DON’T TELL BERNIE: Socialized Medicine Crashes And Burns Again

Brian Joondeph | Physician

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Yet, for government schemes the insanity persists. Keep trying and maybe the next time it will actually work.

Socialized medicine is one such insanity — the holy grail to the American left, the pony Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to see under his Christmas tree each year.

Socialized medicine is simply a single-payer system. Run by the government. Free to everyone with no out of pocket expense. Conveniently overlooked in such a system are the high taxes required to fund it. Nothing is truly free after all, despite what Bernie wants you to believe.

Single-payer was passed legislatively in Vermont but never implemented because it would cost more than the entire state budget. Colorado asked voters if they wanted a single-payer system, also projected to double the state budget, and by a 4-to-1 margin, voters said no. Even California floated the idea of single-payer, until government officials realized that it would cost more than twice the existing state budget.

Bernie and his fellow leftists remain undeterred. Obamacare, by accident or design, is leading America toward a single-payer solution. Why not take a look outside the US to see how these programs are working?

The best example is the British National Health Service, the NHS. Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barck Obama, once gushed: “I am romantic about the NHS. I love it.”

Let’s see how the bromance is working out.

Earlier this year, the NHS announced: “Every hospital in the country has been ordered to cancel all non-urgent surgery until at least February.”

This translates to 50,000 elective surgeries being cancelled. It translates to senior doctors describing patients being treated in “third world conditions.” It translates to outpatient clinics closing for weeks.

Why is the NHS unable to provide Bernie Sanders “Medicare for all” type healthcare to its citizens? The NHS claims pressures of an aging population, budget cuts, staff shortages, unhealthy lifestyles, and a rise in flu cases. Factors not unique to the UK but facing all developed countries.

Not mentioned, but undoubtedly contributing to the mess is a flood of refugees and immigrants. The UK has nearly 120,000 refugees from such places as Syria, Afghanistan, and Sudan. Bringing health issues and diseases to an already overtaxed NHS system.

So, how’s that “free” single payer healthcare plan working out? In the United Kingdom, not so well.

Don’t tell Bernie, but it’s true that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Or free healthcare.

Tradeoffs exist. In healthcare, we have three choices: low cost, high quality, and widespread access. Sadly, we can only pick two. It’s impossible to have all three.

In the United States, we have high quality and ready access, but costs are out of control. In the UK, there is no patient cost and the quality is generally good. But good luck accessing the system. Waitlists for care under the best of circumstances. No care when the system crashes as it is now doing in the United Kingdom.

Canada is another example of single-payer, socialized medicine. On average, Canadians wait five months from general practice referral to specialist treatment. Pick cost and quality, but then access flies out the window, just as in the United Kingdom.

The current NHS crisis is unfortunate but predictable. Guaranteeing your citizens free health care comes with tradeoffs. Such as not getting your cataract surgery or hip replacement unless you use the separate private medical system, paying out of pocket for your care. Journeying from socialism to free-market.

How would single-payer play in the US? Just look at the VA system with its secret wait lists and general mismanagement. Americans, impatient over waiting in line for their lattes, will never tolerate United Kingdom, Canadian, or Veterans Affairs-style wait lists. Yet Bernie and his supporters still think this is the way to go.

Insanity indeed.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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