By John Fredericks
Richmond, VA — You sometimes hear the darndest things in conversation with strangers on airplanes. Things that give you new insight. I had such an experience on a recent early morning flight chatting with a woman with dual American–British citizenship on the other side of the armrest.
She first told me about her wellness check-up during a visit to the United Kingdom, where the government controls the health care system, and how satisfied she was with her experience with the U.K.’s nationalized health care system.
Then she told me about her brother, a permanent U.K. resident. That’s when it got horrifying.
He has a torn rotator cuff so serious it limits the use of his arm. At the time of our conversation, her brother had been on a government waiting list for surgery to repair the injury for nine years.
True stories like that are cautionary tales for Americans who, having heard about Medicare-for-all proposals to nationalize our health care system, might wonder if the health care grass is greener on the other side of the pond.
It most assuredly is not. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to reports from over there.
Last winter, the BBC reported that government officials instructed British hospitals (which are controlled by the state) to delay “tens of thousands of non-urgent … operations and procedures in England.”
“Officials also told hospitals to delay routine outpatient appointments to concentrate on emergency care,” the BBC noted.
Last year, The Guardian newspaper in Britain noted that “patients are suffering as a direct result of the NHS’s (National Health Service) inability to meet key waiting-time targets.”
In March, a study issued by the Royal College of Surgeons in the U.K. concluded that state-run “hospitals continue to struggle to reduce long waiting lists which include over 220,000 patients that have been waiting more than six months for treatment,” and that “there were also over 36,000 patients waiting more than nine months for treatment.”
The evidence of health care rationing and medical procedure delays coming out of the U.K. make the United States’ VA hospital crisis look like child’s play.
And just this month, The Times of London, in separate shocking reports, revealed that:
“Tens of thousands of elderly people are left struggling to see because of an NHS cost-cutting drive that relies on them dying before they can qualify for cataract surgery.”
“A hundred babies are stillborn every year and more than a thousand need emergency treatment because hospitals are ignoring NHS guidance on delivering twins and triplets, a government-backed study has concluded.”
It appears that young or old nationalized medicine doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the cold-hearted care rationing that occurs in nationalized health care systems, such as the one in the U.K.
When the Affordable Care Act was being debated here 10 years ago, critics claimed it would lead to care rationing.
While I initially was adamantly opposed to Obamacare, at least it is built on the pillars of a market-based system in which patients are connected to treatment by private insurers who pay a share of the costs of care rendered to them by private health care providers. That system gives people the freedom to seek medical attention when they need it.
In contrast, Medicare-for-all is built on the concept that the government would take on a much greater role in delivering care, as the government does in England. Bureaucrats decide if you need rotator cuff surgery, not you or your doctor.
One thing both the ACA and Medicare-for-all have in common: a cute name designed to fool Americans into thinking it’s “affordable” or “for all.”
But as we know from countless examples, patients in nationalized health care systems tend to endure delays and long waits associated with rationing whenever they need anything other than emergency care.
The current calls by the American Left for Medicare-for-all coincides with a time when Americans, bombarded with headlines blaring conflicting information about health care policy, are feeling uneasy.
To help cut through that confusion, consider the findings of a recently released study from West-Health and Gallup showing that while many Americans are personally concerned about the narrative around health care costs, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) are satisfied with the care they receive.
This tells us something interesting about our health care system.
On an individual basis, we appreciate what we have because we innately understand we’re fortunate to have the freedom to receive treatment, see doctors, consult a specialist, or have surgery when we need it without having to wait for a government bureaucrat to decide we are worthy of care.
The folks on the other side of the Atlantic can’t say the same. Let’s not make the mistake of adopting Medicare-for-all here, only to find ourselves regretting the choice once care rationing takes root here as it exists over there.
John Fredericks is the host of the syndicated John Fredericks Radio Show and the proprietor of the WJFN 100.5 FM radio station. He was the Virginia chairman for the Donald J. Trump for President 2016 campaign.