Before you start claiming that all government led health care reform is awful, I'd go to Japan and take a look there. After paying for their nationally regulated insurance, they get high quality low cost care, with very little waiting. I remember the story of a journalist in Japan who got in to see one of the top-rated spinal specialists within a week of his calling to make an appointment. There are still issues, namely that their doctors are paid too little (and getting increasingly angry about it), but quality and access to care aren't what are suffering under their system.
For every good anecdote like this, someone could trot out a bad one. I've heard horror stories about the Japanese system, from utterly incompetent doctors to oncologists who would rather keep cancers secret than disturb their patients with the bad news.
Those have nothing at all to do with their insurance system. There are incompetent doctors everywhere; widespread lack of health insurance doesn't solve that.
Survival rates in the United States for most conditions and cancers are better in the United States than the UK (and indeed most of the developed world). Likewise, when accidental deaths are factored out (workplace accidents, gunshot wounds, etc), life expectancy begins to reach parity with Europe, and that factors into account lack of access to care. In other words, the socialized health care systems manage to do worse than the US system, even though too many citizens here are uninsured or unable to afford health care.
We need real health care reform, to be sure, but the argument that "a painful 2 year wait is better than never getting it at all" holds very little water. At any rate, Europe's health care systems are only going to provide less, not more, as Europe becomes older, poorer, less dynamic, and responsible for its own national security. America's gaze is turning to the Pacific, where its future hopes lie. Enjoy your two-year waits while you still can, my European friends
It holds plenty of water. Our medical care is great. Awesome. There are tons of people who put off going to the doctor because they can't afford it, and then they have much worse conditions that finally force them in, which are more expensive to treat and harder to recover from well. If you present to the hospital, they can't turn you away, so they treat you and you rack up a huge bill. A hospital room is thousands of dollars per day, and that's assuming that you never see a doctor, need any treatment or medicine, or follow-up care. So you can get awesome treatment, on credit, and then be in debt for the rest of your life. That's not a great system, even if we have great doctors and medical technology. And again, given that concern, many people put off going to the hospital.
Survivorship is a great metric of our medical technology, not of access to care. I have seen (I work in a hospital, dealing with insurance, for the record) people's entire retirement accounts wiped out at 60, even when they have insurance. I've seen 20 year olds who will never, ever pay off their debt. Ever. For something that they couldn't control, like getting hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk. And I've seen people die, without treatment, because they couldn't scrape together $120 for a co-pay for their treatment. Meanwhile the cost of care only increases, way beyond the rate of inflation, while access to insurance decreases as insurance in general becomes crappier. And meanwhile, the insurance companies make record profits. Our medical technology is great, and our competent doctors are great. Our system is terrible, and the idea that everyone has access to care and is healthy is patently absurd. The emergency room is not solid medical care, even though they can't refuse to treat people.
And why does everyone in these debates have such a hard-on for the European system? The UK system is not the shining example. That's why I mention Japan, and all that you came up with was that some Japanese doctors suck and/or are shy, conveniently ignoring the better life expectancies and similar (if not better) health outcomes. And by the way, Japan doesn't have socialized medicine in the way that the UK does. So your apparent position, that American can choose between its current system or a Western European system is a false dichotomy. There are other choices, which work better and for less money.