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A Preview of Coming Attractions: IMSS, Obamacare, and the Toll of Collective Medicine

Meet a few horror stories from my years in Mexico, and my first-hand exposure to their universal health care system.

In this Nov. 25, 2013 file photo, doctors visit a patient at the intensive care unit of the Queen Fabiola Children's Hospital in Brussels. Belgian lawmakers approved on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 a controversial euthanasia law. If adopted, it will decriminalize euthanasia for children, if they are in great pain, suffer from a terminal condition and are expected to die soon. (AP/Yves Logghe, File)

Few can forget basketball player Kevin Ware’s shocking leg injury during the March 31, 2013 Elite Eight Louisville / Duke game; something that would go down as one of the most gruesome moments in sports history. The athlete’s leg buckled under him like a toothpick as the bone broke clean through his shin, leaving his leg dangling.

I want you to think for a moment about the kind of treatment Ware received. Not surprisingly, he was immediately taken to the hospital, where he was rushed into surgery to repair the bone and close the gaping wound.

Imagine for a moment a sustaining a similar injury . . . and waiting a week to receive the operation you desperately needed.

It’s almost laughable to consider such a prospect, but for millions around the world living under government-run medicine, it is a daily reality.

In this Oct. 6, 2013 photo, 29-year-old Irma Lopez stands next to her newborn son Salvador at a clinic in the town of Jalapa de Diaz, Mexico. Mexico officials have suspended a health center director after Lopez, an indigenous woman, was denied entry to his clinic and was forced to give birth on the lawn. A nurse kicked Lopez out of the clinic Oct. 2, claiming she was "still not ready" and had to wait for a doctor. After an hour and half, Lopez gave birth while grabbing the wall of a house next to the clinic. Credit AP In this Oct. 6, 2013 photo, 29-year-old Irma Lopez stands next to her newborn son Salvador at a clinic in the town of Jalapa de Diaz, Mexico. Mexico officials have suspended a health center director after Lopez, an indigenous woman, was denied entry to his clinic and was forced to give birth on the lawn. A nurse kicked Lopez out of the clinic Oct. 2, claiming she was "still not ready" and had to wait for a doctor. After an hour and half, Lopez gave birth while grabbing the wall of a house next to the clinic. Credit: AP

While living in Mexico, I experienced many things; chief among them an exposure to government-run medicine under a system called Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, or “IMSS.”

This system operates under the umbrella of the Mexican equivalent to Health and Human Services, or Secretaría de Salud. This system provides public health care in the form of government clinics, hospitals and pharmacies across the country. Each working Mexican—whether or not he or she uses the system—pays into IMSS with every paycheck. Today, Mexico has universal health coverage (Seguro Popular) that extends to those not included in the IMSS system, increasing the burden on taxpayers.

Indeed, there are private insurance and hospital options (some employers offer private coverage on top of IMSS), but in a nation in which half of its citizens live in varying degrees of poverty, this isn’t always an option.

This system is shockingly inefficient, and the stories of gross deficiencies in care not uncommon.

I know the woman who suffered the Ware-like injury. (Due to privacy requests, I cannot reveal the names of the individuals to follow.)

She slipped down a flight of stairs and suffered a break so severe that, though the bone didn’t pierce the skin like Ware’s did, the only thing holding her foot to her leg was skin, muscle and other tissue. Her family rushed her to the nearest IMSS Centro Medico, Medical Center. She went without a room for several days, instead lying on a bed in the hallway. Eventually, she was given a room.

A police vehicle is parked next to the clinic owned by Dr. Roman Gomez Gaviria on the outskirts of Mexico City, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. Security has been posted outside of Dr. Gavirira's clinic after he was threatened by a criminal gang demanding protection money. Shakedown rackets, which have long targeted bars, casinos and shadier businesses linked to drug traffickers, are increasingly going after legitimate businesses like Gaviria s clinic as extortions across the country are rising. Targets include everything from multinational businesses to corner pharmacies and unsuspecting tourists. Credit AP A police vehicle is parked next to the clinic owned by Dr. Roman Gomez Gaviria on the outskirts of Mexico City, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. Security has been posted outside of Dr. Gavirira's clinic after he was threatened by a criminal gang demanding protection money. Shakedown rackets, which have long targeted bars, casinos and shadier businesses linked to drug traffickers, are increasingly going after legitimate businesses like Gaviria s clinic as extortions across the country are rising. Targets include everything from multinational businesses to corner pharmacies and unsuspecting tourists. Credit: AP

After a full week—just imagine the damage progressing internally—she was finally taken into surgery. I was informed that this occurred because her regular doctor pulled some strings for her within IMSS; otherwise she would have likely waited far longer. She was lucky; she tells of a friend who broke an arm and waited a month for proper treatment.

This woman also suffers from arthritis, and in order to receive her medication she must block off the better part of a day each month to go to the Centro Medico, wait all morning for her appointment, wait in line at the pharmacy, and hope that the medicine hasn’t run out (this is not uncommon). The prescription is good only for that day, and only at that Centro Medico. If the medicine isn’t available, she must either obtain special permission from her doctor to come back, or she must go through the process again to obtain a new prescription. New appointments can take up to a month to obtain.

Another man with whom I became acquainted during my time in Mexico tells of the time he required surgery to repair his knee. The procedure was scheduled, and he arrived as planned—only to be told that the Centro Medico had run out of the screws needed for his operation. A relative ended up having to rush out and buy them at a nearby medical supply store in order that the surgery could still take place that day.

“That would never happen here,” I’m told by those who’ve heard these and other stories of the failures of collective medicine. “That’s Mexico; that’s the third world. We can get universal care right.”

(Photo: Shutterstock/06photo) (Photo: Shutterstock)

Are you sure about that?

Do you really think we'll be able to "get it right" when our government can't even run the Obamacare website efficiently; when the government can’t even answer with certainty how many people have signed up; when millions are losing coverage despite being promised they could keep it; when the government promised us all our costs would drop significantly, and instead they’ve skyrocketed; when sick people who had insurance have lost it thanks to the new rules?

And, thanks to a slew of unconstitutional delays, the law isn’t even fully in motion yet. Imagine when it finally is.

In short—our government has given us absolutely no reason to trust that we'll be able to "do it better." Public health care systems always come at a cost—whether it’s the quality of care, the access to care, the hit to your wallet—often a combination of all three. Universal health care doesn’t just simply appear simply because the government says so.

We’ve been providing the greatest health care on planet earth for quite some time. People flock HERE for treatment, because it’s the best. Shouldn’t that speak volumes as to the system we already have?

In this Nov. 25, 2013 file photo, doctors visit a patient at the intensive care unit of the Queen Fabiola Children's Hospital in Brussels. Belgian lawmakers approved on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 a controversial euthanasia law. If adopted, it will decriminalize euthanasia for children, if they are in great pain, suffer from a terminal condition and are expected to die soon. (AP/Yves Logghe, File) (AP/Yves Logghe, File)

Indeed, many will say that Obamacare was simply about access to that exceptional care. On the contrary—in addition to hampering what it was supposed to facilitate, this law’s effects stretch farther than insurance alone.

Large swathes of doctors are either considering the idea or are already closing down practices; fewer people are going to medical school because they’re uncertain about their ability to pay back their massive student loan burden; taxes on critical medical devices are part of this plan, and so on.

This affects every single moving part of the American medical system as we know it today, and not for the better. Instead of allowing free enterprise to take charge of solutions—the very same free enterprise that launched this nation to where it is today—we’re heading down the same tired path followed by every nation that has attempted collective medical care.

Today over half of Mexico’s population is enrolled in its universal system. Still, relatively the same number lives in poverty, and while they’ve technically got access to care, the availability and quality is a crapshoot. Don’t get me wrong—Mexican medical professionals are capable individuals. But when you’re forcing millions upon millions of people through the same funnel, it is bound to clog. It’s the bureaucracy; it’s the backlog; it’s the paperwork . . . so much of which is already manifesting itself in Obamacare.

Now, imagine a system like Mexico’s on a scale three times the size. The fact that this is the first world as opposed to the third doesn’t make a bad idea any better—it simply grants it a bigger stage. If the abysmal failure of the Obamacare rollout is any indication of coming attractions . . . we already know how it ends. Do we really want to stick around for the whole show?

Mary Ramirez is a full time writer, and creator of www.afuturefree.com--a political commentary blog. She can be reached at: afuturefree@aol.com; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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