Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, refuses to answer a simple question.
They were asked three times whether they received private medical care or relied on the National Health Service, the British version of the “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 ultimately responsible for the National Health Service, the government agency that is supposed to provide “free” universal coverage and care for all UK citizens.
It doesn’t do anything.
According to the BBC, 7.2 million British citizens are waiting for medical care, or about 11% of the entire British population. And Sky News reports that more than 400,000 people in England have been waiting for hospital treatment for more than a year.
Right now, the most pressing problem is emergency care. According to The Telegraph, figures for December show that people having a heart attack have to wait an average of 90 minutes for an ambulance, with some waiting up to two and a half hours. As for emergency care, The Telegraph further reported, 55,000 people were forced to wait on hospital gurneys for “at least” 12 hours following emergency department decisions.
Of course, patients suffering from a stroke or heart attack are always in a race against time, as delay in medical attention can result in permanent disability or death.
Surveying the carnage, Dr. Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, estimated that 300 to 500 people were dying every week due to delays in the delivery of emergency medical care and related problems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a punishing stress test for Britain as well as the United States and other countries. America’s performance in that regard has been crippled by a number of federal government failures, even as the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the structural weaknesses of Britain’s single-payer health care system.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, public health experts warned in May 2020—at the start of the pandemic—that the British government was ill-prepared to respond to COVID-19.
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic only deepened long-standing problems underlying the British single-payer programme. As the BBC reports, the current crisis in Britain’s single-payer system, although exacerbated by a bad flu season, has been building for “decades”.
For Americans, there is a lesson here.
Liberals in Congress have been saying that the case for an American version of a single-payer health system — eliminating virtually all private health insurance and health care financing and transferring key decision-making to Congress and federal officials — is even stronger in the post-COVID era. -19 pandemic.
This is a bold claim.
However, the reality is this: Congress’s single-payer bill (HR 1976) contains key components driving the collapse of the British health care system, including government budgets, bureaucratic central planning, and low pay for doctors and nurses.
Still, last year, 120 House Democrats co-sponsored the legislation.
Unlike congressional liberals’ top-down rule that would restrict 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. Huh. Of their choice
As noted, Prime Minister Sunak has that option, though he won’t say whether he has taken advantage of it.
Large cuts to medical professionals’ pay, as authorized in Congress’s single-payer law, could actually reduce health care spending. But there’s a big price: You pay less and you get less.
The UK has the lowest number of doctors per 1,000 patients in all of Western Europe, while British nurses rank third lowest (behind only Italy and Spain) in terms of patient availability.
Compared to their American counterparts, the salaries of British doctors and nurses are relatively low. There is nothing shocking about Britain’s single-payer system with periodic labor strikes as well as severe shortages of critical supplies and equipment.
As in the United States and in countries with advanced economies, the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown has imposed a heavy cost on personal health from delays and denial of medical care, particularly from pauses in medical treatment including chemotherapy, as well as preventive In care, such as mammograms.
Last August, The Telegraph reported that an estimated 10,000 cancer patients were waiting three months. “There will be thousands of cancer patients who die unnecessarily because of the disruption with COVID,” said Professor Pat Price, an oncologist at Imperial College London.
Even though the pandemic is subsiding in Britain, as in the United States, 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 are seeing their patients within a two-week period.
Matters are coming to a head, and there is broad agreement on the need for reform.
The editors of The Daily Mirror declared, “Without radical reform, [National Health Service] Damned.” 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, acknowledges the seriousness of the NHS crisis, the system’s ” Criticizing “bureaucracy” and calling on the private sector to help “clean up” Britain’s huge waiting list.
Correct diagnosis requires correct treatment. The growing problems with Britain’s ailing single-payer health system are systemic and deeply rooted in egotistical notions of central planning; Namely, the bureaucratic decision-making that governs the health and lives of more than 67 million people.
No one has laid out the way forward better than Alison Pearson, a leading columnist for The Telegraph:
We must be free from the coercive control exercised over us by the NHS. We are not to blame for bringing it under pressure.
There is nothing wrong with us expecting immediate attention to a child with a fever or a 90-year-old with a broken hip. The NHS is to blame. No longer should we listen with pathetic sympathy to the pathetic excuses of its illusory managers.
We invest billions of our national wealth in health care; What we get in return is broken, shameful and dangerous. NHS, fix yourselves.
The liberals in the Congress should heed the warnings of experience. Despite their promises to make their version of “socialized medicine” work “better,” the same dynamics of their bureaucratic model will repeat the same problems, waiting lists, and delays and denials of care.
That model is crumbling right before our eyes.
This piece was originally published in The Daily Signal