23 Jun 2007 09:58 pm

What Do You Think of Socialized Medicine?

There is little question that medicine in America has its problems. Pick up any newspaper or turn on any television newscast and there’s sure to be a story focused on the healthcare industry.

The purpose of this post is not to rehash those problems. The purpose of this post is to point you to an article by Panda Bear, MD that I believe you’ll find interesting. He titled his post, Socialized Medicine: Survival of the Fittest. Here are a few select passages:

(My mother, who is an avid reader of my blog, is a native of Greece and while a fierce partisan of that country is never-the-less perplexed at the love so many of my readers have for socialized medicine of the kind which is the rule of life over there. I offer this brief description of a typical socialized system in a modern European country.-PB)


The public hospitals are so understaffed that you need to pay extra to secure the services of a trained nurse who will watch over you or your relative while the low-paid government nurses do whatever it is they do for their small salary, a salary which is just enough to convince them to come to work but not enough to actually get them to do anything.


In Greece on the other hand, enjoying as it does the bounty of socialized medicine, there is a three tiered system. In the first tier are the private hospitals which are the equal of anything we have in the United States. Unlike our hospitals however, they are in no way charity institutions and only cater to the wealthy. In the second tier is the public hospital system where those who can afford it bribe doctors and nurses and even hire maids to clean their relative’s otherwise filthy rooms. In the third and bottom tier are the poor who lay in cots in the hallways of the crowded public hospitals relying on their relatives for the basics of life and nursing care.

Following a firestorm of comments both pro and con to his initial posting Panda offered the following equally controversial second post:

See, you folks don’t get it. If all you expect the government to provide is crappy and relatively inexpensive primary care and would be content to eschew the expensive, admittedly low-yield technological and labor intensive medical care that we currently waste on the elderly, the terminally ill, and those with extremely complicated health problems like they do in most of the Socialist Freeloader Kingdoms… if this is what you want then why do you need the government to provide medical care? After all, in the big scheme of things a visit to your family doctor two or three times a year is not going to bankrupt the large majority of Americans. Surely even most of my poor patients could but give up their cell phones and instantly have the wherewithal to afford to take their children to a pediatrician now and then.

Needless to say, Panda’s articles have stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy and debate.

But what do you think?

Do you feel that the answer lies in a national healthcare system? Should we scrap the present system and switch to socialized medicine? Or should we work to improve the system already in place?

Head on over to Panda’s blog and let us know your opinion.


14 Responses to “What Do You Think of Socialized Medicine?”

  1. on 25 Jun 2007 at 1:20 am 1.Leigh said …

    I just saw Sicko, the new film by Michael Moore about the US health care system, last weekend in a special early screening. If you’re interested in the issue of privatized vs. “socialized” medicine, it’s a must see. It was a very funny and engaging film. It opens nationwide next week.

    In the opening scenes you’ll see an uninsured American stitching up his OWN knee at home in his living room using a needle and thread!


  2. on 25 Jun 2007 at 12:45 pm 2.Dean said …

    It will be interesting to watch and see how everyone reacts to that film. Already there is a great deal of buzz on the blogosphere about it.

  3. on 25 Jun 2007 at 7:13 pm 3.Terry said …

    Dean, as a member of the healthcare system, I definitely feel qualified to say that the system is broken and is in dire need of fixing.

    But I don’t feel qualified enough to say exactly what that fix should be. I don’t know how you feel about political replies, but if this is unacceptable you can toss it. It seems to me that we have plenty of $$ to toss at Halliburton and the Iraq disaster.

    Without having a totally government-funded healthcare system, couldn’t there be some middle ground somewhere in between, where working people don’t go broke after just a visit to the emergency room, or having to go on several medications that cost more than their rent?

    I’m gonna head over to Panda’s blog and read more! Thanks.

  4. on 25 Jun 2007 at 9:50 pm 4.Dean said …

    Political opinions are fine. I’ve held back making a political statement in my post, although it should be obvious that I agree with Panda. I don’t believe a government run system is the answer.

  5. on 26 Jun 2007 at 7:50 am 5.Alexis said …

    I tend to be a middle-grounder on this whole thing. I think the system is close to broken, and that something needs to be done to fix it. I don’t know quite what that something is. I do, however, wonder if perhaps we need to simply get the ball rolling on some level – as the cliche says “it’s the job that never gets started that takes the longest to do.” I do agree that some thorough debate on what, exactly, the ideal endpoints are is in order, but the nitty-gritty needs to be put aside until we actually have a goal.

    That said, is it completely fair to compare the U.S. to Greece? Not that the points made aren’t valid, but the economies are so vastly different that I’m not sure it’s logical to assume anything we tried would automatically have the same problems as suach a different nation. Google tells me that Greece’s GDP for 2006 was $223.8 billion (very roughly 20,000 per person) and the U.S.’s was $13.21 trillion (roughly 44,000 per person). I know that’s a horrifically rough estimate missing all sorts of nuances, but it’s still a significant difference. Perhaps a more productive comparison would be to Japan (who is 2nd in the world, at least in 2005, at 4.5 trillion – or 36,000 per person), whose healthcare system is remarkably good, at least from what I’ve seen. I don’t know if the differences are statistically significant, but it would behoove us to find the best systems in existence rather than focusing on everything that goes wrong. That is, once we figure out what we think “best” is.

    Thanks for pointing this out to me – it’s always interesting to see what my colleagues are thinking.

  6. on 26 Jun 2007 at 3:20 pm 6.Dean said …

    Hi Alexis,

    I agree.

    we should examine all systems (not just 1 or 2) to try and determine what works and what doesn’t. It may be a process of picking the best ideas and either incorporating them into our present system or designing a completely new one.

    Does Japan have a national healthcare system? It would be interesting to know more about it. If their system is working, we should be able to pick up some good ideas from them.

    As the old saying goes, “Problems are complicated… but solutions are simple.”

    I believe the problems in the healthcare industry can be fixed. And I believe the solutions will turn out to be simple.

    The bigest stumbling block will be trying to keep politics and greed out of the equation.

  7. on 26 Jun 2007 at 3:55 pm 7.Alexis said …

    Japan does have a national health care system, and it works remarkably well. That said, it’s very very different than ours – much more paternalistic and much less personal. The cultural differences mean that they can do things we can’t (mass vaccinations are much easier there, for example), but they are remarkably similar in the types of technology they can leverage for individual patients (e.g. CT scans).

    I agree – the biggest stumbling block will definitely be keeping politics out, and I doubt it’ll be feasible. But hopefully, it can be minimized.

  8. on 30 Jun 2007 at 2:52 am 8.Cathy said …

    Dean, great post! I have many opinions on this. I have posted about it several times.

    One thing I highly disagree with Panda on, is his scare tactics that somehow American hospitals will be filthy and unregulated. Are we really that barbaric of a society, that we will allow that to happen? Will there no longer be any federal inspections and operating guidelines for hospitals? I dont buy into that for a moment. I have been inside some of Canada’s hospitals. I was never in a filty one or seen one thing comparable to what Panda would have us believe.

    We are a broken system. We are so broken that there is plenty of blame to go around. How to fix it is the real issue.

    Can we really ignore it and leave it as is? I doubt it, so what is the options? Most medical professionals certainly dont want an NHS, but what do they propose to replace what we have? Nothing realistic that I have heard.

    Many (most all) of the physicians, are so scared of malpractice lawsuits, that they full time practice defensive medicine that has truly caused medical prices to skyrocket, yet, at the same time, they refuse to believe they are part of the problem that is forcing an NHS on our society.

    They then will tell us that contray to what is well known, that there is not really more than 45 million Americans who don’t have access to healthcare. They constantly throw in or faces that no one gets turned away from the ER in this country, but, that is such a misleading statement as to be comical.

    Yes, we can go to the ER and get care, but we CANNOT go to the ER and receive preventative treatment or prescriptions for chronic medical conditions. They can treat folks after they have a stroke, they just cant give you monthly medications to prevent having one. This is not receiving proper medical care.

    So yes, we need healthcare reform, and honestly I see us having an NHS with the next President to be sworn in. Good, bad or indifferent, it is coming.

  9. on 30 Jun 2007 at 3:28 am 9.Cathy said …

    Also, I need to clarify something Dean. i am not a hater of Physicians. Look at my sidebar and you will know better. I have alot of respect for the majority of them. My own brother is a physician. But, this is just what I feel is happening to American medicine. It is nothing against them personally. You just asked what we thought, and I answered as honestly as I could.

  10. on 30 Jun 2007 at 6:35 am 10.randolph said …

    What do I think about socialized medicine?

    Part of me loves it: 2 of my kids would have died without the state medicaid system. We didn’t have the money to pay for ANY care and NC and OR stepped up and paid for $25K of great, state-of-the-art care that saved their lives (my out-of-pocket

  11. on 30 Jun 2007 at 6:17 pm 11.smalltown RN said …

    Oh the health care debate…it will always be out there….as long as there is class distinctions and the haves and the have nots…there will be this debate.

    The haves…can afford anything….if they dont’ want to wait for treatment in the public system they can jump the cue and pay to go to a private clinic…pros…they get it done and done faster….cons….in many cases it is the same healthcare professionals working in the private system as in the public system..You know what that does to the public system…it draws health care professionals away…what that means is..if we need a RN or radiology tech. or even a surgeon for that matter they would not be available because they are being used in the private system. There is an international shortage of qualified staff in all areas of healthcare and if you take from the public to feed the private then sure that will make the lines longer with the public system.

    The comment about spending money on eldery and terminally ill…well that initially made my blood boil…but now that I have calmed I ask myself if that was my parents or loved ones wouldn’t I want the latest treatments…you bet. Years ago we did not have the technology that we do now…and as a result people are living longer…and yes maybe these folks are putting strain on the system..but they are still paying their taxes..the continue to contribute to the system. It use to be that people who had certain cancers wouldn’t have lived as long…eldery wouldn’t have lived as long because those medications we have now weren’t available….heart catherizations are far more sophisticated hence saving more lives. I have to ask that person…if it was their loved one that was diagnosed with cancer wouldn’t they want the cure or treatment..or if it was their mom or dad or grandma and grandpa..wouldn’t they want them to have the treatment that was available. We have chosen to allow research to go on in order to make our lives better…hey if you don’t want it…lobby your government and tell them to stop spending money on research…but I don’t think you really want that…

    As I have always said…society has to decide what they value..what is most important to them…for me it is the comfort in knowing that if I become ill or my loved one becomes ill that there will be a health care system available to them that will care for them and I don’t have to worry about whether my HMO is going to cover the treatment the doctor believes I or they should have.

    I am not saying public health care is perfect…but to say that there is no place for it is nonsense..it is affordable…and it should be a right…not a luxury.

  12. on 03 Jul 2007 at 11:49 pm 12.Mother Jones, RN said …

    I totally agree with smalltown rn. I can’t add anything to what she said.


  13. on 08 Jul 2008 at 2:00 am 13.Christina said …

    I read these comments and have many mixed feelings. I personally, have both lived in Greece and the U.S. and have had socialized medicine and paid for health insurance both privately and through my job for the last 15years. I also work in the medical profession with the very sick and elderly. Let me state that some of my clients are as young as 55 years of age. When we say too much money is spent on the elderly, when I fight serious budget cuts every day is a serious lack of knowledge of the system.

    I see problems with both systems. In the U.S. 95,000 died a year due to drug complications and errors. I deal with drugs errors every day. Talk about staff-infections in many hospitals in the resent years or how about conditions? If you pay privately in the U.S. or have a good full-time job you get good health insurance, but if you do not the cost can be outrageous.

    We talk about politics not being involved, yet that is how each hospital through pharmaceutical companies and big pockets receive their funding. Kick-backs galore. There is too much money involved with these big companies that they do not wish to say good-buy too.

    Being in Greece all the years I was here I did not see any of the conditions described. Yes, there is good care and bad just like everywhere. Yes, people pay extra to get better care sometimes in Greece, but that is the people’s mentality that even the president of Greece asked the people to stop doing years ago. Remember, you cannot take a few cases and like the media blow it up to be a generalized statement of factual reality. If that is the case I can give you many cases of medical errors even in the U.S. or major insurance denials that will make you blood curl.

    We need a change and fast. I spend my days meeting the thousands in the U.S. who have no health-insurance or funds to pay privately and the insurance companies that often refuse them care. Yes, you can go to the emergency but who pays for that? (Taxpayers and the patient) Follow up is declined. If you have a chronic disease which can be as simple as Asthma you can be denied.

    Please study these systems carefully before you listen to a few disgruntled cases because you will find there are many other issues involved and many of those cases in the USA that you are not aware off. Knowledge is power.


  14. on 08 Jul 2008 at 9:43 am 14.Dean said …

    Hi Christina, Thanks for the comment. I hear what you’re saying and I agree. There are problems on both sides of the issue. The present system in the U.S. is broken and greatly in need of improvement. Only time will tell if the powers that be will come up with real solutions… or just make things worse.

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