We've been preoccupied with the debt debate and fending off "terrorist" slurs over the last few weeks -- perhaps at the expense of adequately covering several harrowing developments on the healthcare front. Leftists often run down the US system as inhumane and unaffordable. Not everyone is covered, they argue, and costs are too high. This message understandably resonates with the public, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans were satisfied with their own healthcare arrangement prior to Obamacare's unwelcome passage last March. Liberal Europhiles' preferred remedy for these shortcomings is the imposition of a government-run, single-payer system -- toward which Obamacare is a marked lurch.
The crown jewel of this government-first approach is Britain's National Health Service. Under the British regime, healthcare is provided, regulated, and rationed by the national government. NHS officials manage a fixed annual budget for the care of their subjects, which often ignores the elasticity of demand, and requires the rejection of costly, but effective, medical breakthroughs. Cost containment is paramount. This approach reaps chronic doctor shortages, inefficient wait lists, appallingly sub-standard care, and rationing. Four recent news accounts reveal more scandalous failures of a system that Barack Obama's CMS Director romanticizes:
Two-thirds of health trusts in England are rationing treatments for "non-urgent" conditions as part of the drive to reduce costs in the NHS by £20bn over the next four years. One in three primary-care trusts (PCTs) has expanded the list of procedures it will restrict funding to in the past 12 months. Examples of the rationing now being used include:
* Hip and knee replacements only being allowed where patients are in severe pain. Overweight patients will be made to lose weight before being considered for an operation.
* Cataract operations being withheld from patients until their sight problems "substantially" affect their ability to work.
* Patients with varicose veins only being operated on if they are suffering "chronic continuous pain", ulceration or bleeding.
* Tonsillectomy (removing tonsils) only to be carried out in children if they have had seven bouts of tonsillitis in the previous year.
* Grommets to improve hearing in children only being inserted in "exceptional circumstances" and after monitoring for six months.
(2) NHS rationers are intentionally delaying surgeries, in hopes that fed-up patients will seek private care...or worse:
Health service trusts are “imposing pain and inconvenience” by making patients wait longer than necessary, in some cases as long as four months, the study found. Executives believe the delays mean some people will remove themselves from lists “either by dying or by paying for their own treatment” claims the report, by an independent watchdog that advises the NHS.
The Co-operation and Competition Panel says the tactic is one of a number used by managers that “excessively constrain” patients’ rights to choose where to be operated upon, and damage hospitals’ ability to compete for planned surgery. It claims unfair practices are “endemic” in some areas of England and pose a “serious risk” to the Government’s drive to open up the health service to competition.
(3) "Cruel tricks" to meet government savings targets:
Thousands of patients have been denied surgery or had it delayed by NHS waiting list fiddles, a damning report said yesterday. Hospital managers have resorted to 'deliberate manipulation' to meet Government targets on queues for operations. They have used cruel tricks such as offering operations when they knew a patient would be on holiday, then dropping them from the list for refusing the date.
The National Audit Office, the Parliamentary watchdog, found that some hospitals have been massaging figures for years. Records were routinely fiddled to hide patients waiting longer than the Government's 18-month maximum. The investigation into nine NHS trusts found a catalogue of deception affecting around 6,000 patients. It has led to the sacking or resignation of managers - but created another scandal because some were given compensation packages and then rehired by the NHS with no way to reclaim the money.
Leftists will retort that healthcare is already being rationed by insurance companies. This is true. In some ways, the national health care debate boils down to this question: Who would you rather make decisions about your personal care -- your doctor and your health insurance plan, or a panel of unelected, unaccountable federal bureaucrats? In light of the feds' dreadful track record on management and accountability (and the NHS horrors recapitulated in this post), I'd choose the private sector every day of the weak.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography