Greetings, Gentle Reader,

Every Christmas we watch "White Christmas" at least once. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye do a number called, "Oh! I wish I were back in the Army." One line goes this way: "The best of doctors watched us carefully." Every time I hear that line I crack up laughing. I know the guys were cared for, and I think it may be even better today, but universal medical care, as they have in the service, doesn’t include "watching carefully."

Let’s examine this thing called "universal healthcare." We are hearing much about it from the new administration. It sounds great! Affordable medical care for everyone! Wow! Who could argue with that? The answer? Anyone who has experienced it. Why? Because it works very badly. Want an explanation? I thought you’d never ask!

Okay. All joking aside, it really doesn’t work well at all, as anyone who has been involved in it can explain. Since my children and I were military defendants for several years, they and I had plenty of time to see it from the inside out.

Those years were during my youth, back when I was still having my children. The rules said you had to make an appointment by a certain time of your pregnancy, because they had to get you on the schedule for the baby’s delivery, so they would not be too backed up by other mothers due to deliver all at the same time.

It is important to know that the bulk of the military dependent women were young wives, almost all of whom were having their families during that time of their lives. That, all by itself, created the same conditions that exist in today’s clinics, designed to provide universal medical care. Both Canadian and English residents can attest to the results of those conditions.

Many of the military doctors were interns, who had recently graduated from medical school. Back then, all men were required to serve in the military during their youth. If they didn’t enlist, they would be drafted into the Army, so many chose to enlist in the Marine Corps, Navy or Air Force, rather than the Army. This meant many doctors were still young and relatively inexperienced compared to civilian doctors, who often had decades of experience under their belts. It was not unusual to have complications that increased the chance of danger to either the mother or baby. If there was an older, more experienced doctor on duty, you were in luck. If not, you simply took your and your baby’s chances with the young doctor. You had no choice. If he made no mistakes, all was well. Sometimes he did make mistakes.

When your new baby was six weeks old, you were required to take it to a "well baby clinic." It was universally assumed that your baby would come down with a cold the next day. Why? Because you had to sit for hours in a crowded room with what seemed to be thousands of other babies, some of whom had colds. There really were not thousands, but it was usual to have several dozens of mothers and babies, many of whom were accompanied by older siblings. It truly seemed like thousands.

During the winter, getting a cold increased your baby’s chance of getting pneumonia. If the young mother realized what was happening and caught it in time, and if the baby responded to the antibiotics, the baby recovered. If she did not, or if the baby didn’t respond to the medicine, the consequences could be fatal. Why? Because with universal healthcare, you have to follow the schedule of the clinic, which told you what, when and how.

It became the norm for a mother to wait until the baby/child was definitely sick , before going to the clinic, because if he was not really sick when he was taken to the clinic, the attention he got would be scant and hurried. Unfortunately, waiting for a child to get really sick is a recipe for a potential disaster. A sickness caught early is much easier to treat than one that has had time to get past the child’s defenses and become entrenched in his little body.

The quality of prenatal care in the military was such that I learned to wait until I was a few months along, rather than going in when I was supposed to do. That way, I was told the delivery date schedule was full, and I must arrange to be treated by a civilian doctor. I learned the hard way that an experienced older doctor would not give me a prenatal exam until I was far enough along that it would not cause a miscarriage, which had happened several times. The military clinic followed a schedule designed for the mass of women, ignoring the special needs of problem pregnancies.

This is just the tip of the universal healthcare iceberg. It goes straight downhill from there. My first daughter came within a hair of dying because of a careless and grossly incorrect diagnosis by doctors who were required to treat indigent citizens. Unfortunately, many doctors are less diligent with those who are not paying patients. It is a fact of life, and it accomplishes nothing to deny it. They often must care for people who are destroying their own health with disgustingly destructive types of behavior, and some of them react in a fashion that is all too human.

In both of these circumstances, whether with military or civilian universal healthcare, the quality of care is too often questionable. The doctors and nurses are overworked, because people who do not have to pay for care tend to come in more often than they would if they had to turn over hard cash every time they saw a doctor. The result is a doctor having to spend time on someone who doesn’t feel well, instead of spending it on a patient who is genuinely sick. The genuinely sick patient needs more time than the doctor has to spend, while the "doesn’t feel well" patient uses up time without legitimate cause. Why? Because the care is free or close to it.

Universal healthcare sounds great, but it isn’t. Don’t be tricked. If you can afford to pay the doctor, you will be given much better care when you truly need it. And if it’s any comfort, before the government got involved in medicare for the elderly, a doctor’s visit cost five dollars. From the time medicare began, healthcare began a rapid climb, until now, it’s through the roof, as everyone knows.

Until next time,

Muriel Sluyter