Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Public Option - We're Going There When England is Coming Back

My recurring healthcare theme has been that our demographics are lagging Europe's, and that we can learn from their mistakes and not mess things up.

One of the liberal's guiding lights to lead us all to the public option has been the British National Health Service (NHS). It gives universal coverage for free, so the liberals say, and is a model of what our healthcare should be.

I've begged to differ, since I observed the NHS on a first-hand basis for five years living in England (1970-1975). A bloke who worked for me then was one of my best friends, the late Arthur Sharman. Arthur suffered under the NHS for a decade until he died waiting vainly for a hip replacement. Each year he would be scheduled for the operation, and each year higher priorities and budget crunches would cause his hip replacement to be rescheduled for the following year.

For several years before his death, it became obvious that the damage done by not having the hip replacement earlier had gone too far for the operation to restore his quality of life.

The new British government, the conservative party named Tories, have now made clear what has been known for decades: the NHS will have to severely reduce and ration healthcare, and in particular such procedures as hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, services for the terminally ill, and long-term care. (click here for the article on the massive cuts proposed for the NHS)

The slang name for the English healthcare screening units could easily be "Death" panels. That's obviously what must be part of a publically funded universal healthcare system. The "free" systems, like the NHS, depend on government taxing half or more of income away from its citizens, and healthcare has to compete for a share against education, transportation, welfare, and all the other government programs.

Also, to an extent greater than the other government programs, healthcare must serve a rapidly aging population and at the same time intergrate inceasingly expensive improvements in medical detection and treatment of illness.

We're lucky in the United States. We can watch Europe go blindly where we're headed, and learn from their mistakes.

Unless our leaders persist in following Europe blindly.

Experience is a great teacher, and teaches best when we can learn from the mistakes of others rather than our own.

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