An American government health-care system you should know

posted at 12:16 pm on July 14, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Over the last few months, as Barack Obama’s plans to transform the health-care industry in America have proceeded, I have written extensively on the two existing government-run health-care systems and their myriad problems: Medicare/Medicaid and the VA.  It seems I missed a third that may be worse than either or perhaps both combined.  Mary Clare Jalonick of the Associated Press provides an eye-opening report on Indian Health Service, a single-payer system that rations care to Native Americans on reservations across the country — and kills them through neglect and a severe lack of resources:

On some reservations, the oft-quoted refrain is “don’t get sick after June,” when the federal dollars run out. It’s a sick joke, and a sad one, because it’s sometimes true, especially on the poorest reservations where residents cannot afford health insurance. Officials say they have about half of what they need to operate, and patients know they must be dying or about to lose a limb to get serious care.

Wealthier tribes can supplement the federal health service budget with their own money. But poorer tribes, often those on the most remote reservations, far away from city hospitals, are stuck with grossly substandard care. The agency itself describes a “rationed health care system.”

The sad fact is an old fact, too.

The U.S. has an obligation, based on a 1787 agreement between tribes and the government, to provide American Indians with free health care on reservations. But that promise has not been kept. About one-third more is spent per capita on health care for felons in federal prison, according to 2005 data from the health service.

Without a doubt, the people on the reservations represent some of the poorest of the poor in America.  Yet we already have a single-payer system in place to provide health care to Native Americans on these reservations.  Do we properly fund it?  Do we make sure that enough resources are applied to ensure good health care?  Not at all.  It is, as the agency itself describes, a system of rationing medical resources, and the end result is a poor population unable to seek out its own care locked into a system that only works when someone is on death’s door.

In fact, as Jalonick reports, it often doesn’t recognize when a patient faces death.  Jalonick profiles the heartrending case of Ta’Shon Rain Little Light, who began complaining of stomach pains at the age of 5, and stopped eating and playing.  The overwhelmed clinic diagnosed her as depressed, and ten subsequent visits to the clinic over the next several months while Ta’Shon’s symptoms worsened didn’t change the diagnosis.  Only when she suffered a collapsed lung did IHS airlift her to Denver, where Ta’Shon was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Could it have been treated?  We’ll never know, thanks to a diagnostic service that appears to be just above the wild-guess level on the reservation.

When government owns the nation’s health-care system, we can all look forward to the same level of care.  After all, as Obama himself insists, a government-run system will “save costs,” but he never explains how those costs get saved.  We will all go into the rationing-system grinder, just as veterans do with the VA, seniors and disabled do with Medicare, and Native Americans do with IHS.

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I just whizzed by HuffPo and saw what they are doing on that loony liberal blog: soliciting totally unsubstantiated stories on “Healthcare Abroad”. You know, I was in London and they cured my migraine. Free! And I was in Spain and they took out my appendix in 5 minutes and I was back on the beach that afternoon! Free! And I was in Cuba and they cured my inoperable brain cancer in one hour. Free! And……Free!

Marcus on July 14, 2009 at 10:33 PM

I have a relative who’s half Indian. He was diagnosed w/ a broken leg last summer at an IHS hospital, but they were going to make him wait ten days to get a cast! He went to a private clinic, & they told him it wasn’t broken. He was good as new in a week.

jgapinoy on July 14, 2009 at 10:36 PM

Fourteen years ago, I was referred to an indian health care clinic by my insurance because I didn’t have a primary care physician and it was close to my house. I had been experiencing extreme nausea and had lost 20 lbs in about 10 days.

They agreed to see me because I had insurance, despite having no native heritage. I waited 3 hours to see an LPN – there was no doctor on duty. She asked 3 or 4 questions, ran no tests of any kind and diagnosed me with having the flu – 2 full months before flu season normally begins. She told me I should go home and get plenty of rest.

The following day, my wife made a few phone calls and got me an appointment with a doctor who insisted on seeing me and having blood tests done immediately. My weight loss alone was an indication that I did not have the flu.

While going over the results of my blood tests, the lab tech was looking at my profile and asked the doctor if he had somehow gotten the wrong blood. My profile said 25 year old non-smoker, but the blood had toxin levels of someone who had been smoking for 30+ years. Further blood tests revealed I was slowly dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. A test of my furnace by the gas company revealed this to be the case. We got the furnace repaired, and I recovered fully in about a month.

If I had taken the medical advice of the nurse, I would have been dead in a week.

Government health care ALWAYS stinks.

Wingo on July 15, 2009 at 12:21 AM

It can always get worse.

Chaz706 on July 15, 2009 at 12:42 AM

If I had taken the medical advice of the nurse, I would have been dead in a week.

Government health care ALWAYS stinks.

Wingo on July 15, 2009 at 12:21 AM

Yeah and if I listened to my American doctors instead of the NHS I would have had three surgeries I did not need and I would be dosed up on whatever useless prescription my doctor is pushing. He seems to have stopped pushing allegra. It’s funny… I have been misdiagnosed so many times on my $350 a month plan. US private health care is a fucking joke and the whole world knows it. $640 to have one stitch and a nail removed because I went to an emergency room across the street from where I had an accident and crushed my finger.

American companies look to locate in foreign countries not because the labor is cheap or because they get tax breaks… it’s because health costs are prohibitive in the US. Global travel insurance is cheap unless you visit the US… you need special insurance for that because of the costs. If you think having a system which costs twice as much as the next lowest (Switzerland) is good for industry or the country you need you head examined.

Health costs are the reason why all the productivity gains of the last ten years haven’t ended up in employees pockets.

America’s health care sucks. It sucks by just about every measure you can come up with. The costs have gone up but the results have remained poor. It needs drastic reform immediately.

lexhamfox on July 15, 2009 at 1:18 AM

Meanwhile, isn’t it about time the natives left the reservation?

xblade on July 15, 2009 at 1:38 AM

What kind of death rate must a government health care system have before it’s pronounced a menace? Guess we’ll get to find out.

theCork on July 15, 2009 at 5:12 AM

I can’t get over the story about that little girl. I feel ashamed that we haven’t honored this commitment to these deserving citizens.

Jeff from WI on July 15, 2009 at 5:41 AM

Saying that congress’s medical system is federal managed may be technically true, but the people using it, are the people who oversee it.

If you created a system which congress had to use, and the Congressional care unit received the lowest priority on funding, you might end up with a well functioning government health care system.

Pigs will be using jet packs as well.

darktood on July 15, 2009 at 5:50 AM

It might be noted that at least the indians have the option of supplementing the goevernment serivces with private funds to get better care. Yes, I understand that we are talking about people who don’t HAVE those funds, but that is my point. OBama will tell you the same thing, that you should have supplemental insurance of some sort, but in your case your FREE government service will be taking the money you might use for the private coverage in the form of taxes.

MikeA on July 15, 2009 at 7:31 AM

America’s health care sucks. It sucks by just about every measure you can come up with. The costs have gone up but the results have remained poor. It needs drastic reform immediately.

lexhamfox on July 15, 2009 at 1:18 AM

BS. look at cancer survival rates in britian compared to the US…and of course they recently banned some advanced life-prolonging cancer drugs in Brtiain…well hell, they’re gonna die someday anyway…

right4life on July 15, 2009 at 9:42 AM

Cancer survival rates in Britain are among the lowest in Europe, according to the most comprehensive analysis of the issue yet produced.


right4life on July 15, 2009 at 9:45 AM

Europe’s survival rates are lower than in the US, where 66.3 per cent of men and 62.9 per cent of women survive for five years, compared with 47.3 per cent of European men and 55.8 per cent of women.

right4life on July 15, 2009 at 9:47 AM

America’s health care sucks. It sucks by just about every measure you can come up with. The costs have gone up but the results have remained poor. It needs drastic reform immediately.

lexhamfox on July 15, 2009 at 1:18 AM

You are an uninformed idiot who has no idea what it is he’s blathering about. Do you really think that the leftists who want to take over 1/7th of the economy, are really going to tell you the truth about the state of our health care system. Barack Obama is lying to you. The Democrats in Congress are lying to you.

But if this ignorant “reform” bill passes, you’ll soon know what “suck” is and your ignorance will stick the rest of us with it, as well. Forever.

Life’s tough, tougher when you’re stupid. But your stupidity shouldn’t have consequences this severe for the rest of us, but it will.

NoDonkey on July 15, 2009 at 9:50 AM

Wonderful. It’s nice to see that someone insists on coming into the conversation late, and ignoring all of the prior posts, and spewing unsupported claims about how horrible our system is.

America’s health care sucks. It sucks by just about every measure you can come up with. The costs have gone up but the results have remained poor. It needs drastic reform immediately.

lexhamfox on July 15, 2009 at 1:18 AM

There have been a number of suggestions made in this thread that don’t involve more government control. There have been valid points made about the historical ineffectiveness and high costs of government programs. There have been references to verifiably poor government run health care systems. But you just had to come on here and rant. In case you are actually reading any of this, and not just a drive by harasser, here are a few “reform” suggestions that have been made:

Tort Reform (Doc insurance, and legal costs are astronomical)

HSA’s (People need to take responsibility for costs, and add direct free market pressure to the services we get, impacting market value)

Reduced Gov regulation (Why do I need to see a doctor to evaluate something that any normal person, without schooling, can effectively evaluate? Are nurses unqualified for anything? Why as a combat medic was I authorized after two weeks of schooling to do things nurses still couldn’t do after years of school?)

The point being, there are plenty of ways to improve our healthcare system. Single payer, is not improvement. It’s corruption. It’s reduced choice. It’s reduced effectiveness and innovation. It’s increased costs. It’s arbitrary rationing.

aelhues on July 15, 2009 at 9:57 AM

oh yeah how’s your british dentist Dr. PLIARS doing??

right4life on July 15, 2009 at 10:04 AM

Has anyone seen this? I am sorry to sound alrmist, but this is scary stuff.

IanTrouble on July 15, 2009 at 10:24 AM

I can’t get over the story about that little girl. I feel ashamed that we haven’t honored this commitment to these deserving citizens.

Jeff from WI on July 15, 2009 at 5:41 AM

I havent’ seen it mentioned yet, but the basis for this 1787 commitment to providing native Americans health care is a farce.

The date of the treaty referenced in all of these articles predates the forced relocation of the tribes in the 1830s. Not only does it not make sense that there was a treaty signed on behalf of all of the tribes in 1787, if there was such a treaty, on a smaller scale, it has been lost.

In 1824 the Bureau of Indian Affairs was formed. It’s mission included providing health services. That commitment has morphed over time to being essentially the sole health provider under the Department of Health and Human Services.

In my opinion, the entire history of Indian, American relations is a tragic story that condemns the welfare state. When people are handed the means to survive, without any struggle, they don’t fight to better their situation, except for rare individual cases. We need to strive to be a country of opportunity, not of equal station. A country of freedom and the responsibility freedom brings, not one of servitude and handouts.

aelhues on July 15, 2009 at 10:38 AM

Has anyone seen this? I am sorry to sound alrmist, but this is scary stuff.

IanTrouble on July 15, 2009 at 10:24 AM

I watched part of it…the guy has a scary voice, so you know that many nefarious things are being done…and the background has lines ominously moving about depicting confusion and subterfuge….there was even “scary” music, so we know when we should be alarmed. And the voices were yelling over the announcer, very telling of bad things to come…wow, you had an hour to watch that garbage?

right2bright on July 15, 2009 at 11:15 AM

Although I agree with the use of the IHS as a good example of poor health care, I fundamentally disagree with the years of silence about it up until the point it becomes a valuable political bludgeon. If it is an issue to be raised now, it was an issue to be raised 5-10 or 20 years ago when the results were no different than they are today–terrible.

The IHS for years is woefully underfunded, understaffed and the healthcare results are atrocious. Native Americans have quietly endured for generations the slow, institutional genocide that has befallen them. It pains me to see that we have marginalized these people, relegated them to “reservations” and then promised them everything–health care, schools, etc. as a manner to placate the past. We have kept the Native Americans “reserved” and drunk for generations and then given them health care that pales in comparison to that given to federal prisoners. The alcoholism rates, drug abuse, obesity, diabetes, heart disease rates in the native American populations are staggering–yet they get the tylenol treatment.

For slavery, we fought the civil war. We had the civil rights movement. African Americans have risen to the presidency, congress, cabinet, generals/admirals and all other positions in business. The last remaining ingredient in that issue is –forgiveness.

For the Native Americans– we fought against them and won. We are still exploiting the spoils of war by slowly attriting the Native American population by willfully allowing the drunkenness to silence their voices, and the diseases to ravage their people. They are Americans and their voices ought to be heard. They ought to be louder than the Sharptons, Obamas, Rangels et al. I am listening–but what do we hear from them except silent reticence to the poor deal we’ve given them. THIS is a national tragedy. Billions for UNRWA to provide HAMAS money to fight Israel, but the Native Americans get the back of the hand—truly sad.

ted c on July 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM

ted c on July 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM

I would tend to disagree somewhat.

Natives are offered many opportunities, and many have risen to great stature, you can find African-American ‘Reservations’ in inner city housing projects and elsewhere.

The similarities are that the government is the enabler to help several deadly sins flourish in these communities.

Growing up on an Indian Reservation, and still living near the same one, I see the effects on a regular basis. It is like watching a miniature communist/socialist society crumble and rebuild only to crumble again.

cntrlfrk on July 15, 2009 at 12:30 PM

I’m sure they are offered many opportunities–except adequate treatment for diabetes, alcoholism, neuropathy, heart disease and obesity. Outside of that, I’m sure the opportunities are pretty good.

ted c on July 15, 2009 at 12:45 PM

I wouldn’t disagree with the idea that the way the situation has been handled has been a tragedy. However, like cntrlfrk, I would heartily disagree with ted that we need to pump more public funding in to fix it. It is hurtful to society to be dependent. People that move out and stand on their own two feet, generally succeed. Unfortunately many fail to choose, and by default are relegated to the crappy situation to which they find themselves. If we were to expand this to a national program, where is the opportunity to choose? Where do we go if we aren’t happy with what the government hands us? I see that day coming, and I’m fighting against it now.

“Take my love, take my land; Take me where I cannot stand; I don’t care, I’m still free; You can’t take the sky from me” Firefly title song

aelhues on July 15, 2009 at 12:52 PM

I would heartily disagree with ted that we need to pump more public funding in to fix it. It is hurtful to society to be dependent

I was simply stating the obvious. I do not agree that an answer is to pump more public funding in to fix it. I stated the obvious–the government made a promise, and is failing to live up to it. I don’t believe that the government can deliver on many of the promises that it has made in past years–this is one example of how that is true.

ted c on July 15, 2009 at 1:05 PM

I visit Dr. Yeagly’s occasionally. For intelligent discussion by Native Americans – he refers to himself as Indian – it’s a good place to start. He cuts his own people very little slack, and the ones posting there are not so inclined either.

24K lady on July 15, 2009 at 1:09 PM

I don’t believe that the government can deliver on many of the promises that it has made in past years–this is one example of how that is true.

Just out of curiosity, I’d like to see what the actual promise was. I already know that it isn’t based on an alleged 1787 treaty, but some kind of promise seems to have been made. I suspect it was similar to social security, and welfare. Not truly a promise, but in reality a service provided, and later assumed to be a right or otherwise necessity. If I am right, then they are failing to live up to reasonable expectations in the execution of that service. Which is, unfortunately, expected. Although not the same as if we have an actual treaty, or law which states that we will provide a certain, measurable, level of healthcare.

My point was that we are failing them by propping them up just enough to enable their sad existence. I tend to be an enabler myself. It’s easy to do. But much of the time the best most loving thing you can do is to let someone be in a situation that forces them to choose their path, and hope they choose the right one.

aelhues on July 15, 2009 at 1:20 PM

ted c on July 15, 2009 at 1:05 PM

With all due respect, I think you are confusing ‘living up to a promise’ with ‘preventing people from running their lives into the ground.’

cntrlfrk on July 15, 2009 at 1:21 PM

To All Hotair members:

Would any of you let me and others know what response you are getting when you call, fax or email the House members when you contact them?

bluefox on July 15, 2009 at 1:45 PM

I know it’s late in this thread, but I’ve just started reading it; at the beginning, WashJeff asked why the Indians don’t just leave their reservations. A friend who is part Cherokee told me once that, in addition to inertia and an unwillingness to leave family and friends (and culture), there is usually little way for Indians to earn money.

She told me that, since reservation land belongs to the Indians by law, forever, it can’t be used as collateral for bank loans that would help tribal folks open grocery stores, hardware stores, or other ways to build a nest egg. No collateral, no loans, so little or no way to earn enough money to leave and set up a new life somewhere else. “So we use the land for cemeteries,” she added. I don’t know if she was right about all of that, but I remember her telling it to me.

One thing I heard about IHS doctors has probably made the rounds for years: a boy who broke his arm, and the doctor put the plaster directly on his skin, instead of on top of a “sleeve” buffer. The arm started to itch, then burn, and he went back to the doctor. The plaster had adhered directly to the skin, and the boy’s arm had to be amputated.
So I heard.

KyMouse on July 15, 2009 at 7:40 PM

lexhamfox on July 15, 2009 at 1:18 AM

Lemme guess – you’re a hypochondriac, aren’t you? And since the doctors can’t cure your ills – since they don’t actually exist, except in your mind – they’re all quacks, the health system sucks, etc.
They sell airline tickets to England, you know. Why not head on over there, let their Fabulous Socialized Medical System take care of you for a while.

uncivilized on July 15, 2009 at 10:14 PM

…there is usually little way for Indians to earn money.

Yes, this is partially true, but, like the current so-called ‘Great Recession’, this can be said of many people. The economy is like a plate spinning circus dude, it needs a small, but constant force to keep it going, otherwise it all comes crashing down.

Outside forces speed up the crash.

So, Indians can’t make money or earn money because other Indians aren’t making money or earning money.

The basic explanation of economics should be taught in Kindergarten: A dollar is a trade for work done. Period.

We will all learn soon enough if Obama keeps on this path.

cntrlfrk on July 15, 2009 at 11:09 PM

uncivilized on July 15, 2009 at 10:14 PM

lexhamfox is right to say the N.H.S is being misrepresented.

I work in it,have done for 20yrs, i don’t know whether to laugh or cry when reading some comments.

mags on July 16, 2009 at 2:17 PM

The only reason that some of the foreigh health systems show any positive results (and some maybe even better than ours) is the the people of the United States are willing to pay a premium for the development of the latest tools and drugs. The rates paid by the “national health care” countries will not support technical innovation or pharma development. Dream on, you liberal idiots. It is your own lives you are shortening just to save a few bucks.

If you want these other countries to help carry the load, then pass a fair trade law that says no drug can be sold in The United States at a price higher than the lowest price for which it will be sold abroad.

Old Country Boy on August 20, 2009 at 1:00 PM

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