For years I have been writing about the failures of the UK's National Health Service (NHS) as a warning for what the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) will do to health care here in the U.S.
London's Daily Mail has chronicled the growing problems with the NHS, which include declining quality of care and availability of services coupled with increased costs. This is what is in store for us, if Congress does not repeal Obamacare.
According to the Daily Mail, "NHS hospitals are recruiting Spanish and Portuguese nurses in record numbers while British applicants are being refused because places on training courses have been slashed to cut costs." More than 5,000 student nurse places, it writes, "have been axed since the General Election." The reason? Foreign nurses cost less. Incredibly, they won't be checked to see if they can speak English. The potential for confusion over medication and treatment because of language differences could be significant.
Another Daily Mail story is about Stewart Fleming, a man with severe stomach pains who waited six hours in a hospital cubicle because, according to Andrew Horne, chief executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, "that evening was very busy; the hospital was full." The 37-year-old father of two died.
The Daily Mirror reports that at Stafford Hospital in Staffordshire, 1,200 patients died over a four-year period. No one has been held accountable, but the person in charge of the health authority for part of that time, Sir David Nicholson, was promoted and for two years headed the entire NHS at a substantially higher salary.
In a cruel irony, Donald Berwick, the former U.S. Medicare administrator, who has said, "The decision is not whether or not we will ration care -- the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open," now heads a committee tasked with preventing the NHS from causing harm to patients. That's easy: get rid of the NHS.
A 2010 column by the Daily Telegraph's Janet Daley ran with the headline, "Copying the NHS is the last thing the U.S. should do." She called instead for a "combination of state provision and private contribution" for health care.
The NHS should have been a lesson for the United States. After promising that Obamacare would not raise insurance costs, we are now seeing the reality. Daniel P. Kessler, a Stanford University professor of law and business, recently noted in the Wall Street Journal: "Despite what you read, premiums in Oregon and California are going up, especially for the young." Other states, should they participate (and many say they won't) will inevitably have the same experience.
The Internal Revenue Service, which will enforce Obamacare's individual and employer mandates, announced in February, according to CNSNews.com, that the "cheapest health insurance plan available in 2016 for a family will cost $20,000..."
CNBC, citing a survey released by InsuranceQuotes.com, a company that allows people to compare insurance rates, recently reported that 64 percent of uninsured adults say they haven't decided if they will buy insurance by the January 1, 2014 deadline.
What happens here if people begin to experience long waits for treatment, higher costs, fewer doctors and nurses whose English is poor? Will they rebel or passively accept an unworkable system?
Two friends of mine who live in a retirement community in Washington recently told me of a change in their nursing staff. The majority are now from West Africa. This change, they say, has made many residents uncomfortable and uncertain whether the nurses are competent enough to provide the quality of care they have come to expect.
During the Depression and the rise of fascism in Europe, Sinclair Lewis wrote the novel "It Can't Happen Here." It was his warning about how fragile democracy is and how easily it can be replaced by dictatorship. Obamacare has the potential for becoming a type of dictatorship.
The negative consequences from the NHS can happen here and they are on the way, unless Republicans win enough congressional seats next year and then vote to replace Obamacare.