In his editorial yesterday claiming that the his daughter Carey would have been unable to receive a life-saving heart operation under the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) argued that the new law stifles medical innovation and would jeopardize new medical breakthroughs :
I can’t help but reflect on a medical miracle made possible by the American health-care system. The procedure that saved her, and has given her a chance at a full life, was available because America has a free-market system that has advanced medicine at a phenomenal pace. […]
The plain truth is that the American system is better at rewarding innovation and responding to consumer needs. But the history of government-led care is there for all to see. Are we doomed to repeat it?
America has certainly had its share of medical breakthroughs, but the procedure Johnson’s daughter received may not have been developed in the United States but rather in Brazil or France — nations that now benefit from some form of universal coverage.
According to CAP Senior Fellow (and resident biochemist) Dr. Lesley Russell, it is most likely that the surgery Carey had was first performed and reported in Brazil in 1975, where doctors described their version of the procedure as “the first successful report of total correction of transposition of the great vessels at the arterial level.” Alternatively, Johnson’s daughter may have had what’s known as The LeCompte procedure, which was developed in France in 1981.
Unfortunately for Johnson, both country’s systems seem far more government-centered than the Affordable Care Act. While Brazil’s system has evolved over time, France — which is often thought to have the best system in the world — has compulsory health insurance. Care is distributed through large occupation-based funds—alliances of professional groups—that are overseen by the government (it sets reimbursement fees with physicians and establishes premiums) and financed through taxes and general government revenues.