The United Kingdom’s Cautionary Socialized Medicine Tale

As Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I) continues to tout the so-called benefits of “Medicare for All” -- despite its exorbitant costs and the fact that the next generation of progressive socialists have no idea how they’re going to pay for it -- the United States would do well to look across the pond to see exactly what socialized medicine will bring: rationed care, scarce resources, and doctor visits that could include you and 14 strangers.

According to reports, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), championed by progressives as the paragon of socialized medicine, is intending to include in its upcoming 10-year plan a scheme that will effectively mandate group primary care visits, which could include as many as 15 patients meeting with one general practitioner (GP) at a time.

This latest report reveals the unsettling truth about government-run health care: while American proponents of socialized medicine routinely praise single-payer countries for spending so little on medical care, they almost never mention that one of the primary reasons these nations can control their costs is because they’ve made it much harder for doctors to deliver health care to patients. And that’s exactly what’s happening in the United Kingdom, where health care is planned, financed, and delivered almost exclusively by NHS, an agency that routinely underpays providers and denies reimbursements for critical services patients need in order to meet its budget.

Data from the careers website Prospect reveal that British general practitioners on average make just $93,000 per year, which is 60 percent less than what American primary care practitioners earn. As a result of these government-controlled salaries, there simply aren’t enough doctors willing to work for such low pay. According to the latest figures, nearly 10 percent of physician posts in British hospitals are vacant. That’s a doctor shortage of 11,500 doctors. In addition, almost 12 percent of nursing posts are vacant, a shortage of 42,000 nurses.

Without an adequate supply of trained providers, patients must wait longer than ever to access care. A recent survey published in the September issue of the British Journal of Anesthesia found NHS cancelled 26,171 hospital operations, or roughly one in seven scheduled operations, in the final week of March of 2018. These cancellations stemmed primarily from the fact that hospitals lacked the equipment, beds, and personnel needed to deliver these essential procedures.

The United States is also facing a doctor shortage, but instead of embracing a socialized system of health care like the NHS, many lawmakers stateside are seeking to improve the situation by embracing free-market solutions that can they hope will reduce overall costs and take some of the burden off primary care physicians, thereby attracting more doctors to the field.

Thankfully, Medicare for All isn’t the future the Trump administration wants for the United States. The administration has worked tirelessly over the past year to give power back to the states so that they can come up with innovative ways to help reduce health care costs.

The administration has accomplished this in several ways, including reducing the Obamacare individual mandate penalty to $0; promoting state innovation waivers, which give state leaders the ability to find ways to offer low-cost health insurance and pay for programs such as Medicaid; commissioning studies on the benefits of work requirements for Medicaid recipients; granting to states the ability to expand access to short-term plans and association health insurance plans, helping to lower costs for consumers; supporting efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas so telemedicine advancements are available to them, which helps reduce the burden on rural emergency rooms; and introducing a blueprint to lower the cost of drugs.

All these movements are intended to shift the nation away from the philosophy that a single-payer scheme is the future of health care in America, sending the message to young medical professionals that the health care field is changing and the marketplace is improving for all physicians, including primary care.

Sarah Lee (slee@heartland.org) is managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Health Care News. Charlie Katebi (ckatebi@heartland.org) is a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.

As Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I) continues to tout the so-called benefits of “Medicare for All” -- despite its exorbitant costs and the fact that the next generation of progressive socialists have no idea how they’re going to pay for it -- the United States would do well to look across the pond to see exactly what socialized medicine will bring: rationed care, scarce resources, and doctor visits that could include you and 14 strangers.

According to reports, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), championed by progressives as the paragon of socialized medicine, is intending to include in its upcoming 10-year plan a scheme that will effectively mandate group primary care visits, which could include as many as 15 patients meeting with one general practitioner (GP) at a time.

This latest report reveals the unsettling truth about government-run health care: while American proponents of socialized medicine routinely praise single-payer countries for spending so little on medical care, they almost never mention that one of the primary reasons these nations can control their costs is because they’ve made it much harder for doctors to deliver health care to patients. And that’s exactly what’s happening in the United Kingdom, where health care is planned, financed, and delivered almost exclusively by NHS, an agency that routinely underpays providers and denies reimbursements for critical services patients need in order to meet its budget.

Data from the careers website Prospect reveal that British general practitioners on average make just $93,000 per year, which is 60 percent less than what American primary care practitioners earn. As a result of these government-controlled salaries, there simply aren’t enough doctors willing to work for such low pay. According to the latest figures, nearly 10 percent of physician posts in British hospitals are vacant. That’s a doctor shortage of 11,500 doctors. In addition, almost 12 percent of nursing posts are vacant, a shortage of 42,000 nurses.

Without an adequate supply of trained providers, patients must wait longer than ever to access care. A recent survey published in the September issue of the British Journal of Anesthesia found NHS cancelled 26,171 hospital operations, or roughly one in seven scheduled operations, in the final week of March of 2018. These cancellations stemmed primarily from the fact that hospitals lacked the equipment, beds, and personnel needed to deliver these essential procedures.

The United States is also facing a doctor shortage, but instead of embracing a socialized system of health care like the NHS, many lawmakers stateside are seeking to improve the situation by embracing free-market solutions that can they hope will reduce overall costs and take some of the burden off primary care physicians, thereby attracting more doctors to the field.

Thankfully, Medicare for All isn’t the future the Trump administration wants for the United States. The administration has worked tirelessly over the past year to give power back to the states so that they can come up with innovative ways to help reduce health care costs.

The administration has accomplished this in several ways, including reducing the Obamacare individual mandate penalty to $0; promoting state innovation waivers, which give state leaders the ability to find ways to offer low-cost health insurance and pay for programs such as Medicaid; commissioning studies on the benefits of work requirements for Medicaid recipients; granting to states the ability to expand access to short-term plans and association health insurance plans, helping to lower costs for consumers; supporting efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas so telemedicine advancements are available to them, which helps reduce the burden on rural emergency rooms; and introducing a blueprint to lower the cost of drugs.

All these movements are intended to shift the nation away from the philosophy that a single-payer scheme is the future of health care in America, sending the message to young medical professionals that the health care field is changing and the marketplace is improving for all physicians, including primary care.

Sarah Lee (slee@heartland.org) is managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Health Care News. Charlie Katebi (ckatebi@heartland.org) is a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.