George Smith's Kennebec Journal column, the Native Conservative, today included praise for the Italian socialized health care system. He gave a quaint tale, never mentioning socialism, taxes, or big bad government about his brush with the system and implying how well it worked. I often refer to him as the "Naive Conservative" precisely because he so often "can't see the forest because of the trees" despite all his time in the woods! Read his piece, which is the first half of the column, and preview the letter of response below submitted for Journal publication that will appear hopefully soon.
George Smith’s October 7th quaint vignette of Italian health care does not take the tale to its logical conclusion.
Italy has a public plan modeled along the lines of the British system. The World Health Organization system ranks Italy #2 out of 191 countries for quality care outcomes. The US is ranked #37. In 2005, Italy spent 8.9% of GDP or $2,714 per person on health care; the US spent $6,347 per person on health care or 15.2% of GDP. Italians live longer, have lower birth mortality rates, and more doctors per capita. Everyone is covered in Italy and guests such as the Smiths are treated efficiently and fairly when the need arises.
Yes, Italy taxes to fund their system but the net costs as noted above are far less to every individual. Conservative voices ought to be supporting a robust public plan because it is a conservative wise investment in citizens that costs less money. Oh, regarding the dreaded subject of taxes – isn’t paying some efficient amount for our common defense against sickness and hazards better than a taxing private debilitating legalized levy?
Substantive health care reform will also help business, except health insurance companies, in being more competitive on the world stage. A robust public plan would assist that engine of growth, small business, and unleash many to consider possible entrepreneurial options. It would be a bulwark of support for conservative ideals in trade and individual initiative.
Let’s hope Mr. Smith takes his next column to the logical conclusion by researching the Italian system and recommending the model based on its conservative and prudent investment of funds that generate excellent outcomes. Reforming health care with a public plan ought to be a conservative ambition.