Thursday, 23 July 2009

Your Three Minutes of Health Care Insight

After living in Europe for almost fifteen years now....and traveling a fair amount....I will offer some analysis that you can't find in the media.

Across Europe....universal health care is a mixed bag of failure and success. Some countries have been utter failures (UK)....some have have had mixed success but with emerging problems (France, Germany, Spain, etc).....and finally, there are the few who've had great success (Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Finland).

Rather than dump on the negatives and failures of various countries....let's examine why universal health care worked in a handful of countries....because we just might learn something unique.

The five countries with great success? Its a funny thing....all are mostly rural in nature. Sure, they've got the capital city....maybe a dozen odd-ball towns of various sizes, but the majority of folks live in rural surroundings. None of them are significant when it comes to population....which makes it interesting how you develop a major medical system around a mostly rural population.

When you travel out into these countries....you start to notice that booze is typically taxed to the hilt. If you want a simple beer....no problem. Beer is usually not terribly taxed....but anything else? Whiskey can cost $40 in Sweden for a simple bottle that you'd buy in Bama for $18. So they don't drink the hard stuff.

Then you start looking around for hardcore alcoholics.....and you just don't find them (well....except in Finland). Looking for a AA group? You might have trouble in finding them. Most of these guys who do have problems....just live with it.

Sports injuries? Well....folks just don't play hard or dynamic sports like they do in Texas or Bama. No football. You might have some ice hockey or soccer....but thats about it. So teenage boys don't end up in the emergency room very much.

Looking for heavy or obese folks? Well....you don't really find them in these five countries. Those in the rural communities tend to live pretty good nutritional lifestyles and there just aren't any McDonalds around the corner for them to find.

Heavy drug usage? Switzerland has a slight problem but it's with heron. Looking for meth or crack or cocaine in any of these countries....you don't find it. Rehab being necessary for a drug habit? Well....you could raise your hand but most communities won't have it and you might have to travel and stay in a two month program somewhere in the far distance from your hometown.

Fancy med centers like you'd fnd in Nashville? Well....no. You go to a 25,000 population town in Denmark and there might be a couple of small public clinics....run by a couple of doctors each. There might be one real hospital in town but its small and probably has half the customers you'd expect in a US town with the same population.

Lifestyle differences? Yes....and you can't just limit it to diet or walking. Speed limits are in effect. Kids don't get into trouble much because you don't get a license until 17 or 18 usually. Stress in Denmark? Ha....you could test a hundred Danes and barely six of them would complain about stress.

Pitbulls? Forget it. In all the weeks that I've been in Denmark....I've never seen a pitbull. On the various trips via Switzerland.....never.

Smokes? Well.....they tax the hell out of a pack of smokes. It'll be hard to find a guy who smokes more than a pack a day. Cancer? Well....if they don't smoke much.....for some reason....they don't develop lung cancer much.

Toxic areas in your hometown or region? Forget it. The governments visit and heavily regulate any industry. You can't dump or just release toxic anything into the environment.

So you start to add up this analysis. People don't need doctors much. People don't need clinics or hospitals much. People don't need drugs much. Whatever they pay....is enough to cover the system they want.....because they really don't utilize it like an American would.

So you are scratching your head. We can't possibly get to be like Denmark or Switzerland. True....absolutely true. So can we repeat their success? No....not under any circumstances. Can we try? Well...if you tax booze and smokes at huge levels and start to forbid stressful lifestyles.....maybe so. But you and I don't live in an imaginary world.

So in three minutes, I've taught you a massive amount of wisdom. What can you do with it?

Honduras: The Saga Continues

Normally, most folks are lucky to hear Honduras mentioned once a year. In the past month....it typically comes up once an hour on CNN and some folks actually can point it out on the map now (although they can confuse it with Florida on occasion).

Today....our good buddy and former Nobel Peace Prize winner down in Costa Rica.....President Oscar Arias....got all peppy and happy...he just presented an updated proposal to end the crisis (at least he says this is the answer).

Naturally, it gets the title of the San Jose Accord. Most times....when these guys get weepy and teary eyed over peace accords....they got to name it after some city or region.

The amusing thing....Zelaya (the deposed dude)....says that the talks are mostly failed now. And the Honduran side says that they want more time to examine the document. Naturally...the more time that goes by....means the closer you get to the normal election...and this whole discussion is null and void at that point.

What’s in the new document? Well.....automatically....the deposed dude....President Zelaya gets to return and be president again. Then a creation of a unity government is created....meaning that a bunch of folks in present charge now....get fired. Then early elections are held. The Costa Rican concept says that no constitutional change will likely occur....so you can imagine that Zelaya isn’t too happy with this concept. He wants the election to allow him to run a second time, which violates the Constitution (you get one four-year period). .

The funny part to the document...is that some kind of “Truth Commission” is created in the end and documents all the terrible things that have happened. I’m guessing that Zelaya probably doesn’t like this idea too much and it probably would make him look awful foolish, unless you stacked the deck with a bunch of dimwits on the “Truth Commission”. To be honest, “Truth Commissions” rarely work the way you think. A bunch of folks get blamed for various crimes but typically....these aren’t court cases because you can’t get the right witnesses or proper evidence. Then you have to work with a odd ingredient at the end....a strange group of guys who just walk off grinning with total innocence.

Honduras offered the idea that they’d examine the document and come back in a couple of days. The Supreme Court in Honduras has already said that they will not accept the wording....they were kinda upset that Zelaya just plain went against their ruling in the first place, thus triggering the involvement of the military.

So, the best we can say....if this were an opera.....twelve fat ladies have sung, but we are still barely through the first stanza, and we may need thirty more fat ladies to complete this opera.

Coup, You Know


It’s tough working for CNN. The boss says you gotta write up a Honduras update….and use the phrase “coup”… Then you start looking at the event….and it just doesn’t smell like a coup.

A coup typically involves a lot of violence….alot of gunfire….alot of bullets…and national music on the radio and TV for days. In this case….we are missing almost all of these. What we do have is some humble guy (least he says he is humble)….who got shoved out of bed and told to board a plane to leave the country. Coup? Well….it doesn’t fit well.

So you start trying to use the thesaurus, but coup d’etat just doesn’t fit right.

Overthrow doesn’t fit.

Revolution doesn’t fit.

Rebellion doesn’t fit.

Takeover doesn’t fit.

For a guy from Bama….coup’s just aren’t something you typically write about or utilize in your 2,144 word vocabulary. The odds of using coup d’etat? One in a million and it’s probably one of those Caribbean cruises that your wife Wanda begged out of you but you ended up landing on some island that staged some coup d’etat while you were buying knickknacks over in the port.

Heck, even if the Republicans staged a vote miscount in Bama and rigged up the ballot for some nutcase to become governor (like that would happen, you know)…..no one would be yelling “revolution” or “rebellion”. You might have five guys in some Mobile bar break some windows or someone call up Fox news to report something, but folks aren’t going evaluate this any higher than a NCAA football game.