The Right Opinion

Why the UK Is Ditching Socialized Medicine

By Arnold Ahlert · Feb. 21, 2012

There is more than a little irony attached to the Obama administration’s determination to pursue socialist, EU-style “solutions” to America’s problems, even as the European Union is coming to grips with the bitter realities such socialism produces. And while Greece and its financial problems receive some media coverage in the United States, there is a much bigger story flying under the mainstream media radar: in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has introduced a bill seeking to partially privatize the National Health Service (NHS). Why? Because the British government is “hoping to avoid a Greek-style financial meltdown.”

The system’s defenders are upset. The Times of London is reporting that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is in the eye of the storm. “Andrew Lansley should be taken out and shot,” said an unnamed “Downing Street source.” “He’s messed up both the communication and the substance of the policy.” The source further contended that Lansley was “a disaster” and “a law unto himself.” The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing also want the bill withdrawn, as do members of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, the Royal Medical Colleges, including the Royal College of GPs. Unions, including the Royal College of Midwives, want to “kill the bill” as well, while Labor Party leader Ed Miliband accused Mr. Cameron of failing to listen to the experts.

Cameron refuses to back down, insisting there’s too much bureaucracy in the system, and that it interferes with patient care. “If we were as good at treating cancer as the average European country, we would save 5,000 lives a year,” he contended. He further noted that reform will create “a fair system that stops the private sector from picking off contracts and the public sector from providing an inflexible monopoly.” Yet he insisted that “health care for all, free at the point of use, unrelated to the ability to pay” will remain the animating features of the system.

Such euphemisms are at odds with reality. Last November, the NHS's Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, running at a loss of $8 million a year on revenues of $143 million, was given over to Circle, a private health care company. Circle was brought in to cut bureaucracy and improve efficiency, and it is the first private company to take over an entire British hospital. Earlier this month, an NHS “watchdog” at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled that a breakthrough drug used to extend the lives of men with late-stage prostate cancer was too expensive to be included in the system. NICE makes calculations based on the “cost of the drug to the NHS according to the number of men likely to be treated.” NICE will pay for some end-of-life drugs for rare diseases. But the current, though unofficial, threshold for QALY (quality-adjusted life year) drugs has been $80,000 for renal cell carcinoma. “Therefore the £63,200 ($101,000) cost per QALY for abiraterone would still not be deemed a cost effective use of NHS resources,” said a NICE statement.

Such rationing – and it is rationing – is nothing new. A 2011 report revealed that independent medical providers were experiencing a growing number of patients choosing to pay for their own care after having treatment delayed or denied altogether by an NHS primary care trust (PCT). A survey of 101 influential industry figures revealed that 34 percent believed “budgetary pressure in the NHS” was the principle cause. At the annual meeting of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) earlier this month, members contended that they were “increasingly being asked to make decisions based on financial rather than clinical reasons and to ration their care,” further noting that such rationing “was on a scale that had never been seen before across both acute and non acute NHS services.”

Last November, such rationing reached a scandalous level. A study by the Co-operation and Competition Panel (CCP) revealed that Primary Care Trust (PCT) heads were imposing arbitrary spending caps, denying patients treatment for procedures such as hip replacements and cataract removals – and that waiting times for services were being deliberately extended “so that patients would go private or die before they were seen” to slash costs. Secretary Lansley was furious. “For too long, Labour turned a blind eye to unfair practices within the NHS which harmed patients,” he said. “No right-thinking person could possibly understand how anyone could delay a patient’s treatment unnecessarily. If patients need treatment, they should get it as soon as possible, and where they choose.”

“As soon as possible” is yet another euphemism. Brits have a legal right under the NHS Constitution to start their hospital treatment – within 18 weeks after a referral by a GP. Yet referrals require diagnoses, and the wait for those is increasing as well. The Guardian reports a 92 percent increase compared to last year in the number of people waiting more than the NHS’s recommended six-weeks for a diagnostic test at an NHS hospital. In other words, even under optimum conditions, people suffering from afflictions such as heart disease and cancer will face more than a five-and-a-half month wait before getting the treatment they need.

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.


View all comments


Kevin from Arkansas in USA said:

Obama is a true believer. Like a football player in a lost game who states "We didn't lose, we ran out of time" Obama can't recognize or accept his policies have failed only that "I didn't spend enough."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 8:35 AM

Steve said:

Socialism denies basic human nature and the laws of mathematics. Socialism has failed and is failing everywhere it's been tried. It is THEFT and it is FISCAL INSANITY. Churchill put it succinctly:"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." ---Winston Churchill

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 10:26 AM

CGreen said:

Leftists are not dissuaded by proof that socialism does not work.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Capt. Call in New Mexico said:

Marxist/Socialists in our Government should be arrested, tried for treason, and then, upon conviction, summarily executed! Obama should be the first to go. Unfortunately, with the current makeup of Democrats in the US Senate, it would be difficult if not impossible to gain a conviction.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 12:39 PM

billy396 in ohio said:

Capt. call for President !! ALL of the traitors in our government should be prosecuted for their corruption and for refusing to honor their sworn oaths of office. Of course, this will never happen. The moronic sheeple that continue to support these leftists are completely lost in outer space. Anyone who could continue to support a President who has now officially generated more public debt than all of our previous Presidents combined should be shot on sigth along with the theiving bastards that they support. Of course, I'm just a natural-born American citizen who has worked all of his life and has never received any kind of welfare check or food stamp. The huge global corporation that I work for and the union that steals my money and spends it supporting Socialism can go straight to hell. If there was ANY way that I could find another job, I would gladly do so today, just top get out from under the union. My nephew (who works for a union) stated that if Ohio becomes a right-to-work state, he could lose his job! I guess he thinks that the workers that his union represents don't know what's best for their own survival. Unions and Democrats are two sides of the same corrupt, unamericam socialist coin. We need to get rid of Big Government and Big Corruption in ALL of its forms.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Bob Marsh in Columbus, OH replied:

I agree completely. Years ago I worked for a company with a Union and later for the State government (with a Union). While at first glance a Union seems like it is good for the employees you soon realize that, with contractual raises, COL raises, Job Stewards ready to fight for you if you are disciplined in any way, all incentive to do a good and productive job is lost. I saw that while I worked hard, got my reports finsihed in a timely manner, did extra to help things run better, the lazy people who did just enough to get from being fired (which wasn't much with the Union there) they got the same raises and benefits that I did. Working for privately-owned companies was a totally different story. Work hard; do good work; get rewarded. that's the American way. Socialism is a disease but too many people are lazy and have casught it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 3:34 PM

BJ in St. Cloud, MN said:

Capt. Call-you echo the question I ask many times each day-why have these bastard socialists who swore and oath to the Constitutionnot been impeached, arrested, censured, or at least exposed to the useful idiots? The bamstersociailistscum said again today how he and joe will do what ever they want because of the deadlock in Congress. It was designed to be deadlocked to impeded tyrants like barack hussien. We as a country cannot survive if he's given another term for lots of reasons not least of which is the scumbag stacking the not so supreme court. Anyone who supports the left is a useful idiot or the same level of socialist pondscum residing in DC. And, I include almost every one of the gop too. They took an oath yet I don't see them on the steps of congress shouting out that almost all of the senators and reps be arrested. WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO VOTE FOR TERM LIMITS?????????????????TERM LIMITS-IMPEACH-PROSECUTE

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 1:58 PM

NK said:

It truly amazes me that anyone in power in the U.S. can sit here and watch what is going on in Greece, Italy, Spain and France to a lesser degree and say, man they are so much better off. Riots in the streets because say what, they have to work for their benefits. You mean my benefits might be cut for doing nothing. Healthcare is a right, not a benefit. This attitude to appease the masses isn't about social justice or fairness or fixing societies ill's. It is about over-promising and under-delivering so that one can rise to power and stay there sucking from the public teat. It is time people actually stop watching American Idol and wake up to this socialist crap being forced down our throats because we truly are on our way to a civil war where the haves will finally stop supporting the have nots.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 2:44 PM

JohnC said:

I recently realized why Obama used "The Audacity of Hope" as a book title. Obama, Pelosi, Reid, etc insist on pursuing the same old ideas (with their long history of failure), and have the Audacity to Hope that things will somehow be different This Time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 2:52 PM

MikeEcho said:

The truth is most Americans learn about what's going on in the world through the mainstream media.We all know how accurate and balanced they are!The press is in this mess up to their eyebrows and share full responsibility for whatever happens.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 6:14 PM

M Rick Timms MD in Georgia said:

"Brits have a legal right under the NHS Constitution to start their hospital treatment -- within 18 weeks after a referral by a GP."Americans would not wait 18 days !!!It is interesting that "organized medicine" in the UK has gotten on board with the current system and now those docs in salaried positions at government funded health centers - and those with lucrative private contracts- do not want to upset the apple cart by bringing in competition. Those government docs in the UK have become just like every other overpaid beaurocrat in the socialist system. The idea of having free market competition scares them to death.We have the same here in the US. Do not be fooled, all of the support for ObamaCare in the medical ranks comes from the big center Ivory Tower salaried academics who hope to benifit from more goverment money.Real practicing physicians in the US are leaving the government plans in droves and looking for free market solutions that allow them to compete for patients on the basis of quality, price, availabilty and service,, you know, the things that make any service attractive and desirable.If ObamaCare is not repealed we will be the UK.The rationing of the UK is already on it's way. The death panels are very real. They set the treatment quidelines that every doctor must obey. I encourage everyone to look up APACHE-II scoring system to see the factors that are used in the UK and will be used here to triage patient admission to hospitals. If you don't make the grade - you "get a pill" in the words of Obama.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 8:10 PM

PDK said:

There are film clips of Lee Harvey Oswald talking about socialism, I remember in particular Lee mentioning Britains socialized medicine as something America should adopt.There are audio tapes of Jack speaking to Jackie just prior to his assination rhetorically saying " can you imagine what will happen to America if LBJ becomes President".LBJ did become President. He had the arrogant stupidity to start an unwinable war in SE Asia to prevent the spread of socialism there, only to advance the spread of socialism here with his Great society program.The stage is set.Back during part of the red scare days, the 40s and 50s, a girl named Stanley was born into an America home of Communist sympathizers, anti American socialist sympathizers. Stanley given a male name strangely set her apart from all other women, much the way Marys immaculate conception sets her apart from other women. At 18 Stanely gave birth to her Messiah Barac, the anti America pro socialist, pro Islamic Messiah.With the stage set the star enters.Liberals forever targeting their conclusion of illusion based in immaturity, fell head over heals for the anti American Messiah, prophacizing socialism over capitalism as more fair and just. The real world is just bad and mean and America is the worst real world on the planet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:22 PM

PDK said:

I had not finished but somehow my comment got sent. I`ll send the rest in in a bit. Thxs PDK.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:24 PM

PDK said:

Baracs policies of his anti American, pro socialist, pro Islamic, Messiahnic Presidency have among other negative things bankrupted America and has begun killing the capitalist goose that lays the golden eggs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:28 PM

PDK said:

Late to the party.Now Obamas policies, similar to GB and Europes socialism, find that those very same GB and European models are collapsing whole countries. But this does not deter the anti American Messiah. For he is on a mission to destroy America as this was the Messiahnic responsibility he was born into.Big Red.It is unavoidable not to see Stalins game plan for infiltrating America with subversive ideologies intent on undermining America, nor the loser personalities of immature Americans who bought into the social justice ideology of communism. We of today and tomorrow are paying the price for Alger Hiss and all those other socialist dolts of the red scare years from circa 1919-1960.Let humanity pray, that Americas totally enfranchised democracy decides to elect sagaciously and not immaturely, for 4 more years of the anti American Messiah and the O team just might succeed in destroying America.One and done. Nobama 2012, vote republican. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Lu said:

A recent "Investor's Business Daily" article provided very interesting statistics from a surveyby the United Nations International Health Organization. Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis: U.S. 65% England 46% Canada 42% Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within six months: U.S. 93% England 15% Canada 43% Percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months: U.S. 90% England 15% Canada 43% Percentage referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month: U.S. 77% England 40% Canada 43% Number of MRI scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per million people: U.S. 71 England 14 Canada 18 Percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in "excellent health": U.S. 12% England 2% Canada 6% And now for the last statistic: National Health Insurance? U.S. NO England YES Canada YES Check this last set of statistics!! The percentage of each past president's cabinet who had worked in the private business sector prior to their appointment to the cabinet. You know what the private business sector is a real-life business, not a government job.Here are the percentages. T. Roosevelt.................... 38% Taft.................................. 40% Wilson ........................... 52% Harding........................... 49% Coolidge......................... 48% Hoover............................ 42% F. Roosevelt................... 50% Truman........................... 50% Eisenhower................ .... 57% Kennedy......................... 30% Johnson.......................... 47% Nixon.............................. 53% Ford................................ 42% Carter............................. 32% Reagan........................... 56% GH Bush......................... 51% Clinton .......................... 39% GW Bush........................ 55% Obama..................... 8% This helps to explain the incompetence of this administration: only 8% of them have ever worked in private business! That's right! Only eight percent!The least by far of the last 19 presidents!And these people are trying to tell our big corporations how to run their business? How can the president of a major nation and society, the one with the most successful economic system in world history, stand and talk about business when he's never worked for one? Or about jobs when he has never really had one? And when it's the same for 92% of his senior staff and closest advisers? They've spent most of their time in academia, government and/or non-profit jobs or as "community organizers." They should have been in an employment line. Pass this on because we'll NEVER see these facts in the main stream media.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 1:17 PM