Dan Liljenquist: U.S. health care system still has much to admire

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  • fobit American Fork, UT
    June 30, 2013 2:46 p.m.

    These commenters ahead of me have fallen for the socialist line about everything being only better if the government pays for it.
    I have lived 2 years in Italy 2 1/2 years in Germany. I have had experience with national health care systems in western countries. We are much better off here. While I was in Germany (in the mid-80s) the fastest growing industry in the country was private hospitals, because the publicly owned healthcare system was so bad.
    Remember, Canadians have a 2-tiered healthcare system. Those of moderate or low income are stuck with the free clinic style state hospitals, While those of greater means receive the finest healthcare available in the world, here in the U.S.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    June 15, 2013 1:52 p.m.

    There is no doubt that America has great health care, but Dan misses the point that millions of Americans are wrestling with. The health care SYSTEM is far from ideal. Its accessibility, affordability and sustainability is what the risk is. Millions of Americans don't have insurance, or are underinsured, or have high deductible plans with ever decreasing coverage, and millions of Americans are one dire emergency or illness away from bankruptcy. I hope Dan would see this in his analysis. I do believe most doctors are competent, most ER's deliver capable service, most hospitals well run, but that alone doesn't make health care great when many can't afford it or even won't seek it out at times because of the high cost.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    June 14, 2013 5:48 p.m.

    Redshirt - totally and completely FALSE.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    June 14, 2013 3:41 p.m.

    To "one old man" you missed the article today. The ACA has made health insurance even more expensive, so much so that the very people it was designed to help can't afford insurance. You should read the article in today's paper "Coverage may be unaffordable for low-wage workers".

    Tell us how making insurance more expensive is a benefit? So far it is only partially in effect, and the consequences have been horrible. Things are only going to get worse, and that is what health insurance insiders are saying.

    The government is taking us so far away from the free market health insurance, that thanks to Obamacare we will have a fascist insurance system. The government controls it, but lets us think that they are private businesses.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 14, 2013 3:19 p.m.

    It's a pretty good system, the problem is it's way more expensive than anywhere else in the world.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    June 14, 2013 2:50 p.m.

    Another great one from MM:

    @ UT Brit. Why does our system "allow" 100 million uninsured? Because, at least before Obamacare, having health care insurance is a choice, not a mandate and some have chosen not to have it for a variety of reasons. We have always been free to choose here and believe the government can not force you to buy anything. Its why we declared our independence from your King George and most of us love our freedom to govern ourselves. Its a wonderful way to live!"

    Yes, indeed, when it's not a mandate, those who choose not to have insurance are free to mooch off the rest of us who are paying their bills for them.

    Freedom to be a parasite is such a wonderful thing, isn't it?

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    June 14, 2013 2:36 p.m.

    More twisted logic from MM. Mountainman, please explain to us exactly WHY so many Americans do not have health insurance?

    Only REAL reasons will count.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    June 14, 2013 2:32 p.m.

    Dan, just remember that what you describe was -- and in some cases still is -- beyond the reach of many Americans, who unlike you, don't have the money or health history necessary to obtain and keep good health insurance.

    Thanks goodness for the Affordable Care Act. It will be even better when it's fully in effect. Then other people will be somewhere equal with you and your family.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    June 14, 2013 8:02 a.m.

    To "UT Brit" and the systems that pay less suffer for it.

    For example, the US has the highest overall cancer survival rate. How is that possible if it wasn't for the money put into the system?

    The US also has one of the highest number of MRI machines per capita.

    The US has the most advanced technology for treating people in the world.

    US Doctors have fewer patients than UK doctors, and as a result can spend the time necessary with them.

    US hospitals are the most efficient in the world for getting patients in and out.

    I like this one from Kaiser Healthcare. They spend cover as many people as the UK NHS, yet Kaiser is able to offer more treatments and has more services provided its members.

    Overall, you get what you pay for. The US has the Ferrari of healthcare, and now is looking to trade that in for a 1960's VW bus.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    June 14, 2013 7:14 a.m.

    UT Brit. There is no such thing as "free" healthcare. Call us back when your country has figured out a way to pay its bills!

  • UT Brit London, England
    June 14, 2013 2:34 a.m.

    @m.g. scott

    Yet here I am with a tooth missing, again this is after 3 different Utah dentists looked at it. My UK dentist was horrified with what they had done. If my UK dentist is 30 years behind American dentists then I will go with what he does everytime. I assure you having a drill shread through a completely healthy, strong nerve is a most unpleasant experience to say the least.

    So did you go to an NHS or private dentist? I highly doubt they would pull a tooth unless it was a last resort like mine was (this was after a root canal and attempted build work after the US dentists got through with me).

  • UT Brit London, England
    June 13, 2013 6:03 p.m.


    "Its a wonderful way to live!"

    Ha, tell that to one of my friends living in the States who cant get health insurance due to a pre-existing condition. She is heavily in debt paying for basic medicine that would be covered in the UK. She even resorted to buying medicine meant for horses online! 45,000 people die in the US die each year due to lack of insurance. Medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy, having experienced your health care system and seen the facts and figures I cannot imagine why it would be espoused as a system to follow.


    I guarantee you I pay more attention to the UK papers than you do and probably your national papers as well. I never claimed the UK had the "best health care in the world" though.

    German health care costs per capita - $4,338
    UK health care costs per capita - $3,433
    US health care costs per capita - $8,233

  • m.g. scott clearfield, UT
    June 13, 2013 5:35 p.m.

    UT Brit

    Well I had just the opposite experience in England. From what I know of English dentistry, it is at least 30 years behind American. A dentist I had there took an X-ray, and wanted to pull a molar. In the U.S. it would have been saved with a root canal, and or crown. Fortunatly I didn't let him pull the tooth. Later I found out that the tooth he wanted to pull wasnt even the one with a problem. Glad I didn't let the English system treat me, or I would be missing teeth unncessarily.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    June 13, 2013 4:44 p.m.

    To "Kent C. DeForrest" so, you don't know how much it really cost in Germany for your son to get care. So, for all we know, the total cost for care in Germany was equal to what the cost would have been in the US. The German system may cost less per capita, but they have laws that cut malpractice lawsuits, they also control the price of procedures, along with what procedures and medications are allowed. If we did the same things, the US system would cost less here. You are comparing apples to zuchinini.

    As for the $32,000 plane ride. If the problem is the insurance, what does that have to do with the medical industry? If anything it shows that the medical malpractice and libility insurance laws are routinely abused and should be changed to prevent the abuse, thus lowering the cost.

    To "Lew Scannon" actually, health insurance was added to employment packages during the 1930's and 1940's to get around government imposed wage limits.

  • Lew Scannon Provo, UT
    June 13, 2013 4:10 p.m.


    Before World War II nobody needed health insurance. Costs were manageable and technologies were still rather primitive. But we live in a very different world now. Almost nobody can afford to simply pay for medical treatment when something serious arises. We could just let people who have no insurance die, which I'm sure some right-wing ideologues would prefer, but our society has decided that this is unconscionable. So I help pay for those people's treatment every month through my premiums. This is a very inefficient way of dealing with this problem.

    We may ask why our health insurance is primarily tied to employment as a benefit. Well, it was an idea that also came from the post-war years when corporations needed to entice workers to choose them over other businesses. The world has changed in that way too. What we need to do is divorce health insurance from employment, as all other countries do. It makes no sense and is highly inefficient. Expanding Medicare to cover everyone is one way to do this. But the insurance industry would scream. So, we're stuck with an expensive, nonsensical system.

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    June 13, 2013 3:59 p.m.


    Of course $6,000 was what my son was billed. As a foreigner, he didn't get the full benefit a German would have, especially since he had private insurance, but he still benefited from a system that overall costs per capita about half of what our system pays out. That is the crucial point here.

    And in case anyone is interested, the $32,000 plane ride works out to about $120 per mile. Most of this, according to a friend who works for a business that insures life flights, is the cost of insurance. The time of the pilot and the paramedic who accompanied him, and also the fuel and maintenance on the plane, are rather small by comparison.

    We could talk about the market aspects of this plane ride, but that's a different topic.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    June 13, 2013 2:46 p.m.

    As has been said, the care, facilities and technology are great. The system is not. For me, as a dual citizen, the only way I can afford to work even part time in the United States is to carry evacuation insurance should I require any sort of acute care.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    June 13, 2013 1:46 p.m.

    @ UT Brit. Why does our system "allow" 100 million uninsured? Because, at least before Obamacare, having health care insurance is a choice, not a mandate and some have chosen not to have it for a variety of reasons. We have always been free to choose here and believe the government can not force you to buy anything. Its why we declared our independence from your King George and most of us love our freedom to govern ourselves. Its a wonderful way to live!

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    June 13, 2013 1:27 p.m.

    Wow! Dan has me convinced! So a hospital visit in Guatamala was worse than a visit here! Ok...

    Well it's settled! We are the best and we shouldn't do anything to adjust or improve our current system!

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    June 13, 2013 11:56 a.m.

    To "Kent C. DeForrest" was the $6000 the total cost of the care, or was that just what you were billed. According to the German Government, they subsidize their medical system. So, that $6000 bill was the portion that was not subsidized.

    Ask yourself, who pays when the Government subsidizes healthcare?

    To "UT Brit" "best in the world" is subjective. The WHO base it on who has the most socialist system. Some groups base it on the outcomes of the procedures. Some would rate it on how fast you can get the care you need. If you bothered to read some of the UK papers, you would see that even there in Merry Old England, there are bad doctors along with good doctors.

  • UT Brit London, England
    June 13, 2013 9:56 a.m.


    Do you ever wonder why your system allows 100 million people to be uninsured? You know you already pay for those 100 million uninsured right?

    US health care is good, but it certainly is not worth the double you pay extra than every other first world country. Not even close.

    I always consider "best in the world" with some scepticism as well. I have seen some serious errors from US doctors and I have a missing molar on the right side of my mouth because 3 Utah dentists could not read an X-Ray properly.

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    June 13, 2013 9:45 a.m.

    If you are a state legislator with a nice health care plan, the U.S. system has much to admire. For people who can't access the system or go bankrupt because of it, there is much to scorn.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    June 13, 2013 9:33 a.m.

    @ Kent. I am happy your son's experiences were positive but comparing Germany with the US is misleading. We have 350 million people in America. Germany has just over 80 million with almost zero population growth. America has more uninsured people than Germany has total population! Who is going to pay for healthcare for over 100 million uninsured Americans? Some have suggested we need a single payer system but that solves nothing. It just means there will be no competition between healthcare providers and when has that cut costs in anything? Let's try tort reform, allowing healthcare savings plans and allow insurance companies to compete across state lines. In the meantime, the best health care in the world will always be more expensive than something less than the best. If you want and demand Cadillac healthcare, you can't expect it for the same price as a Yugo or a Pinto. That is impossible, even in Germany!

    June 13, 2013 9:23 a.m.

    Emergency health care and regular ongoing healthcare are two entirely separate issues.

    As is the quality of healthcare and the availability of affordable quality healthcare.

    Yes, the United States has better hospitals than Guatamala. Is that really the point you were trying to make?

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    June 13, 2013 9:04 a.m.

    Sorry, Dan, but comparing health care in an industrialized, modern country with a Third World country is misleading. Of course we have excellent doctors and facilities. A more apt comparison would be between two industrialized countries. Let me offer one.

    A few years ago, my missionary son ended up in the ICU in Germany with a ruptured appendix and severe peritonitis, a life-threatening infection. He spent a week in ICU, a week in recovery, and received excellent care from highly trained doctors. Total cost? $6,000, all of which was covered by the Church, but my insurance would have paid if necessary.

    A couple of years later, this same son broke his neck at Lake Powell. He was flown from Page, AZ, to SLC and received excellent care at the University of Utah. Fortunately, there was no paralysis, so six months later he was cleared to play basketball. The price of the plane flight alone? $32,000, which my insurance (thank goodness) paid in full. The cost of his care at the U was similarly astronomical.

    The difference? Germany spends half of what we do on health care and everyone is covered.

  • Doug10 Roosevelt, UT
    June 13, 2013 8:44 a.m.

    It is a relief to get great care in times of need, and you were really fortunate in getting your son care in that nearly hallowed facility. That hospital is awesome and beyond belief with the people and technology.

    Outside SLC the outlook is not so bright.

    Last summer a friend from Canada was riding his motorcycle in St. George when he was struck by a passing car. He was taken to the hospital diagnosed with a broken arm and abrasions on his sholder and back. He was x-rayed and casted and released. He returned to Canada the next day and two days later when he was still in pain went to see the doctor who had to operate, not one one, but two fractures, with one requiring inserting steel pins.

    I have lived in several different countries but this is the only one where the medical system can hold the patient and their family hostage financially.

    AMA says that 50% of its expenditures are wasted every year, certainly this country can do better and increase the standards of care and meet the fiscal needs of its citizens.

  • UT Brit London, England
    June 13, 2013 2:30 a.m.

    The health care is good in the US. The health care system is a disaster.
    Comparing your experiences to a 3rd world country is obviously going to highlight some striking differences but I have lived in the US and countries with UHC, I would never want to experience the US health care system again.

    Admire the health care you recived but also understand the system behind it is rotten to the core.