Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do you believe in Magic?

On Monday July 19, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on page A14 headlined “German Hospitals can Ill Afford End to Draft” [subscription required]


Well, simple. Most German draftees apply for conscientious objector status, and most applications are approved. Germany permits military draft objectors to complete their service in civilian jobs and the majority choose hospitals, nursing homes and other social programs. The draftees perform these service jobs at military pay levels - below civilian wage levels.

Personnel officers at German Hospitals are worried because of the financial impact to them if the draft is curtailed or ended. That would mean - horrors! – their source of cheap, government-supplied labor would dry up. The hospitals would – gasp! - have to hire replacement workers at the prevailing wage. Specifically, at one hospital alone, “nearly 50 civilian servants perform basic nursing tasks and run errands, work that would otherwise need to be taken over by better-compensated employees . . . [that] would certainly drive costs up.”

And so we learn that one way Germany has contained its health care delivery costs has been forced labor at under-market rates. And all this time, I thought it was the magic of its nationalized health system. Come to think of it, that may be a good illustration of the “magic” of a nationalized health system. At least in Germany.
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