One of the terrific things about being a liberal is that you get to define the terms, and those terms are flexible:
The liberal attraction to making government the sole source of health-care insurance has not abated even as the deficiencies in ObamaCare, a halfway move toward the single-payer model, have become increasingly evident. The question is whether growing signs of single-payer trouble overseas will be enough to discourage this country’s flirtation with socialized medicine.
The Obama administration showed its hand long ago with the nomination of Tom Daschle, an advocate for Britain’s socialized National Health Service, as secretary of Health and Human Services in 2009. (Mr. Daschle withdrew amid criticism for nonpayment of taxes.) The White House installed another outspoken NHS fan, Donald Berwick, as an interim appointee (2010-11) to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
This summer, the Commonwealth Fund—a private foundation focused on health care that is a favorite of progressive policy types—issued a report ranking the NHS as the best medical system among those in 11 of the world’s most advanced nations, including Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. Coming in last: U.S. health care.
So what makes Britain best and the US worst? Beats me..
Yet the Commonwealth rankings are contradicted by objective data about access and medical-care quality in peer-reviewed academic journals. For instance, Americans diagnosed with heart disease receive treatment with medications significantly more frequently than patients in Western Europe, according to Kenneth Thorpe in Health Affairs in 2007. In Lancet Oncology in that same year, Arduino Verdecchia published data demonstrating that American cancer patients have survival rates for all major cancers better than those in Western Europe and far better than in the U.K.
Personal anecdote: I have a dear friend who came down with an aggressive breast cancer in her 30s. I happened to be in Europe at the time, and read some research that indicated that if she had been a citizen of the UK and reliant on the NHS, her survival rate would have been about 44%. Germany: 63%. US: 88%. This was in the 90s. She’s still with us.
Similar examples concerning the deadliest and most significant diseases abound in medical journals. One may ask why the Commonwealth Fund’s health-care rankings published in June don’t reflect that reality. Theanswer lies in the report’s methodology, which relied heavily on subjective surveys about “perceptions and experiences of patients and physicians.”
Yet even as the single-payer system remains the ideal for many on the left, it’s worth examining how Britain’s NHS, established in 1948, is faring. The answer: badly. NHS England—a government body that receives about £100 billion a year from the Department of Health to run England’s health-care system—reported this month that its hospital waiting lists soared to their highest point since 2006, with 3.2 million patients waiting for treatment after diagnosis. NHS England figures for July 2013 show that 508,555 people in London alone were waiting for operations or other treatments—the highest total for at least five years.
Even cancer patients have to wait: According to a June report by NHS England, more than 15% of patients referred by their general practitioner for “urgent” treatment after being diagnosed with suspected cancer waited more than 62 days—two full months—to begin their first definitive treatment.
In addition to the wait, they are denied state of the art chemotherapy meds until they “fail” on the standard medications. And, natch, the cancer grows at they “fail”. Which is why the top 20% or so of Brits pay for private health insurance. Is that racist?
We will all experience this and real soon. The Baby Boomers dug their own graves when they voted Obama in – twice.