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Greek Health Care Crisis Seen As Warning for United States

August 7, 2015

Greece’s health care system is collapsing, and the tragedy should be a cautionary tale for the United States, says Dave Racer, a member of the Board of the Minnesota Physician-Patient Alliance (MPPA) and the legislative research director for the

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Greece’s health care system is collapsing, and the tragedy should be a cautionary tale for the United States, says Dave Racer, a member of the Board of the Minnesota Physician-Patient Alliance (MPPA) and the legislative research director for the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters.

Beds, Drugs in Short Supply

CNN reports hospitals in Greece often have a policy of accepting patients only on “emergency days,” two or three times a week. If it’s not the right day, people who need medical attention have to travel to a different hospital.

“Greek patients are lining the hallways, waiting and hoping for treatment,” Racer said. “What else can be expected when a global budget set by the national government determines how many beds are available?”

There can never be enough beds to serve everyone’s needs in a system where government determines limits on health care spending, Racer says. Economic troubles only exacerbate the problem.

“The Greek health care crisis demonstrates clearly that a federal health care system dependent on government funding has deadly and dangerous effects when the nation’s economy falters,” Racer said.

Racer says prescription drug shortages are another serious problem common in government-controlled health care systems.

“The Greek health care system is failing to provide needed prescription medicine to its patients,” Racer said. “Liberal health care reformers in the United States demand that our government either purchase prescription medicine or set price limits on it to make it more affordable, but what good is affordable medicine if there is no money in the nationalized system to [buy it?]”

Cautionary Tales

Redmond Weissenberger, chairman and executive director of the Ludwig von Mises Institute–Canada, says there is a definite progression from the Greece and Canada of today to the United States of tomorrow under Obamacare.

The problems in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, illustrate the Canadian attempt at using central planning to achieve better outcomes for patients and their pocketbooks has been an abject failure, Weissenberger says.

With twice the debt of California, Ontario is now the most indebted sub-sovereign borrower in the world. In 2015, nearly 50 percent of the budget of Ontario consisted solely of health care and interest on debt, says Weissenberger.

“And what has this achieved?” Weissenberger asks. “Long wait times, a de facto multiple-tier system based on [connections], and numerous instances of ‘healthcare tourism,’ which is a euphemism for Canadians who must leave the country to get the sometimes-lifesaving care they cannot obtain in their own country.

“Obamacare will quickly become a ‘ball and chain’ attached to the American health care system that will inevitably end up in bankruptcy and poorer outcomes for the most vulnerable, as it has in Canada and Greece,” Weissenberger said.

D. Brady Nelson (darren.nelson@me.com) is a columnist with Townhall.

Internet Info

Ivana Kottasova, “Inside Greece’s health care crisis,” CNN, July 10, 2015: http://www.4029tv.com/money/inside-greeces-health-care-crisis/34100260

Angelique Chrisafis, “Greek debt crisis: ‘Of all the damage, healthcare has been hit the worst,’” The Guardian, July 9, 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/09/greek-debt-crisis-damage-healthcare-hospital-austerity

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Health Care
Author
Darren Brady Nelson is an Austrian school economist who serves as the chief economist at LibertyWorks and as an associate scholar with the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Nelson is also a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
darren.nelson@me.com