NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 30, 2008

The London Telegraph is reporting that the doctors believe "smokers, heavy drinkers, the obese and the elderly should be barred from receiving some operations."  The reason for the hard hearts in Britain: The government-run National Health Service (NHS) can no longer afford to provide free treatment for everyone. 

So for Britons, health care rationing isn't just a threat, it's a reality, says Investor's Business Dailey (IBD):

  • The Telegraph says roughly one in 10 hospitals -- usually those with financial problems -- now deny some surgery to smokers and the obese.
  • So that billions of dollars can be cut from the bloated NHS budget, they have ruled that some advanced treatments -- such as drug-coated stents used to prop open coronary arteries -- will not be available.
  • Even worse, officials have begun to encourage Britons to turn to "self care" in lieu of physician visits.

On a moral level, the doctors have a point: Taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize care for those who make poor choices and then expect others to pay for their mistakes.  But that's exactly what universal health care does, and that's one of its primary flaws.  It promises people that they'll be cared for no matter what they do to themselves.  When the consequences of bad behavior are eliminated, there's a strong incentive to behave badly.

The threat to cut benefits to the old and the unhealthy in Britain is a clear confirmation that health care can never be free.  Someone has to pay for it, and those people in Great Britain are so stretched that they can't meet every demand, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "Health Freezes Over," Investor's Business Daily, January 29, 2008.


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