False Healthcare Promises

 

Last post we talked about Health Insurance Security. People want to know they will always have access to healthcare.

Democrats have successfully argued that they can provide this by preserving ObamaCare – or at least its provisions for protecting pre-existing conditions. Although I argued last time that this was a false narrative, it was an effective political message – not because it was true but because it provoked the fear of losing your health insurance.

But this status quo of defending ObamaCare will not last. The reality of its failures will become increasingly evident as time goes on. Insurance premiums have doubled for individuals and risen 140% for families. Hospitals and doctors are fleeing ObamaCare networks and 75% of plans are now highly restrictive. A record pace of consolidation among hospitals and physician practices has occurred which only drives up healthcare prices as competition is eliminated. An alternative plan will have to be developed by both parties to show they care about your healthcare.

The Democratic plan is sure to be what Senator Bernie Sanders has called “Medicare for All.” Sanders ran for president in 2016 on a platform of socialism that included this promise for your healthcare. It has gained support from other Progressives in the last two years.

Scott W. Atlas, senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, recently weighed in on the false promises of Medicare for All in The Wall Street Journal. Advocates insist that such care is “free” but grownups know there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Atlas says, “The constitution of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) states: “You have the right to receive NHS services free of charge” – ignoring that the U.K. funds the program by taxing citizens some $160 Billion a year, even with its severe limits on access to specialists, drugs and technology.”

Estimates are that California’s cost alone for single-payer healthcare would exceed $400 Billion a year – more than twice the state’s annual budget. Conservative estimates of the national cost exceed $32 Trillion over the first ten years. Doubling federal income and corporate taxes would be insufficient to cover the expense.

Atlas rightly points out that the problems don’t end with the high cost of single-payer healthcare. The natural reaction of the government to respond to such high expense is to limit access to healthcare. This is done by limiting the number of physicians, limiting the number of appointments, and limiting the approval of costly treatments. This has been the default response of every country where single-payer healthcare exists today.

The result of this denied access to healthcare is predictable. Increased pain, suffering, permanent disability and death are inevitable. The best healthcare in the world is useless if it is unavailable.

Here’s a reality check of waiting times for countries with single-payer systems today:

United Kingdom

  • 2 million patients on the NHS waiting lists
  • 362,600 patients waited longer than four months for hospital treatment as of March last year
  • 95,252 patients waited longer than six months
  • 4,300 patients were on the waiting list more than a year by July
  • 19%of patients wait 2 months or longer to begin their first “urgent” cancer treatment
  • 17% wait more than 4 months for brain surgery

 

Canada

  • The median waiting time between seeing a general practitioner and a specialist was 10.2 weeks.
  • 5 months between seeing a doctor and beginning treatment
  • 3 months to see an ophthalmologist
  • 4 months to see an orthopedist
  • 10 months for orthopedic hip or knee replacement
  • 5 months to see a neurosurgeon
  • 8 months for neurosurgery
  • 3 months for initial treatment of heart disease

 

These excessive waiting times are not only for seeing doctors but also for obtaining diagnostic studies like CT Scans, MRI scans, and heart catheterizations, as well as to obtain the newest drugs for cancer and other serious diseases. Aside from transplants, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which compares other countries, states, “waiting lists are not a feature in the United States.”

Of course, these excessive waiting times lead to poorer healthcare outcomes. Single-payer systems have proved inferior to the U.S. in outcomes for almost all serous diseases, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

While America is considering implementing a single-payer system like Medicare for All, those countries that currently have such a system are backing away from it with increased spending on private care. Sweden has increased its spending on private care for the elderly by 50% in the last decade, abolished its government’s monopoly over pharmacies, and made other reforms. Last year the U.K. spent more than $1 Billion on private care according to the Financial Times. In Denmark patients can now choose a private hospital or a hospital outside the country if their wait time exceeds one month. Canada is also feeling the pressure on excessive waiting times and is increasing spending on private care for relief.

Atlas concludes: “A single-payer “guarantee” is no promise of access to quality medical care. If brought to the U.S., the only reliable promises of single-payer would be worse health care for Americans and higher taxes. America’s poor and middle class would suffer the most from a turn to single-payer because only they would be unable to circumvent the system.”

 

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