NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

BRITAIN PROPOSES RATIONING TREATMENT OF THE ELDERLY

May 6, 2005

The ministry that provides guidance on public health issues in Great Britain is proposing to deny treatment to patients based on age. That's the ultimate end for universal health care, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

What's happening in Britain, and what will happen here if the health care busybodies are able to force us into some sort of single- or third-party payer or nationalized system, is a convergence of infinite demand crashing into finite supply.

According to IBD:

  • Socialist health care systems such as those in Britain and Canada, which are held out as models for the United States to follow, encourage people to demand more health care than they would if they were paying out of pocket.
  • With such demand, the system cannot provide enough services to keep up.
  • This overuse is why waiting times for basic treatment in Britain, Canada and other nations are much longer than those in the United States.

Waits for specialists are even longer:

  • In Canada, it takes 8 1/2 weeks to see a specialist for consultation after a general practitioner has made the referral.
  • Another nine to 12 weeks pass until the patient is treated by the specialist.

At some point, decisions have to be made about who gets to see a doctor.

National health care systems don't have a built-in disincentive against overuse. They create an incentive to devour health care because payment does not come out of patients' pockets when services are rendered. The operating perception is the service is paid for by someone else, so why not go to the doctor for every sniffle, scratch and ache?

When this is the case, bureaucrats eventually have to step in and ration treatment. Then the question becomes: Whom do we want to ration our care -- the government or individuals?

Source: Editorial, "Forget It, Grandma," Investor's Business Daily, May 6, 2005.

 

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