we got a moment to compose ourselves. I’ll never forget that generosity. This all occurred over perhaps a space of 10 minutes (we hadn’t even started on our tea and toast. We just left our trays there).

We sent the staff a bouquet of flowers for their care over those few days (Sat-Weds).

Oh yes, the hospital’s charge: $0.

When I was first living in the USA I had no health insurance, nor did I have much money. Instead I took part in a twice weekly plasma donation scheme. This paid me I believe $25 a week or similar. The literature the center gave you noted that plasma was often used in emergencies before the patient’s blood type had been determined and was therefore in constant demand. It also pointed out that your body regenerated plasma (though funnily, they wouldn’t allow you to come back more than twice in a week).

Here’s how it worked. You lay down on a hospital bed and a needle was inserted into your arm (I still have the tracks!). A couple of pints of blood were drained into those bags. These were then taken away and the plasma I think was cooled and centrifuged out. Then the blood cells sans the plasma were pumped back into your veins! This was quite painful (once the nurse missed and the blood flowed into my arm but not the vein, causing a huge bruise the length of my forearm where the blood settled). Not only this but the blood was freezing cold and chilled you to the core. All this took several hours.

But I was ok with this until I told my mother who worriedly wrote to me that I mustn’t do this. Yes your body replaces its plasma but it draws it from your bone marrow! Well I hadn’t thought about how my body replaced the plasma. The literature at Sera-Tec said nothing about this. So even though I was a starving grad student (on many occasions I only had enough money to buy a bag of potatoes and live off those until the next paycheck).

Those are my competing health experiences (some of them). I now have health insurance but that’s because I’ve got a nice job. But really, why should that have anything to do with it?

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