NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 29, 2007

While denouncing America's health care system, Michael Moore lauds Great Britain's free National Health Service (NHS).  But for free hospital care, Britons pay an awfully high price, says Helen Evans, director of Nurses for Reform.        

After nearly six decades of attempting to make socialized medicine work, the NHS is in a perilous state:

  • There are nearly one million British patients on waiting lists for treatment, and 200,000 Britons are currently waiting merely to get on NHS waiting lists.
  • As a result, each year the NHS cancels around 100,000 operations because of shortages.
  • Further, when patients are finally admitted to state hospitals, more than 10 percent of patients contract infections and illnesses that they did not have prior to arrival.   

Consequently, many Britons have turned to outside practitioners for treatment, and the private health care market has boomed, says Evans:

  • Today, more than 6.5 million people have private medical insurance and six million have cash plans.
  • Eight million pay out-of-pocket for a range of complimentary therapies and 250,000 self-fund each year for private acute surgery. 
  • Millions more opt for private dentistry, ophthalmics and long-term care.       

Still, the British government has found it hard to cover its expensive obligations.  So in addition to waiting lists, substandard care and increased outsourcing, the government has adopted outright rationing to control costs.  For example:

  • The system has barred the purchase of Herceptin, a lifesaving breast-cancer drug.
  • Alzheimer's patients have had trouble obtaining Aricept, a drug which improves cognition in those afflicted with the degenerative disease.

The U.S. health care system certainly has its shortfalls, says Evans. But the solution to America's woes can't be found in the United Kingdom -- no matter how many movie tickets Moore sells.   

Source: Helen Evans, "Memo to Moore: UK no role model: Universal health has flaws," Boston Herald, June 27, 2007.


Browse more articles on Health Issues