NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

England's National Health Services Offers Future Vision of ObamaCare

May 8, 2013

For those curious what the future of the American health care system will look like after the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare"), the British National Health Service (NHS) provides a good reference point. The NHS provides free or heavily subsidized care to all registered residents. The number of emerging problems with the British health care system suggests that the Affordable Care Act may fall short of its goal of reducing the cost of health care, says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute.

  • From 2005 to 2012, British hospital emergency room visits rose from 18 million to 22 million -- a 22 percent increase in only 7 years, a period during which the population grew by only 4 percent.
  • This should concern supporters of ObamaCare who claim the health care mandate will reduce the number of hospital emergency room visits and lower the national cost of health care.
  • The increased visits in Britain are due to fewer physicians, an aging population and increased patient demand, all problems America is currently facing.

Like complaints about the Canadian system, patients in the NHS can expect long waits for non-emergency appointments and surgeries, which are sometimes rescheduled abruptly because of a lack of the correct medical equipment. Family doctors, known as general practitioners, are typically booked up weeks in advance and reserve only a few slots every day for emergencies.

  • General practitioners also ration specialist services so that without a referral, no specialist appointment can be obtained, a practice that has led to wrongful death.
  • ObamaCare will not lower emergency room visits because many people will choose to stay uninsured, thereby incurring a tax and saving the costs of ObamaCare-mandated insurance.
  • Others who can't afford insurance will receive federal subsidies but anyone who has a family member who accepts single coverage from his or her employer will no longer be eligible for the subsidies, which decreases the use of preventive care and increases emergency room visits.

In Britain, insurance companies and private hospitals have become a popular alternative for many patients seeking to avoid the long lines of the NHS. Concierge medical services and walk-in clinics are already popular in the United States and likely to expand as lengthy waits develop for doctors and specialists as ObamaCare crowds the health care system.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "For an ObamaCare Preview, Look to England," Real Clear Markets, April 30, 2013.


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