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Such waiting times have their consequences. A London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study released last June revealed that British women have the lowest breast cancer survival rate among Europe’s richest nations. Furthermore, cancer survival rates in general continue to lag behind other EU nations, despite ten years of efforts to improve them. And for some cancers, such as lung cancer, the gap is actually widening.
All of the above is what is currently driving David Cameron towards outsourcing medical services to private providers. He has convened a healthcare summit taking place today, and he is currently under attack for not inviting several of the professional medical societies and other health workers to the meeting. In a bit of unintended irony, left-wing newspaper The Guardian has a headline claiming the Health and Social Care Bill currently under consideration will spell the end of “health care services as we know it.” Shadow Health Minister (the opposition party’s counterweight to the acting Health Secretary) Andrew Gwynne is apoplectic, noting that no national healthcare standards could lead to “variations in every part of the country in terms of what care you actually receive,” that Brits “could even find ourselves in the horrendous situation of people having to pay for services that are completely free in other areas,” and that reform will take the country back to the “failed free-market ideology of the 1980s…”
Better to be equally miserable, apparently.
UK healthcare costs are currently $194 billion per year and consume 18 percent of the UK’s budget. The projected “cuts” in spending for 2013 that have people up in arms? As of now, a $6 billion increase in spending to $200 billion. Much of the animus likely stems from the fact that Britain has grown used to massive amounts of healthcare spending that can no longer be sustained: between 2000 and 2010, the NHS budget doubled in real terms. Furthermore, British debt as a percentage of GDP was almost 80 percent in 2010.
Which brings us across the pond, so to speak, where America’s debt level reached 102 percent of GDP last year, long before the full effects–and true costs–of our own stab at government-run healthcare have yet to be realized. Joseph A. Morris, a former Reagan White House lawyer who now serves on the board of the American Conservative Union, explains what Americans should infer from Britain’s travails. “Europe’s message to the world is no longer that the socialist dream of the cradle-to-grave welfare state is an easy achievement,” he said. “Rather, it is the shouted warning that it is a fool’s paradise. The bills are coming due and the only real alternatives–serious financial reform of government or national bankruptcy–are not pleasant.”
The president isn’t listening. The total dismissal of such “unpleasantness” was epitomized by Mr. Obama’s release of a $3.8 trillion budget, a document so unserious that Senate Leader Harry Reid won’t even bring it up for a vote this year. As for the “revenue-neutral” healthcare bill this administration has long touted, the Heritage Foundation found $700 billion in additional, guaranteed costs. As for “unanticipated costs” (progressive-speak for costs that should be anticipated)? If a large number of businesses choose to cancel coverage and dump their employees into the public exchanges, another one trillion dollars could be added to the cost of the bill. Furthermore, it must be noted that one part of it, the CLASS Act, has already been dumped, due to its fiscal unsustainability.
So why would we continue to pursue such an approach to healthcare, even as the latest cautionary tale from the European Union emerges? Sally Pipes, an American health policy expert who leads the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco put it best. “They [President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi] are ideologues,” said Pipes. “They don’t care whether the system really works or not. They have an ideological goal in mind.” One this troika seems doggedly determined to pursue, even if it drives the country bankrupt in the process.
That’s not ideology. That’s insanity.
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