Health care rationing and long waiting times

HEALTH CARE RATIONING AND LONG WAITING TIMES…. Ceci Connolly has this story from Greensboro, North Carolina, where families apparently haven’t heard the conservative talking point about the U.S. having the best health care system in the world.

It’s right there on the wall, hectoring David Talbot as he races from one exam room to another.

“You want to see the recession? There it is,” Talbot says, pointing to a row of multicolored graphs. “We began to spike in October 2008, and we’re losing the battle now. We just can’t keep up.”

Recessions are tallied in numbers — jobless claims, home foreclosures, plant closings and bailout dollars. Here at the HealthServe community clinic, Talbot, the medical director, tracks the recession in days — the number of days that patients wait to see a doctor.

Just six months ago, the clinic delivered same-day care to most callers, the gold standard from a health perspective. But in October the delays crept to four days, then 19 in November and 25 in December. In January, HealthServe temporarily stopped accepting new patients, and almost immediately 380 people put their names on a waiting list for when the crunch eases.

I had the same reaction to this as Jon Chait, who said the horror story — crowded clinics, overwhelmed medical professionals, long waits for care, health care rationing — sounds like the dystopia conservative activists and Republican lawmakers use to describe a system of socialized medicine. The problem, of course, is that the crisis in North Carolina isn’t in Canada, England, or any of the other countries whose health care systems are supposed to scare Americans.

In many parts of the country, we already have the scary developments we’re supposed to fear.