British “Single-Payer” Health Care Program Is Cratering. That Should Be Wake-Up Call for U.S. Liberals.

New UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refuses to answer a simple question.

He was asked three times whether he received private medical care or relied on the National Health Service, the British version of “single payer” government-run national health insurance.

Sunak dismissed the question as “not really relevant”. But it is.

The Prime Minister is the head of the British government and is ultimately responsible for the National Health Service, the government agency that is supposed to provide “free” universal coverage and care to all citizens of Britain.

No such thing is done.

According to the BBC, there are 7.2 million British citizens, or 11% of the total British population, who are seeking medical treatment. Sky News reports that more than 400,000 people in England have been waiting for hospital treatment for more than a year.

At the moment, the most prominent issue is urgent care. According to The Telegraph, December data shows that people with heart attacks wait an average of 90 minutes for an ambulance, with some waiting as long as two-and-a-half hours. For emergency care, The Telegraph further reports that 55,000 people had to stay on hospital gurneys for “at least” 12 hours after the emergency department decided to admit them.

In fact, patients suffering from a stroke or heart attack are always in a race against time, because medical delays can lead to permanent disability or death.

Surveying the carnage, Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, estimated that between 300 and 500 people die every week due to delays in emergency medical care and related problems.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a punishing stress test for Britain as well as the US and other countries. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the structural weaknesses of Britain’s single-payer healthcare system, America’s work on it has been undermined by several federal government failures.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, public health experts warned in May 2020 – early in the pandemic – that the British government was ill-prepared to respond well to COVID-19.

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic deepened the long-standing problems underlying Britain’s single-payer program. As the BBC reports, the current crisis in Britain’s single-payer system has been “decades” in the making, despite being exacerbated by a severe flu season.

There is a lesson here for Americans.

Liberals in Congress say the case for an American version of a single-payer health system—eliminating nearly all private health insurance and leaving health care financing and key decision-making to Congress and federal officials—is stronger in the aftermath. The COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s a bold statement.

However, the reality is this: Congress’s single-payer bill (HR 1976) contained key elements that would lead to the implosion of the British health care system, including government budgeting, bureaucratic central planning, and reduced pay for doctors and nurses.

But, last year, 120 House Democrats co-sponsored the legislation.

In stark contrast to top-down control by congressional liberals, who limit private coverage and care for Americans, British patients are still free to opt out of the British single-payer program and spend their own money on private health insurance coverage and care. their choice.

As mentioned, Prime Minister Sunak has that option, but he won’t say if he has taken advantage of it.

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Drastic reductions in medical professionals’ salaries, as allowed in congressional single-payer legislation, could actually reduce health care costs. But there’s a big price: you pay less and you get less.

Britain has the lowest number of doctors per 1,000 patients in all of Western Europe and the third lowest (ahead of only Italy and Spain) patient availability of British nurses.

Compared to their American counterparts, British doctors and nurses are relatively underpaid. It’s no surprise that Britain’s single-payer system is periodically plagued by labor strikes as well as serious shortages of essential supplies and equipment.

In the United States and among developed economies, Britain’s COVID-19 lockdowns have imposed a heavy price on private health in delays and denials of medical treatment, particularly interruptions in medical treatment including chemotherapy, as well as preventive care, such as mammograms.

Last August, The Telegraph reported that 10,000 cancer patients had been waiting for three months. Professor Pat Price, an oncologist at Imperial College London, said: “There will be tens of thousands of cancer patients dying needlessly because of the disruptions that come with COVID.”

As in the US, Britain’s epidemic has subsided, but the number of patients getting a “face-to-face” appointment with a doctor is still below pre-pandemic levels in England, according to The Telegraph. There, the paper notes, only 2% of general practitioners see their patients in a two-week period.

The facts are coming forward, and a broad consensus is emerging on the need for reform.

The Daily Mirror editors state, “Without radical reform, the [National Health Service] perish.” The Guardian, one of Britain’s top left-wing publications, says the “crisis” NHS is “collapsing”. Keir Starmer, leader of Britain’s opposition Labor Party, has acknowledged the severity of the NHS crisis, criticizing the system’s “red tape” and calling on the private sector to help “clear up” Britain’s massive waiting lists.

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Correct diagnosis requires correct treatment. The growing problems with Britain’s ailing single-payer health system are systemic and deeply rooted in the arrogant assumptions of central planning; That is, making bureaucratic decisions that govern the health and lives of over 67 million souls.

No better summed up the way forward than Alison Pearson, a prominent columnist with The Telegraph.

We must break free from the coercive control exercised over us by the NHS. We are not to blame for repressing it.

It is not our fault to expect a child with a fever or a 90-year-old with a broken hip to receive prompt attention. The NHS is to blame. We no longer have to listen sympathetically to the pathetic excuses of its obscure managers.

We spend billions of our national wealth on health care. What we get back is broken, shameful and dangerous. Get well yourselves, NHS.

Congressional liberals should heed the warnings of experience. Despite their promises to implement their version of “socialized medicine” “better,” the same dynamics in their bureaucratic model will reproduce the same problems, waiting lists and delays, and denial of care.

That model is collapsing right before our eyes.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal


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