Mexican Doctor Warns of Universal Health Coverage Pitfalls

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By Michelle A. Vu, Christian Post Reporter
July 28, 2009|6:48 pm

The director of a holistic cancer research and treatment center in Mexico believes that universal coverage would be harmful to the quality of health care in America.

Dr. Francisco Contreras of Oasis of Hope Hospital in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, says based on his own experience with universal health coverage in Mexico and Europe, health service becomes poor when the government is involved.

“I live in a country where we have universal healthcare and the healthcare is very mediocre at best,” Contreras said to The Christian Post in an interview. “I also trained in Europe. My surgical training was in Austria where they also have social health care and it has a tremendous amount of problems for lack of resources from the government to provide healthcare.”

Under social health care, the government decides what will be given to patients according to purchasing policies, the doctor said.

“So the patients are going to receive treatments basically decided by the administration or administrators rather than doctors,” said Contreras, who has been featured on CNN and MSNBC.

The U.S. Congress is currently struggling to hammer out a health care plan that would expand coverage to uninsured Americans. Republican lawmakers have been fiercely opposed to the idea of public health care, saying it would harm the private insurance industry.

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In response, Democratic lawmakers are proposing an option where private insurers can still provide coverage for people who want to get it through their employers.

But given the hefty price tag of $1 trillion, even many Democrats are hesitant to back the health care overhaul.

Contreras also noted that wherever universal health care is practiced people are not happy with it and the governments are incurring debt.

Although the Mexican doctor acknowledges there are people in America who have no health care that would benefit from universal coverage, he argues that a better way to help these people is through a program that targets them directly.

Millions of people, Contreras argues, have no insurance because they choose not to buy it when they have the option to. And there are another 10 million illegal aliens in America who do not have health insurance. If you take these cases of uninsured into account, says the doctor, then there are few – about 12-17 million – who truly do not have health insurance.

“But to cover, in general, a few people that have that problem and ... to reduce the health care of everybody to cover those few I think it is a bad trade,” Contreras said.

He recommends the approach of starting a program with support from foundations that would serve the 12-17 million people who are truly without health coverage.

Another idea to expand health coverage and reduce medical costs is to address the problem of “extremely expensive” and “frivolous” lawsuits.

Contreras says medical costs can be cut 30-40 percent if lawsuit protection costs were cut.

“The incredible amount of money transferred to lawyers and then to families for medical errors is causing the industry to charge an incredible amount in premiums,” he explained.

“Many of the activities in hospitals are really not aimed at protecting the patient but protecting the institutions and the doctors so they will not be sued.”

In Mexico, when someone sues a doctor for negligence there is no transfer of money, Contreras said. The doctor simply will either be sent to jail or lose his license if he is found guilty.

“So I think that is where reform should happen,” he said.

But in regards to universal healthcare, Contreras says, “wherever you go, whether it is England or Russia or Mexico, it has not been successful.”

Oasis of Hope Hospital was founded by the late Dr. Ernesto Contreras Sr. in 1963. His son Dr. Francisco Contreras is now director and president of the hospital. The hospital combines conventional and alternative cancer treatments by meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients.

The hospital is located about 30 minutes from the San Diego airport.

 

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