by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
These [Veterans Affairs] scandals serve to vividly remind everyone of the very personal consequences of allowing the government to fully control healthcare. But this should not have been a surprise. While such waits are otherwise unheard of in the healthcare system of the United States, they in fact typify the very systems held up as models for US reforms by supporters of ObamaCare. Even though the facts have been thoroughly documented by governments running nationalized health systems and in the most renowned scientific and medical journals, it is puzzling that the shocking waits for care in those systems—whether for specialist appointments, heart surgery, stroke treatment, diagnostic scans, or cancer care—go virtually unreported by the mainstream US media.
While Americans are shocked about the revelations about the VA hospitals, the failure of government-run healthcare has already been proven all over the globe. Last year, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), the paradigm of government-controlled healthcare, turned 65 years old and officially entered senior citizenship. As opposed to the celebration that might have been expected, headlines in the British press documented scandalous patient care, shameful waiting lists, catastrophic hospital practices, and financial debacles.
Access to medical care has been so poor for so long in the NHS 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—four months—after a referral from a general practitioner. While NHS England officially states that the laughably long leash of 18 weeks to initiate treatment is being met, as of February 2014 more than 50,000 patients had waited more than those 18 weeks after GP referral for treatment to begin. In Scotland, as reported in May 2014, more than 10% of patients were still waiting more than 18 weeks for their treatment to begin–4 months after being referred for treatment by their doctors.
Even more shocking is the recent decree from the Comptroller and Auditor General of England’s Department of Health: “NHS England introduced zero tolerance of any patient waiting more than 52 weeks (for treatment after doctor referral), for which trusts face a mandatory fine of £5,000 for each patient doing so.” Yes, waiting more than one full year for treatment is apparently a possibility in the NHS.
Despite the UK government’s repeated laws and decrees, more patients than ever before are now on waiting lists, and the NHS is failing to deliver on its most basic promises to the taxpayers.