The world made a lot of progress in the twentieth century, but also a lot of mistakes. Among the mistakes: enacting sweeping nationalized health care programs. This month, Britain’s National Health Service turns 70. As Sally Pipes points out in Fortune, the best product of the NHS is 70 years of evidence that this model simply doesn’t work:
One in 11 NHS posts is currently vacant. Four in five NHS staff worry that these vacancies jeopardize patient safety. The NHS has among the lowest amount of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds than any country in the Western world on a per-capita basis, according to a report from the King’s Fund.
Simply put, the NHS is unequipped to care for its citizens.
A simple influenza outbreak last winter plunged the system into chaos. The NHS canceled 50,000 non-emergency surgeries to make room for an influx of people with the flu. Still, nearly one in five patients had to wait more than four hours in the emergency room.
Such nightmares have grown routine. The British Medical Association recently reported that the NHS now faces a year-round crisis, with waiting times and hospital bed shortages at record levels. An NHS Improvement survey of data from the first three months of 2018 found that 2,600 patients had waited more than a year for elective treatment—a nearly 75% increase from the previous year. It’s no wonder that about 10% of Britons hold private insurance coverage. They simply can’t count on the NHS to deliver quality care in a timely fashion.
Even given all this bad news (which goes suspiciously underreported here in the U.S.), many American lawmakers still want to emulate the U.K. or at least expand our own government’s role in health care.
Also celebrating an anniversary this month – today even – are Medicaid and Medicare, signed into law on July 30, 1965. These 53-year-old programs look very different today from what they were originally intended to be: safety nets for the indigent poor and elderly Americans. Today, these programs are the most attractive vessels for the left to achieve its new aim in health policy, a single health system for all.
The Affordable Care Act included federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid, which, sadly, is now proving to be harmful to the most vulnerable poor citizens, dye to the way its funding favors new enrollees over the traditional Medicaid population. Medicaid has many of the same problems that the British NHS faces, namely overcrowding and inferior access to medical services.
The left knows this, which is why their focus is now on expanding Medicare, the program for seniors, into “Medicare for all.” New costs estimates show that this would cost more than $32 trillion over ten years, meaning that even doubling all federal income taxes – both individual and corporate taxes – still would not be enough to finance it. Wow.
But the costs aren’t the only – or even the most important – reason to oppose expanding U.S. government healthcare programs. A national single-payer system would dramatically limit our freedom and our access to healthcare services.
The idea that we should all pay for health care together and access it via one government channel is so last century. We live in an age of customization. For example:
- Just think of the ubiquity of smart phones and how incredibly customizable they are. I have the apps I want; you have the apps you want.
- Consumers can program all sorts of individual preferences into their online shopping accounts. How we buy things is changing.
- You can even choose what flavor soda out of soda fountains with "freestyle" dispensers with more than 100 combination options.
- We can find out more information about our ancestry and genes. Everyone is seeking to understand humans better as individuals, not just as groups.
Technology, information, and medical advancements are making it more and more possible for doctors to offer each patient with individualized care options. This is literally the opposite direction of standardized care, a hallmark of government. And individualized care should be the direction of the future.
It’s time to leave nationalized healthcare programs in the twentieth century and look to more innovative solutions now.