ObamaCare: A Word of Warning from Britain


nurse_1470102cIn light of the ongoing ObamaCare debacle, it can be interesting to see how a state-run national health system free for all, like Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) – Obama’s favourite model – has failed to deliver.

The UK is one of the few countries in the world – mostly concentrated in Europe – to have completely free universal health. It sounds cuddly and comfy, but, like in all utopias and fairy tales, reality is a different matter.

The NHS is Britain’s sacred cow. No party, if it wants to be elected, can scrap it or reform it in any real sense. All parties have to recite the mantra: “The NHS is safe with us. We are ring-fencing the NHS.”

In 2009, British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, interviewed on Fox News (see video below) about the impending Obamacare bill, warned Americans that the NHS is a “60-year-old relic” and claimed he “would not wish it on anyone.” Hannan was then condemned back home as “evil,” “unpatriotric” and “a traitor.”

Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson said that the NHS is “the closest thing that the British have to a religion.”  And Labour politicians have managed to create a climate in which this institution is considered sacrosanct, untouchable by criticism.

But it’s becoming increasingly impossible now to keep that pretence.

The NHS, born on 5 July 1948, is the first system of free universal medical care ever established. The 1942 Beveridge Report, influential in founding the UK’s modern welfare state of which the NHS is part, was conceived and implemented during a special time, when the population was not only ethnically and culturally homogenous, but also feeling like a great family, bound together by the heroic struggle of WW2.

The fundamental principles of the NHS, then as now, have been: 1) services provided free at the point of use; 2) services financed from central taxation; 3) everyone eligible for care (even people temporarily resident or visiting the country).

According to Treasury figures, NHS spending almost doubled in real terms from £57 billion in 2002/03 to £109 billion in 2012/13, and is forecast for £129 billion in 2014.

Britain spends 18.5% of its annual budget on health, the second highest expenditure.

The NHS has always been beleaguered by problems and cash crises, and needing reform.

All “reforms” attempted through the years have only amounted to internal changes and restructurings – giving similar bodies different names. The current “reform” is no exception. Crisis has always been the NHS’s permanent condition.

Its original ideal is too expensive even in the best conditions and, with health care becoming more costly and population aging, the conditions are going to worsen.

But more money doesn’t mean better care. The Department of Health admits that, despite significant and consistent increases in funding, hospital productivity has fallen.

A study in the prestigious Lancet of health data over 20 years in 19 countries shows Britain lagging behind in 12th place.

The BBC reported on the research:

Many deaths happen because the NHS is not good enough at preventing people getting sick or because treatment does not rival that seen elsewhere in Europe, says Mr Hunt who is responsible for health policy in England.

By cancer survival rate comparisons, the NHS is one of the worst health systems in the Western world, even overtaken by former European communist countries.

The remedies are worse than the ills. After having created problems and produced terrible results, governments, to save their face and not risk losing votes, try to find band-aid solutions that make things even worse.

One instance of that is setting targets, which has led to patients being neglected to meet them:

Another example occurred at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, where over three years from 2005 between 400 and 1,200 patients died needlessly as managers ruthlessly cut costs — particularly nursing numbers — to meet targets the Labour government laid down to win ‘foundation’ hospital status.

Doctors were diverted from critically-ill patients in order to deal with less serious cases to meet the target of discharging all patients from Accident & Emergency units within four hours of admission.

Vulnerable patients were left starving, in soiled bedsheets or screaming in pain. Some became so dehydrated they drank from flower vases…

Apparently, the [Francis] report will damn not just the Mid-Staffordshire management but a ‘culture of fear’ from Whitehall down to the wards, as managers became fixated on meeting targets and protecting ministers from political criticism.

Countless families in Mid-Staffordshire have been left grieving for loved ones who were, in effect, killed by the National Health Service.

This is by no means an exceptional case. Inquiries follow scandals and are followed by new horror stories.

Top public health officials, from the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt down to Medical Director of NHS England Sir Bruce Keogh, have acknowledged that in many cases patients were abused, neglected and bullied, and have expressed serious concerns about the service at some NHS trusts.

In July of this year, 14 trusts were found to have unusually high mortality rates. In August, up to 42,000 deaths a year due to kidney failure were linked to dehydration in patients who were not given water by NHS staff. In September, it was discovered that 13,000 every year die of sepsis because of delays in diagnosis and treatment – negligence which also costs the NHS more money.

In October: the previous Labour government was accused of a pre-election cover-up about hospitals with higher-than-normal death rates, “with inspectors finding blood stains on floors and curtains and badly soiled mattresses”; NHS doctors were discovered to have been routinely giving performance-enhancing drugs to patients to “enhance their recovery rates”; and NHS managers getting hundreds of thousands of pounds in redundancy just before being given other NHS jobs – this was due to the latest NHS “reform,” which is simply a reshuffling.

In November, it was found that NHS dementia patients were left hungry for hours and not given medication at the right time; a £200 million NHS fraud scandal was uncovered, with patients illegally claiming free services, and dentists, agencies and firms working for the NHS committing fraud and sending false invoices; 19 more hospitals were investigated over their links to allegations of sexual abuse by late TV celebrity Jimmy Savile; it was discovered that the NHS spent nearly a fifth of its budget for maternity services on clinical negligence insurance in England in 2012, nearly £500m; there was news that Colchester hospital has been fiddling with patient records to improve its waiting times for cancer treatment, with potentially life-threatening consequences. In December, it’s been disclosed that up to 170 operations are cancelled at the last minute each day by NHS hospitals for bed shortages, faulty equipment and lack of staff.

This is just a sample, in no way a complete record. Not bad for less than a half year’s work.

A former London correspondent for Time sounds very reassuring:

Health care was more psychically seamless in the U.K. Nobody worried about going bankrupt if they got sick.

Nobody goes bankrupt individually, but everybody will go bankrupt with the rest of the country because the NHS and the whole welfare state are taking Britain on the verge of economic collapse, with an unsustainable and growing national debt.

Tim Kelsey, a director at NHS England, the central body in charge of the health service, warned in July:

We are about to run out of cash in a very serious fashion…  our analysis will disclose that by 2020 there will be a £30bn funding gap in the healthcare system. [Emphasis added]

Senior NHS doctors and managers said that up to 20 hospitals across the country may have to close to save the NHS from financial ruin.

Although the American system of employer-provided medical care is different from the British system, comparisons of the latter with Medicare, Medicaid and Obama’s “vision” for public healthcare can be made. When healthcare is mostly paid by a third party, there’s little incentive to economize on it, and as a consequence expenditures rise dramatically. Late US economist Milton Friedman would call the NHS a plan for the “socialisation of medicine,” flawed like all government programmes to control social fields.

Two weeks ago, during a visit to Vladimir Bukovsky, I asked him if he thought that looking after the health of a whole country is a task a government can be efficient at. He replied: “There are very few things that governments are efficient at.”

Interestingly, the US has always been used as a bogeyman to scare Europeans into believing that they need universal healthcare. Look at what happens in America, where there is no state-run health system, Leftists and media say.

However, that the question “Are you insured?” asked in US hospitals is caused by lack of free healthcare for all, European-style, is far from the truth. It was free medical care provided by employers during the war – to attract workers at a time of price and wage controls – that led to the current situation in the US. Most Europeans have never heard of the existence of Medicare and Medicaid, and believe that Americans who can’t afford insurance are practically left to die.

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  • Softly Bob

    Also…
    a lot of money is wasted on treating things that are not proper illnesses. A 17-yr. old with small boobs can get breast enhancement surgery if she complains enough that her flat chest is giving her confidence issues.
    Then there are all the sex-change operations….. don’t get me started!

  • radicalrepublican

    As a medical student I saw gov. healthcare in action at a VA medical center . I was shocked how the patients were treated. When I asked for an explanation, I was told “Civil Service”. Ok….what does THAT mean? It means nobody, no matter how incompetent, could be fired. So the good nurses and doctors would quit leaving behind the lazy and evil. Patients were treated very badly. Basic norms of respect and decency were non-existent.

    • Troy Tyler

      What VA medical center was you at? I’m not defending all the people who works at the VA, but I know if I have any trouble or any problem I have a number of way to handle them..Any veteran does

      • ColoursFed

        ex – British Servicemen and women used to get help from our then Military Hospitals in GB, until this present fascist Tory party and liberal government closed them all DOWN, AND TOOK AWAY OUR RIGHT to military medical treatment when we retired. They also pay IRA terrorist a pension of £25,000 ayear, with free housing, ex regular soldiers who served from 1960 to 1984 get paid a pension of £7,500 each year, and no housing!

  • poetcomic1

    Are the good doctors leaving? Retiring early? I personally know several who are in the U.S. NHS doctors are bound to be a different breed (and often a different color too).

  • Schaps

    I have worked in both the NHS and the US health care systems. In the NHS good, competent doctors are only able to continue working by having a separate cash-only practice. Those who are able to attract patients because of providing good care manage to get by. Those who are more junior and/or in training provide the majority of clinical care for the NHS – with the associated complications and incompetence.

  • A Z

    Leftists forced busing to achieve integration. Among other bad things forced busing led to more time (hours per week) on buses siting. This is in addition to stoking racial animosity/

    “Sitting for hours can shave years off life”

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/06/24/sitting.shorten.life/index.html

    The Left’s action is full of unintended consequences.

    Fast Forward to today.

    The Left is once again victorious and with a few more such Pyrrhic victories civilization shall be lost.

    So me some people will go to concierge care so as to remain healthy. the ire of the left will be raised and they will once again agitate, dominate and meddle in the lives of people.

  • Chris Behme

    The NHS was, I believe, instituted in good faith and in a less enlightened time.
    Socialism always fails and the NHS is just one example of the horrors of top-down government schemes. But the NHS made sense in war-torn England, as the author points out, but is not sustainable today.
    On the other hand, I doubt that Obama gives a damn about anyone’s health but his own. Obamacare is about control, and the eventual conversion of America into a socialist state.

    • Fritz

      The NHS never made sense even when it was created, it was just perceived as making sense. One of the selling points of the time was that since those in the military, or military veterans, were receiving state funded health care why not expand it to everyone else. Of course what is conveniently lost in this point of debate is that medical services for vets are repayment for services rendered, not government freebees.

      As for B.O wanting to convert the U.S into a socialist state, what he wants and what will be achieved are two different things. The problem with socialism is that you need other people’s money to spend, and lots of it, and at a point in the not too distant future the credit card is going to be cut up. There are too many on these boards that give Barry way to much credit, as though he is some sort of diabolical strategist, but the man’s record speaks for himself, he is incompetent and a completely inept manager. This is not FDR or Bill Clinton we are talking about, this is a Coke snorting “Community Organizer” that is completely unaccomplished. He could not even buy his own house without outside help, he could not even set up a simple website without bungling it.

  • Patriotliz

    When people want “freebies” more than they want “freedom” then that’s the end of our constitutional republic. The countries, like US and UK, that fought against totalitarianism ironically now embrace it. I retired early from my practice as a physician primarily due to the de-professionalization of medicine. Practicing physicians aren’t in charge anymore. Those docs (primarily non-practicing administrators) that “went along to get along” with the Obamafascist take-over of health care and wanted a seat at the feeding trough of BIG Government are the good little Nazi doctors. One lesson all governments should learn with respect to any attempt at reform of healthcare is—-FIRST DO NO HARM.

  • Sonnys_Mom

    Now hold on a minute thar… Obama wanted to “reform” the US health care system BECAUSE we spend– what, 16% of our national budget on health care, and that was “too much”? Yet the article states, “Britain spends 18.5% of its annual budget on health, the second highest expenditure.” Savings? what savings?

    • ebonystone

      ” Savings? what savings?”
      Yes, I noticed that too. I think the explanation is that the 16% U.S. figure refers to 16% of the GDP, i.e. 16% of the whole economy; while the 18.5% British figure refers to 18.5% of government spending.

      • margamoo

        Yes. This article is flat-out making lies with the numbers. The US spends almost 18% of GDP, that 18% of their total economy, compared to Britain that spends about 9% of their total economy on healthcare with better outcomes in Britain. This article is a complete LIE.

  • Fritz

    The U.S healthcare system has been held up as a bogeyman in Canada as well to whip the public into continue supporting the state run monopoly on health care. In fact this was used to intimidate critics or reformers into silence “You don’t want American style healthcare do you?” or “Candidate X, wants U.S style private, for profit, health care”. Of course as the waiting lists grow longer, care is denied or delayed, and as more and more scandals erupt over the number of and financial compensation of management, more and more Canadians are questioning the value of a health system that can’t always deliver health care when one needs it. One thing that has changed the course of the debate is the rise of the World Wide Web, where Canadians don’t have to rely on the heavily filtered news media to find out what how Canadian Health care compares not only to the U.S but to other countries like Germany, France, Australia, etc. To be truthful they still haul out the U.S as the “Bad Guy” in terms of health systems, but now the reformers rightly point to Germany or France as a point of comparison and by most measures Canada’s health systems come up short.

  • Ellman48

    “In 2009, British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, interviewed on Fox News
    (see video below) about the impending Obamacare bill, warned Americans
    that the NHS is a “60-year-old relic” and claimed he “would not wish it
    on anyone.” Hannan was then condemned back home as “evil,”
    “unpatriotric” and “a traitor.”

    Notice the scurrilous, ad hominem attacks on Mr. Hannan. This is how the Left ALWAYS responds to criticism of its ideology, programs, policies and agenda. It cannot present sensible, cogent arguments to contest an assertion which comes from those who do not support or sympathize with its views. The best defense it can offer is fabricated facts and statistics.

    I’ve never understood why such Alinskyite tactics, so transparent and deplorable, seem to influence so many people, unless it’s the mainstream propaganda medias in countries like Britain and the US that manage to sell this propaganda to their viewers and readers. One day Obamacare will possess the same ludicrous sanctity which the NHS has in Britain, unless we can get rid of this monstrosity before it becomes self-perpetuating and invincible.

  • Ellman48

    “In July of this year, 14 trusts were found to have unusually high mortality rates. In August, up to 42,000 deaths a year due to kidney failure were linked to dehydration in patients who were not given water by NHS staff. In September, it was discovered that 13,000 every year die of sepsis because of delays in diagnosis and treatment – negligence which also costs the NHS more money.”

    It is irrational to think that bureaucrats will provide the same level of health services that doctors in a competitive free market healthcare system will. Go visit a VA hospital or outpatient clinic one day to see the difference.

  • Ellman48

    “Health care was more psychically seamless in the U.K. Nobody worried about going bankrupt if they got sick.”

    Of course, their primary concern was not going bankrupt, but dying. Sensible priorities under the circumstances.

  • Ellman48

    Politicians have one goal: to be elected and reelected, to acquire power and to retain it. EVERYTHING else follows accordingly. This is why programs like the NHS and Obamacare are enacted and why they will be ‘saved’ at any cost, even if this involves sending the middle class into poverty, which is where governments would prefer for everyone to be, excepting the rich who pay for their campaigns and receive various ‘kickbacks’ in return.

    If you don’t care about yourself don’t ever be fooled into thinking that the government is like your caring surrogate parent. You either care about yourself or you suffer the ‘care’ the government provides. So simple, yet so unrecognized!

    • Watchman On the Wall

      There simply is no free lunch.

  • Skeptic7

    We are in an abusive relationship with our government. Why give them more power at our own expense?

    • Watchman On the Wall

      Amen.

  • LindaRivera

    In Britain if you have to go into the hospital, hopefully you will have someone with you 24/7 to make sure that you don’t starve to death or die of dehydration.

  • ColoursFed

    You have no understanding of the NHS in Great Britain, or you are submitting lies about it. The only people in Great Britain who do not like the NHS are the fascist Tory party and it’s Eaton membership, of money grabbing bootleggers, that want to privatise it for their own lust of greed and self wealth, like they have done with every thing that was state ownership, and making large profit. The NHS is not owned and paid for by the government; it is paid for by the workers through a collective donation that is called National Insurance Contributions (NIC), which is taken by law from our wages, at the class 1 rate. The only people getting free NHS are those that pay at the class 2 and 3 rates. These include all self employed people. Small businesses (unless registered Limited Companies), MPs, and immigrants from EU countries(who do not pay anything), that are draining it away. The NIC also pays for the Benefit system that we have, which is their for when one is poorly, out of work, and in need of welfare. This fascist Tory government (like your movement) see it has a means of making vast profits for them selves and their friends, And that is the only reason they want it stopped.

    Many people in Great Britain are now asking the reason why those that do not pay NIC should be given NHS treatment, or any benefits, “one should get out of it, what you put into it? All Mps to pay for private Medical until they start paying NIC at the class 1 rate. All immigrants that come to GB, to be given minimum medical until they start paying the full rate of NIC, and all EU countries to pay for their own people who get NHS treatment.

    Stop your lies, and start printing the facts for once in your life times.

    The fascist state will always bread Nazis! Is it not better that all of the people get a good quality of life, by you all putting a dollar into the pot, to pay for you all to get a good medical system, or is it that you are all brain dead?

  • margamoo

    This article is a complete lie.

  • BagLady

    The NHS, like the BBC, is top heavy with overpaid management. Corruption has been the elephant room all along not the original concept of free medical treatment for all.

    A sudden and huge surge in the population, with zero tax input from the newcomers, has put so much stress on the ‘free’ service it is bound to go under. The government made no attempt to plug the loopholes and Britain now does a roaring trade (at a 100% loss) in medical tourism.

    The writer reckons the NHS is so protected it will never go away but I see it’s death as imminent. Every aspect is now being sold off to private operators picking up $millions pa for providing one particular service. Needless to say, they do it all on the cheap to maximise profits and front line services are the first to suffer.

    The government couldn’t run the NHS (or anything else) because of the bureaucracy that comes from too many pigs in the trough. The current system of privatization to mates is even more ineffective.

    It is a mere skip and a hop for Britain to switch to outside insurance. It will want to continue the revenue from National Insurance of course and will probably have to re-name it.