By Scott Atlas
In health care, 2013 was a year of great irony. In the United States, the Obama administration bullheadedly forged ahead in advancing the most controversial and expensive law in recent memory, the deceptively named Affordable Care Act.
The law, opposed by a clear and consistent majority of citizens, immediately caused millions of Americans to lose their health insurance along with their choice of doctor and hospital, and millions more to pay far higher insurance premiums.
While the focus has been on the embarrassing roll-out that, at a minimum, demonstrated both the incompetence and the poor judgment of this administration, the true harm of this law is still to come as new government authority over U.S. health care dramatically increases.
Concurrently, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), the paradigm of government-controlled health care, turned 65 years old in 2013 and officially entered senior citizenship.
The NHS received its review by the British press this past year on an almost daily basis.
Headlines blared across the UK, endlessly documenting scandalous patient care, shameful waiting lists, catastrophic hospital practices, and financial debacle.
Directly undermining those who advocate for an even stronger role for government in U.S. health care, the British press has instead been documenting the disgraceful state of the NHS.
Despite what Americans are led to believe about nationalized health systems, including the claims that everyone is insured and care is free under such systems, the facts about what’s really important in health care — actual medical care access and quality — showed the harmful impact of government control on health care.
One critical distinction generally lost amid the naïve but passionate backers of nationalized insurance is the difference between being insured and having access to care.
Despite the chest-thumping that everyone is insured, U.K. citizens relying on the NHS experience unconscionable problems with access to care, problems not even remotely found in the U.S.
How poor is access to care in socialized systems like the NHS? Access problems are so widespread that the government was compelled to issue England’s 2010 “NHS Constitution” in which it was declared that no patient should wait beyond 18 weeks for treatment.
It is noteworthy enough that the UK government felt so much pressure from the systemic failures of its NHS that they were forced to issue “rights” to patients about receiving medical care.
But should it not bring chills that the government of free people, in the 21st century, had the authority to define those rights about seeking and receiving personal medical care? And even more Kafkaesque is the government’s boldness to define lengthy target times and then to claim that standards have been met. Indeed, designed to propagate the illusion of meeting quality standards, the government decreed that targets were met, even if patients waited a full four months after the diagnosis was made for treatment to begin.
What is the current status of access to care, now that the rights of NHS patients to medical care were enumerated?
At the end of June, the number of people waiting in England to start NHS treatment was 240,000 higher than the same time last year.
NHS England figures for July showed that 508,555 people in London alone were waiting for operations or other treatment to begin – the highest total for at least five years.
Almost 60,000 more patients were waiting for treatment at the capital’s 34 NHS hospitals than one year ago. According to NHS data released in August, hospital waiting lists soared to a five-year high, with almost 2.9 million patients with a known diagnosis in the queue for treatment.
In Wales, the number of patients waiting more than nine months for hospital treatment in November had more than doubled in six months. The Welsh government also reported their NHS is still failing to treat 8 to 13% of the most urgent cancer cases within 62 days – two full months after diagnosis.
Even given a laughably long leash of an 18 week standard, the number of patients not being treated within the target of 18 weeks soared to 39,145 – up 16 per cent on the previous month — in London alone.
The BBC discovered even more scandalous news back in February — many patients initially assessed as needing surgery were subsequently re-categorized by the hospital so that they could be removed from waiting lists to distort the already unconscionable delays.
Royal College of Surgeons President Norman Williams, calling this “outrageous,” publicly charged that hospitals are cutting their waiting lists by artificially raising thresholds.
Though long proven by facts documented by the UK government and in scientific journals, these shocking waits for care, whether for specialist appointments, heart surgery, stroke treatment, diagnostic scans, or cancer care go virtually unreported by the U.S. media.
Ironically, U.S. media outrage was widespread when time to appointment for Americans averaged 20.5 days for five specialties in 2009. Escaping American media coverage was that those requests were for healthy check-ups in almost all cases, by definition the lowest medical priority.
It remains unreported that the U.S. wait for routine check-ups was significantly less than for sick Brits needing heart surgery (57 days), or Canadians with “probable cancer” of the gastrointestinal tract (26 days) or proven GI bleeding (71 days).
Even for purely elective routine physicals, U.S. waits are shorter than for seriously ill patients in countries with nationalized insurance.
The disgrace of nationalized insurance systems extends far beyond limited access to care.
Comparing data for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, the most common sources of serious illness and death in the U.S. and Europe, and the diseases that generate the highest medical expenditures, we see the overt failure of the NHS and its socialist relatives compared to the U.S. And the same bottom line is true for the most important chronic diseases that portend long term morbidity and mortality, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
All have better access to care and better treatment results in the U.S. than in the U.K., proven by studies in the world’s leading medical journals.
Adding to those undeniable facts is a long list of inexcusable scandals in NHS hospitals that were repeatedly discovered, investigated, and catalogued with promises of change this past year.
These outrages were epitomized in 2013 by the Staffordshire Trust debacle, where between 400 and 1,200 neglected and abused patients died in squalid and degrading circumstances, where patients were left so thirsty that drinking from the pots of watered plants was necessary.
Read more at FOX NEWS.