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If There Were a Healthcare Competition, US Would Win

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By    |   Wednesday, 06 September 2023 02:30 PM EDT

Doctors in England's National Health Service (NHS) staged a two-day strike in late August over a pay dispute with the country's government. They plan to strike again in September and October if their demands aren't met.

The walkout is just the latest development in an ever-escalating crisis in Britain's system of socialized medicine. It's also a stark reminder that progressive Democrats' calls for Medicare for All should continue to fall on deaf ears.

On just about any measure that matters to patients, America's market-based approach to healthcare works far better than single-payer and universal coverage systems abroad.

Critics of the American system like to point out that we spend much more on healthcare than do other developed nations. Last year, the United States spent $12,555 per person on healthcare — nearly double the average among wealthy nations. The United Kingdom spent just $5,500 per capita; Canada spent a little over $6,300.

That relative parsimony levies significant costs on patients and healthcare providers alike.

The doctors' strike is only the most recent example of how years of underfunding have brought Britain's health sector to the brink of collapse. The chronic lack of staff and resources in its emergency rooms, for instance, has made treatment delays of 12 hours or more staggeringly common. Last year, more than 23,000 Britons died after one of these lengthy waits — roughly one every 23 minutes.

Hundreds of emergency physicians in Canada have signed onto open letters describing their "inability to provide safe and timely care" in emergency rooms across the country, according to an editorial published by Canadian doctor Catherine Varner in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this past June.

"[T]he demand for emergency care exceeds the capacity of emergency medicine health human resources in all regions of Canada now and for the foreseeable future," Varner wrote. "[T]he current crisis ... has been decades in the making and was predicted by emergency personnel."

Cancer patients are also suffering under government-dominated healthcare in Britain and Canada.

One recent investigation found that patients in England and Wales were waiting months for cancer screenings, with some patients having to "chase" their general practitioner or hospital in order to get the tests they needed.

The NHS aims to treat 85% of cancer patients within 62 days of an urgent referral. Last year, a mere 3% of hospital trusts met that standard.

An investigation by The Globe and Mail in Canada found that just one in five patients in British Columbia were seen by an oncologist within two weeks of receiving a referral in September 2022. More than one in ten patients referred for radiation therapy wait more than four weeks to start treatment — the maximum time that authorities say is appropriate to wait.

This might help explain why mortality rates for cancer are worse in Canada and the United Kingdom than in the United States.

Is it any wonder that Britons are increasingly purchasing private insurance coverage in order to escape from the NHS' dysfunction? In Canada, several provinces are considering increasing the use of privately funded clinics — something that is at loggerheads with the Canada Health Act, which prohibits anyone but the government from paying for "medically necessary" care.

The failings of the British and Canadian healthcare systems are precisely what we should expect from a command economy. Without market mechanisms in place to allocate resources efficiently and respond to sudden shifts in the supply of and demand for medical care, meeting the needs of an entire nation of patients is simply impossible.

Medicare for All is not a dream to which America should aspire. As patients in Canada or Britain can attest, a government-run healthcare system is a reliable path to tragedy, waste, and needless suffering.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and the Thomas W. Smith fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is "False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All," (Encounter Books 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes. Read Sally Pipes' Reports — More Here

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SallyPipes
On just about any measure that matters to patients, America's market-based approach to healthcare works far better than single-payer and universal coverage systems abroad.
healthcare, competition, united states
666
2023-30-06
Wednesday, 06 September 2023 02:30 PM
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