NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 21, 2009

While Congress and the Administration are scrambling to draft a catastrophic overhaul of our health care system, now more than ever is the time to step back and take a look at how citizens have fared in other countries under the guise of "free" health care, says author Katharine DeBrecht.

Government-run health care systems in other countries are a painful example of how good intentions can produce dire results, says DeBrecht.  Canadian, British and European government-run health systems delay and ration care for citizens, limit access to cutting-edge diagnostic services and medications, and result in poor quality medical care, all while costs skyrocket.

It is no secret that there are tragically long waiting periods for patients to receive treatment in Canada and Great Britain, say DeBrecht:

  • According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, 827,429 Canadians are awaiting some type of procedure, while 1.8 million people in England await hospital admission or outpatient treatment.
  • At one point, waiting periods were so bad in Canada, that in 2005 Canadian citizens, fed up with being prohibited by law from seeking private care, took the matter to the highest court in Canada.
  • The high court found in favor of the plaintiffs, stating: "The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.
  • The evidence also demonstrates that the prohibition against private health insurance and its consequence of denying people vital health care result in physical and psychological suffering that meets a threshold test of seriousness."

In an attempt to avoid long waiting periods in Great Britain, the National Health Service (NHS) instituted "targets" using a carrot and stick approach with hospitals that have further exacerbated the decline of quality health care for all Britons:

  • This month the Daily Telegraph reported that emergency room patients suspected of having cancer are forced to the back of the line.
  • These sometimes critical emergency patients do not "count" towards the targets as do other cancer patients referred by general practitioners (GPs) and are therefore subjected to longer and often painful waiting periods.

Source: Katharine DeBrecht, "Health Care: You May Get What You Don't Pay For," News Blaze (Folsom, Calif.), July 20, 2009.

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