Politics & Policy

Government Medicine Kills

The U.K. and Canada prove it.

Imagine that your two best friends are British and Canadian tobacco addicts. The Brit battles lung cancer. The Canadian endures emphysema and wheezes as he walks around with clanging oxygen canisters. You probably would not think: “Maybe I should pick up smoking.”

The fact that America is even considering government medicine is equally wacky. The state guides health care for our two closest allies: Great Britain and Canada. Like us, these are prosperous, industrial, Anglophone democracies. Nevertheless, compared to America, they suffer higher death rates for diseases, their patients experience severe pain, and they ration medical services.

Look what you’re missing in the U.K.:

‐Breast cancer kills 25 percent of its American victims. In Great Britain, the Vatican of single-payer medicine, breast cancer extinguishes 46 percent of its targets.

‐Prostate cancer is fatal to 19 percent of its American patients. The National Center for Policy Analysis reports that it kills 57 percent of Britons it strikes.

‐“Seriously ill patients are being kept in ambulances outside hospitals for hours so NHS trusts do not miss Government targets,” Daniel Martin wrote last year in London’s Daily Mail. “Thousands of people a year are having to wait outside accident and emergency departments because trusts will not let them in until they can treat them within four hours, in line with a Labour [party] pledge. The hold-ups mean ambulances are not available to answer fresh 911 calls. Doctors warned last night that the practice of ‘patient-stacking’ was putting patients’ health at risk.”

Things don’t look much better up north, under Canadian socialized medicine.

‐Canada has one-third fewer doctors per capita than the OECD average. “The doctor shortage is a direct result of government rationing, since provinces intervened to restrict class sizes in major Canadian medical schools in the 1990s,” Dr. David Gratzer, a Canadian physician and Manhattan Institute scholar, told the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee on June 24. Some towns address the doctor dearth with lotteries in which citizens compete for rare medical appointments.

‐Such sloth includes a median 9.7-week wait for an MRI exam, 31.7 weeks to see a neurosurgeon, and 36.7 weeks — nearly nine months — to visit an orthopedic surgeon.

‐Thus, Canadian supreme court justice Marie Deschamps wrote in her 2005 majority opinion in Chaoulli v. Quebec, This case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”

Obamacare proponents might argue that their health reforms are neither British nor Canadian, but just modest adjustments to America’s system. This is false. The public option — for which Democrats lust — would fuel an elephantine $1.5 trillion overhaul of this life-and-death industry. Having Uncle Sam in the room while negotiating drug prices and hospital reimbursement rates will be like sitting beside Warren Buffett at an art auction. Guess who goes home with the goodies?

A public option is just the opening bid for eventual nationalization of American medicine. As House Banking Committee chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) told SinglepayerAction.Org on July 27: “The best way we’re going to get single payer, the only way, is to have a public option to demonstrate its strength and its power.”

Barack Obama seconds that emotion.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately,” Obama told a March 24, 2007 Service Employees International Union health-care forum. “There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision [single payer] a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out.” As he told the AFL-CIO in 2003: “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer, universal health-care coverage. . . . That’s what I’d like to see.”

And why a public option just for medicine? Wouldn’t government clothing stores be best suited to furnish the garments Americans need to survive each winter? And why not a public option for restaurants? Shouldn’t Americans have universal access to fine dining?

All kidding aside, government medicine has proved an excruciating disaster in the U.K. and Canada. Our allies’ experiences with this dreadful idea should horrify rather than inspire everyday Americans, not to mention seemingly blind Democratic politicians.

– Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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