Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fly Me to Hong Kong

Responding to my column yesterday on Health Savings Accounts, the latest crock to come out of the health-industrial complex's laboratories of shams, a friend from Hong Kong writes:

When advocates of market-based healthcare pitch their agenda, they treat healthcare as a commodity rather than a social need. They are certain that a market-based system will work, and it may - as long as you stop covering those who can't afford it.

My parents recently visited me in Hong Kong. My father said that his health coverage, which he is currently getting through my mother's job, will expire next year because her insurer announced that it could no longer afford to cover spouses. I told him to strongly consider returning to Hong Kong, getting a Hong Kong Identity Card (which he is eligible for, since he had grown up here), and using our government hospitals. Even our private doctors are relatively affordable.

This is not an ideal solution, but something to fall back on. It says something about America's broken healthcare system when some of its citizens have to consider getting treatment halfway around the world, and if this were ten years earlier, my father would have scoffed at the idea. But much has changed in the last ten years, and little of it for the better, so my father said that he would consider it.

Hong Kong's public healthcare system is operating in the red, mainly because it has been too successful. During the SARS outbreak two years ago, government hospitals were overflowing (and still are), while private hospitals were screaming for government assistance. Uh, what happened to the "free market"? It doesn't look so free when you're not getting any patients.

[With thanks to CC]