Is universal health care a good idea? Or, I'm glad I live in the U.S.

(Let me say right off the bat that I haven't spent much time or effort studying universal health care, and I'm basing my comments here on one article, which isn't very much evidence. The one article, however, does cite some rather interesting--and, perhaps, surprising--statistics.)

Today's Wall Street Journal contained an interesting column by Betsy McCaughey titled "Cancer Killers." (I'm not sure whether you can access the article without being a subscriber.)

Ms. McCaughey takes issue with the American Cancer Society's plans to scrap its ads educating the public about cancer-causing behaviors and the benefits of regular screening in favor of ads promoting universal health coverage. She presents evidence that "shows that universal health coverage does not improve survival rates for cancer patients. Despite the large number of uninsured, cancer patients in the U.S. are most likely to be screened regularly, have the fastest access to treatment once they are diagnosed with the disease, and can get new, effective drugs long before they're available in most other countries." McCaughey cites several studies showing that cancer survival rates in the U.S. are the highest in the world and that U.S. patients are more likely than those in other countries to undergo screening procedures on a regular basis.

But, McCaughey points out, early diagnosis isn't the only factor to consider: the speed with which a patient can access treatment is also critical. From the article:

Long waits for treatment are "common devices used to restrict access to care in countries with universal health insurance," according to a report in Health Affairs (July/August 2007). The British National Health Service has set a target for reducing waits. The goal is that patients will not have to wait more than 18 weeks between the time their general practitioner refers them to a specialist and they actually begin treatment.

18 weeks?! Wow. I wonder how much cancer could spread in the more than 4 months that it would take for a patient to being treatment.

As many problems as the current U.S. health care system may have, I think I'd still choose capitalism over socialism.

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