Things to Come 6 - The End of Health Care

A national single-payer health system will destroy actual health care.

The evil genius of Obamacare has succeeded in creating a situation where a government-operated universal national healthcare system is inevitable and where complete government takeover of one-sixth of our economy will be greeted with glad, relieved cries by the overwhelming majority of Americans just as it was in Europe.

This isn't a hidden conspiracy of any kind.  Barack Obama was perfectly frank about his intentions all the way back in 2003:

I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.

His way of getting there was a bit roundabout, but as we saw in the last article in this series, universal health care was designed to be inevitable from Day One.

What's more, for all the fraud and deceit involved in the passing of Obamacare, the Republicans could not have been louder about the urgent need to elect Romney and repeal it - and they lost.  Mr. Obama has received a perfectly legitimate democratic stamp of approval for his totalist plan.

In the democracy we have become, isn't it fine if people vote for government to do something they want and then government does it?  In principle, yes, but it still must be paid for somehow.  This has been a painful problem for England in particular.

After the privations of World War II, the government of England decided that providing health care to all was the least they could do for a battered and bruised English people, in keeping with the "we're all in this together" spirit of the Blitz.  Before the war, healthcare had operated on a simple system where you pay the doctor his bill; many people couldn't afford to and so got less treatment than they felt they needed.  The usual socialist arguments were deployed as to how a national system would be both more equitable and more fair.

To this day, socialists the world around hold up England's National Health Service as an example of all that as great and good, so much so that an artistic paean to the NHS took up half the opening ceremony at the London Olympics.  Indeed, there's no doubt that the NHS has provided care to people who otherwise wouldn't have gotten it.

The unasked question, though: is that a good thing?  Dr. Philip Lee, a practicing physician with the NHS and also an elected Member of Parliament, argues that it is not:

Dr Lee predicted hospitals will be unable to cope in a decade’s time because modern day Britons are unwilling to put up with minor ailments in the same way that their parents and grandparents did.  Speaking at a briefing organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn statement next week, Dr Lee said that the lack of “stoicism” among people today meant that the NHS will be unable to cope with the demands on it...

Dr Lee, a member of the Tory Free Enterprise group, said: “The current situation, when diabetics and people with an under-active thyroid are entitled to all drugs to be free is just indefensible, plainly daft. There is scope here to reduce or flatten out the health care budget.  When baby boomers hit their 70s in the 2020s you can kiss goodbye to the healthcare model we have currently got. Diabetes alone is predicted to be 25 pc of the entire NHS budget by 2025.”

The good doctor went on to give an example of an octogenarian who patiently waited in line to see his doctor while having a heart attack, vs a twentysomething who dragged into the office with a sore throat she'd woken up with that very morning.

The problem is simple: when everything is free to the patient, they have no choices to make about what treatments are important and what aren't; they'll, indeed, go to the doctor for every little thing.  Why?  Because they can - and, hey, you never know, it might be cancer!

Suppose it actually is cancer; what then?  You don't really want to be treated by the NHS: British cancer survival rates are the lowest in Europe and have been for a long time.

The reason is obvious: the NHS is funded by taxpayers and is on a budget, so the money it spends is allocated by bureaucrats.  If you have something expensive go wrong, you get to wait in line for treatment.  They keep the lines long enough that you might croak before your number comes up.  This is how they stay within their budget.

As a result, despite ostentatiously not have a national health service, the United States as a whole has better cancer survival rates than either England or Canada which do.  If Americans really, truly need medical treatment, usually they'll find a way.

In a national system, though, unless you're rich enough to be transported out of the country to a private hospital elsewhere, you're at the mercy of the bureaucrats who hold the pursestrings.  None other than England's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tells us the result:

In the worst cases staff have overseen “a kind of normalisation of cruelty”, Jeremy Hunt told an audience of health professionals at The King’s Fund, a London-based think-tank.

Managers were so “buried in spreadsheets” that they had become “blind” to the fact that patients were not being treated with dignity or respect, he said...

He said: “Just look at what has come to light in the last few years: patients left to lie in their own excrement in Stafford Hospital, with members of the public taking soiled sheets home to wash because they didn’t believe the hospital would do it.  The man with dementia who was supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes who managed to leave Pontypool Hospital and drown.  The residents kicked punched, humiliated, dragged by their hair and forced through cold showers at Winterbourne View.  The elderly woman with dementia repeatedly punched and slapped at Ash Court Care Home.  The cancer patient at St George’s, Tooting, who lost a third of his body fluid, desperately ringing the police for help, because staff didn't listen or check his medical records.”

These were not “isolated incidents”, he said, but appeared with such “depressing regularity” that they indicated problems which were in places “part of the fabric”.

Up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died over several years at Mid Staffordshire hospitals due to shocking care, which saw some resorting to drinking water from flower vases. [emphasis added]

There are lousy hospitals in the United States, too.  Bellevue Hospital in New York City, for instance, is so notorious that some New Yorkers reportedly wear medical ID bracelets in the event of emergency, telling rescue workers to take them anywhere but there.

In America, though, you have the freedom to do just that: most Americans do have the choice to determine where  they want to be treated, or at least a choice of several different options.  In England, you are stuck with the NHS, and that means going to whatever hospital or doctor is nearest.  Think of it like America's public schools: your kids are assigned to a government school by a bureaucrat and that's that.  If you don't like it, move, or pay your way into a private school. at your own (vast) expense while still paying taxes for the lousy public service you don't want.

England's NHS is going bankrupt and providing murderous "service" so awful that its own leader gives horrified speeches.  Its management is so politically correct that it refuses to test tens of thousands of foreign-born doctors to ensure they can speak English to their patients - and that's not even addressing the nurses with the same problem.

Why doesn't England have enough native-born English-speaking medical professionals?  Because the NHS no longer pays non-specialist doctors enough to make it worthwhile for young people to run up the massive costs of getting a medical degree.  With Obamacare's efforts to control costs by limiting payments to doctors, precisely the same thing will happen here - and all while, supposedly, everyone will have health insurance.

What good is health insurance if you can't find a doctor to give you any care?  Massachusetts' experience with Romneycare highlights this problem:

If you thought the wait time to see a doctor was getting longer, you’re right. The latest survey from the Massachusetts Medical Society shows that finding an appointment in six of seven specialties is either harder this year or no better than last.

If you’re a new patient and want to see a family physician, about half of all practices aren’t taking anyone new. If you have a public insurance plan, such as Medicare and Medicaid, then you may have some additional trouble receiving care.

Even the New York Times admitted this would be a problem with Obamacare as it's been in England for many years.  Yet nothing changes there - because no government can pay enough money to provide as much care as everybody might imagine they need, and because government bureaucrats are incapable of actually caring about real human people.

Although it's impossible to provide an infinite amount of money, Obama is going to give it his best shot, which is why he's so desperate to make America's rich people pay "their fair share."  This brings us to the highly trenchant topic of the famous pending Fiscal Cliff, which we'll gingerly peer over in our next article.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

The NYT says it's already happened in Britain:

LONDON — Shockingly bad care and inhumane treatment at a hospital in the Midlands led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths and stripped countless patients of their dignity and self-respect, according to a scathing report published on Wednesday.

The report, which examined conditions at Stafford Hospital in Staffordshire over a 50-month period between 2005 and 2009, cites example after example of horrific treatment: patients left unbathed and lying in their own urine and excrement; patients left so thirsty that they drank water from vases; patients denied medication, pain relief and food by callous and overworked staff members; patients who contracted infections due to filthy conditions; and patients sent home to die after being given the wrong diagnoses.

“This is the story of the appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people,” Robert Francis, the lawyer appointed by the government to lead the inquiry, said at a news conference.

“They were failed by a system which ignored the warning signs and put corporate interests and cost control ahead of patients and their safety,” he added. “There was a lack of care, compassion, humanity and leadership. The most basic standards of care were not observed, and fundamental rights to dignity were not respected.”

And the boss is still working for the NHS......

February 7, 2013 7:10 AM
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