Consider this another data point that will largely get ignored when Democrats and the media start beating the drum again on “Medicare for All” in the 2018 midterms. The UK’s vaunted single-payer system has collapsed into “third world” conditions, thanks to a lack of resources that has ambulances unable to pick up patients, who would find difficulty in getting an empty bed at a hospital. The order came down this week from on high to cancel as many as 50,000 scheduled surgeries over the next several weeks until the National Health Service can figure out how to climb out of the hole (via Guy Benson):
Every hospital in the country has been ordered to cancel all non-urgent surgery until at least February in an unprecedented step by NHS officials.
The instructions on Tuesday night – which will see result in around 50,000 operations being axed – followed claims by senior doctors that patients were being treated in “third world” conditions, as hospital chief executives warned of the worst winter crisis for three decades.
Hospitals are reporting growing chaos, with a spike in winter flu leaving frail patients facing 12-hour waits, and some units running out of corridor space.
It’s not just the hospitals, either. The NHS will close down outpatient clinics as well, leaving Britons with very few options for healthcare at the beginning of 2018:
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, on Tuesday ordered NHS trusts to stop taking all but the most urgent cases, closing outpatients clinics for weeks as well as cancelling around 50,000 planned operations.
Believe it or not, UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt considers this an improvement over last year’s performance. At least this time people got advance notice of the closures:
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “What is different this year compared to last year is that last year we had a lot of operations cancelled at the last minute. A lot of people were called up the day before their operation and told: ‘I’m sorry, it can’t go ahead.’
“And we recognise that it is better, if you are unfortunately going to have to cancel or postpone some operations, to do it in a planned way … Although if you are someone whose operation has been delayed I don’t belittle that for one moment and indeed I apologise to everyone who that has happened to.”
He thanked NHS staff for their “heroic” job, saying they were working “beyond the call of duty”.
Theresa May had earlier praised the NHS, saying that the socialized-medicine system had done a “fantastic job” of preparing for the winter. Perhaps, but only in the context of single-payer systems that operate on a shortage mentality in the first place. That’s the problem with every single payer system in the world; their funding comes not from an organic exchange of services for payment, but from government budgets which have nothing to do with demand or price signaling at all. The former system allows for investment growth to meet demand, while the latter restricts resources on a rationing basis regardless of demand.
The end result, as Britons continually experience, is third-world conditions and a severe lack of access. But let’s not pick on the UK entirely, either. Americans have plenty of experience in single-payer systems too, such as the VA and the Indian Health Service (IHS), both of which are closed and both of which struggle constantly with rationing issues and corruption, the latter especially in the VA. Medicare only works as well as it does because it exists within a flawed but still functioning private-market system that generates enough capacity for demand. Once we go to a Medicare for All model that locks out private choice, that capacity will rapidly decline — and it will be Americans who have to endure weeks-long shutdowns of care.
For instance, I’ve removed references to geography in this report. Try to figure out whether this is about the NHS, IHS, or VA:
More than one in eight patients rushed to hospital in an ambulance this winter has faced a delay of more than 30 minutes on arrival…
Patients are meant to be handed over to staff within 15 minutes, but more than 75,000 have waited at least twice as long as that in ____.
Some of the worst waits had lasted up to five hours, ambulance crews said.
Of course, it’s the NHS. At the VA, patients wait for months to get a doctor’s appointment. In the IHS, patients have learned not to get sick at all after June.
Philip Klein issues a similar warning at the Washington Examiner:
As the American Left tries to push single-payer into the forefront of the national conversation, it’s important to have a real conversation about the tradeoffs involved. In the U.K., having the government “guarantee” healthcare while trying to contain costs results in strained medical services, turning one of the largest economies in the world into a “third world”-like environment. The NHS “guarantee” doesn’t always translate into actual access to care when you need it. The other option is to throw more money at the system, in which case single-payer becomes much more costly than promised. It’s also worth thinking about the cultural component. Do we think Americans are going to stand for a system in which government officials cancel surgeries en masse based on bureaucratic judgments about what is urgent and go on TV to offer inadequate apologies?
It depends on how well those possibilities are communicated to Americans by their national media. There hasn’t been much coverage of these conditions by US media outlets, despite the significant coverage it gets in the UK and the applicability of them to a political debate that Democrats want to have on the future of healthcare. Shouldn’t the media at least include a look at the performance of their solution in the present?
Finally, let’s recall the 2012 Olympics in London, where organizers presented the best of Britain in its opening ceremonies. This propaganda doesn’t hold up very well six years later, does it? Maybe someone should explain that to Donald Trump.