The United Kingdom’s shadow health secretary is warning British citizens that the increasing number of private medical operations performed in the UK may be leading the country “towards an American health care system.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, some public hospitals—funded by Britain’s National Health Service—are offering “standard NHS prices” for operations that are no longer offered by the government-funded system; examples include “cataract replacements, caesarean sections for non-medical reasons and knee surgery.”
Select public hospitals offering these privately funded operations argue that they open up opportunity for the general public to have access to medical care that would otherwise be unaffordable or unattainable:
One hospital gives cataract sufferers the option to "self-fund" their operation before their sight deteriorates to the level required for the NHS to operate.
"Our premier cataract service offers a new option, between the traditional private sector and the NHS, bringing private health care within the reach of many more people."
However, critics of privatized health care are concerned that “hospitals' income has increased by £100 million since the Government gave them the freedom to earn more through private work.”
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham accused the Government of taking the "first steps towards an American health care system".
"NHS hospitals, built with public money, charging people for treatments that used to be free," he said.
"We've got to wake people up to what is happening. The first steps towards an American health care system.”
There may be problems with Britain’s plan to fund private operations in publicaly funded hospitals, but they do not stem from America’s traditional health care system. Despite the British middle class having a significant proportion of their income taxed by the federal government, as well as paying a mandatory National Insurance Contribution to help fund government-run health care, the NHS is still unaffordable and unable to guarantee high-quality treatment for all citizens paying into the system.
The government’s involvement in the health care system also manipulates the market; there is very little competition in the private market, which drives prices up well above what the average British citizen can afford. Thus, British citizens wait weeks, even months, for routine and sometimes critical surgeries provided by the NHS.
Left-leaners may be right to question whether private operations should be taking place in publicly funded hospitals, but without these private surgeries, many patients in need of care would be left until their condition worsened to merit treatment from the NHS.
As Britain wakes up to the realities and shortcomings of publicly funded health care and starts exploring alternative options in the private sphere, the Obama Administration is days away from contracting people into government-exchanges, making them—and their health—dependent on the government.
It appears the NHS isn't alone in its decision to ignore warning signs...