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Consequences of Obamacare

With all the talk about government tightening its grip on healthcare in our own country, it’s easy to forget that there are several other countries whose healthcare sectors are locked in the vise of government “oversight”.  Britain has the National Health Service, the NHS, which has regulated healthcare for decades. 

Here is an eye-opening piece about how inefficient and mediocre the entire exercise really is:

Over the past decade, the British Government has dramatically increased spending on health. […] real spending on the NHS has risen by more than 50 per cent and the proportion of the GDP devoted to spending on the NHS is now close to the EU average of about 10 per cent.

We can argue about how efficiently that extra money has been spent; plainly there have been improvements in waiting times, access, equipment, infrastructure and some standards of care. There are more staff, and a notable improvement in outcomes has been achieved[…]

Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. A large amount of the additional funding seems to have been eaten up by higher salaries that have failed to make a significant difference to productivity. Crude targeting and relentless reorganisation of systems, some of which seems to have done a great deal more harm than good, has further compounded the sense of waste.

The curiosity of the political debate over the future of the NHS is how little of it there is. As Barack Obama has discovered to his cost, any politician who embarks on health care reform does so at his peril. Politicians, therefore, tend to leave well alone. Twenty years down the line, a funding shortfall will be someone else’s problem.

In Britain, the difficulties are made worse by sentimental and idealistic attachment to the founding principles of the NHS, a system of health care free to all at the point of delivery that was once the envy of the world. The NHS is a sacred cow that no politician who values a future in government dares touch[…]

Can anything be done to correct these problems, or do we just trundle on regardless until financial and operational crises brutally impose unwanted solutions? The starting point for any serious debate on the future of the NHS must be the realisation that there are limits to what publicly funded health care can and should be expected to provide.

Many of the treatments and services now routinely expected of the NHS are beyond the imagination of the service’s founding fathers, and certainly beyond what they would have regarded as an appropriate claim on taxpayer funds […]

The next stage of the debate needs to be the realisation that if people want better health care, they must be prepared to pay more towards it. Yes of course much could be done to improve productivity. A relatively recent report by management consultants McKinsey suggested that the NHS workforce in England could be cut by 10 per cent, saving £20 billion by 2014, without affecting the quality of service. Needless to say, the report was suppressed and when it was leaked its findings were rejected.

But there is only so far you can go with cost-cutting before eating into the fabric of the service, and it won’t remove the relentless pressures of ageing populations and technological advancement.

Remember all of this the next time you hear liberals bloviate about how the United States is the “only Western nation” that doesn’t provide healthcare for its citizens.  To them, government is the only way–they’d much rather have a corrupt and bloated Federal bureaucracy overseeing the basic healthcare needs of the citizenry.

Meanwhile, the NHS is showing that it’s not about healthcare, but about feeding the insatiable beast of an ever-growing bureaucracy.  Government entitlement programs with their bloated overhead and payroll never contract.  On the contrary, they are constantly in need of expansion.   Once the bureaucracy gains a foothold in the political psyche, it’s almost impossible to tear down.  The beast will suck the innovation right out of the system.

The Telegraph piece is a glimpse into the future with Obamacare.  Instead of higher quality of care, we can look forward to nebulous bureaucrats, ubiquitous Congressional committees, etc.  In short, we can look forward to the politicization of healthcare.

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