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Health Freedom Watch
February 2008

Contents:


Americans Split over Socialized Medicine
70 percent of Republicans say it would be worse than current system, 70 percent of Democrats say it would be better 

Americans are split by political party over whether they think socialized medicine would improve or worsen the U.S. health-care system, the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) said in a February 14 press release.

Seventy percent of Republicans said we would be worse off under socialized medicine, while the same percentage of Democrats responded we would be better off. The HSPH concluded that “socialized medicine is not the scary bogeyman it used to be.”  However, this claim is a bit misleading, as socialized medicine—and socialism in general—is still rather repellant to many Republicans who prefer self-government to government control.

Survey respondents identified their political affiliations as follows:

  • 28% Republican
  • 34% Democrat
  • 36% Independent
  • 2% Don’t Know/Refused

Overall, when asked, “So far as you understand the phrase, do you think that if we had socialized medicine in this country that the health care system would be better or worse than what we have now?” 45 percent said better, 39 percent said worse, 4 percent responded about the same, while 12 percent weren’t sure/refused to answer.

Asked how well they understood the phrase “socialized medicine,” 67 percent said they understood either very well (34 percent) or somewhat well (33 percent).  Nearly one-third said they did not understand it (15 percent not well; 15 percent not at all well) and 2 percent didn’t know/refused to answer. 

The survey offered three descriptions of socialized medicine to choose from—none of which is thorough:

  • The government tells doctors what to do (32 percent)
  • The government makes sure everyone has health insurance (79 percent)
  • The government pays most of the cost of health care (73 percent)

Respondents were also asked whether they thought the following constitutes socialized medicine:

  • Medicare, the system for seniors and people with disabilities (60 percent)
  • Veterans health-care system (47 percent)
  • Managed-care plans such as HMOs (30 percent)

Finally, they were asked which presidential candidates would propose changes to create socialized medicine.  Most-often named were Hillary Clinton (69 percent) and Barack Obama (57 percent). Most-often named as not likely to propose such changes were John McCain (62 percent) and Mitt Romney (59 percent), who has since ended his candidacy.

Sources:

  • “Poll Finds Americans Split by Political Party over Whether Socialized Medicine Better or Worse than Current System” Harvard School of Public Health press release, February 14, 2008: (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2008-releases/poll-americans-split-by-political-party-over-socialized-medicine.html).
  • Survey Results, “Debating Health: Election 2008, Americans’ Views on Socialized Medicine,” Harvard School of Public Health and Harris Interactive:  (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/files/Topline__Socialized_Med_Havard_Harris.pdf).

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What Is Socialized Medicine Anyway?

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary & Thesaurus, the term “socialized medicine” means “any system supplying complete medical and hospital care, through public funds, for all the people in a community, district, or nation.”

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines socialized medicine as “medical and hospital services for the members of a class or population administered by an organized group (as a state agency) and paid for from funds obtained usually by assessments, philanthropy, or taxation.”

MedicineNet.com notes that socialized medicine is defined as “A system of health care in which all health personnel and health facilities, including doctors and hospitals, work for the government and draw salaries from the government. Doctors in the U.S. Veterans Administration and the Armed Services are paid this way. And the Veterans and U.S. military hospitals are also supported this way. Examples also exist in Great Britain and Spain.”

MSN Encarta Encyclopedia defines it as “a system of national health care that provides medical care to all and is regulated and subsidized by the government.”

Sources: Webster’s New World Dictionary & Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster Online, (http://www.merriam-webster.com), MedicineNet.com (http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25521) and MSN Encarta (http://encarta.msn.com).

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Feds Seek to Harmonize State Health-Privacy Laws

In an effort to harmonize key health-related state laws, the federal government sponsored a Health Information Security and Privacy Collaborative in 2006 and 2007. The agencies involved were the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The collaborative was undertaken to establish ways to share patient health information electronically between health-care providers, insurers, and health-care agencies—a process known as interoperable electronic health information exchange. 

According to Government Health IT, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contracted with the research institute RTI International to oversee the project and produce a final report.  The report’s section “Privacy and Security Solutions for Interoperable Health Information Exchange: Impact Analysis” noted that by 2007, more than 250 health IT–related bills were introduced, with 59 passed in 34 states plus the District of Columbia. The following table summarizes this activity (the information is current as of December 14, 2007): “Table 2-1. State Legislative Activity in Health IT, 2005-2007—Legislation Introduced and Passed” (cited in “Privacy and Security Solutions for Interoperable Health Information Exchange: Impact Analysis” prepared for the Office of the National Coordinator and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality). 

Implications for Health Privacy

As states work to harmonize their policies and laws regarding patient consent and privacy, it’s important for citizens to make sure those laws aren’t being weakened by efforts to make it easier to share electronic medical records.  It’s also important to make sure new and amended state laws aren’t overriding state constitutional rights, especially in states that provide a constitutional right to privacy.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, constitutions in ten states expressly recognize a right to privacy, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, and Washington.

Sources:

  • “States Report Progress on Health IT Privacy,” Government Health IT, February 15, 2008:(http://www.govhealthit.com/online/news/350218-1.html).
  • “AHRQ's Initiative on Health Information Technology": (http://healthit.ahrq.gov/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=562&parentname=CommunityPage&parentid=12&mode=2&in_hi_userid=3882&cached=true).
  •  “Privacy and Security Solutions for Interoperable Health Information Exchange: Impact Analysis” prepared for the Office of the National Coordinator and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (report prepared by RTI International), December 20, 2007: (http://healthit.ahrq.gov/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_1248_815829_0_0_18/PrivacyandSecuritySolutionsProject_ImpactAnalysis.pdf).
  • “Privacy Protections in State Constitutions,” National Conference of State Legislatures: (http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/privacy/stateconstpriv03.htm).

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Health Freedom Watch is published by the Insitute for Health Freedom. Editor: Sue Blevins; Assistant Editor: Deborah Grady. Copyright 2008 Institute for Health Freedom.