July 10, 2007
Fred Wilson Gets Some Perspective on Universal Health Care
Posted by Gordon Smith

Earlier this year, I did a short post on universal health care, quoting a friend who is the CEO of a large hospital: "many of you think you want universal health care, but the cost of universal health care is a cost you are unwilling to pay: access and innovation."

This topic also arose during my recent trip to Europe, where several of the participants in the Fulbright program were strong advocates of universal health care. Then I noticed Fred Wilson's recent negative review of Sicko: "But the premise behind the movie is spot on. Why does the US resist universal health care when countries like Canada and the UK have shown that it works? I have no idea but I think this coming election will see universal health care be a vote getter, big time."

This sort of unqualified enthusiasm for universal health care is something I have heard only from people who have never lived it. Fred received some pushback in the comments, and apparently he decided to do some field research: he had dinner with three Canadians:

I asked them if they liked their health care system. They all said yes, very much, particularly for the day to day needs and common procedures like childbirth. However, they also told me the system breaks down when you get really sick. There's just not enough money for treating terminal diseases and so they "just let you die".

Fred also traded emails with a Canadian doctor, who wrote: "part of the reason the US is so innovative is because your system is designed for it.  as a VC, i think a single payer system would kill your VC friends in health/biotech."

Remember the key words: access and innovation.

Not that those concepts resolve the debate or provide solid guidance about how to proceed. But they are worth remembering when people start rhapsodizing universal health care.

Finally, I agree with Fred that health care is going to be a huge issue in the upcoming presidential campaign, especially if Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney are the two major candidates. Note that both of those candidates favor some system the achieves universal coverage. (Strangely, Rudy does not list health care among the top ten campaign issues on his website.)

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