I’m not a fan of the American healthcare system. It suffers from huge inefficiencies because of problems such as third-party payer, which is caused by government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid along with a system of tax code-driven over-insurance in the supposedly private sector.
But regardless of how much I grouse about the damage government causes in the United States, I can say with considerable confidence that the government-run system in the United Kingdom has even larger problems.
Here are some of the shocking details from a report in the UK-based Daily Mail.
Patients having major surgery in NHS hospitals face a much higher risk of dying than those in America, research has revealed. Doctors found that people who have treatment here are four times more likely to die than US citizens undergoing similar operations. The most seriously ill NHS patients were seven times more likely to die than their American counterparts. Experts blame the British fatality figures on a shortage of specialists and lack of intensive care beds for post-operative recovery. They also suggest that long waiting lists mean diseases are more advanced before they are treated. Researchers from University College London and Columbia University, in New York, studied 1,000 surgery patients at the Mount Sinai Hospital, Manhattan, and compared them to nearly 1,100 people who had similar operations at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Portsmouth. The results showed that just under ten per cent of British patients died in hospital afterwards compared to 2.5 per cent in America. Among the most seriously ill cases there was a seven-fold difference in the death rates.
Here are some additional findings.
Professor Monty Mythen, head of anaesthesia at University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “In America, after surgery, everyone would go into a critical care bed in a highly-monitored environment. That doesn’t happen routinely in the UK. …Prof Mythen said waiting lists in the NHS would “put patients at greater risk”. He added: “We would be suspicious that the diseases would be more advanced simply because the waiting lists (in the UK) are longer.”
Since I’m in London right now, I guess the moral of the story is to stay healthy.
On a slightly more serious note, I wish I had this story in front of me when I was guest-hosting Larry Kudow’s show a couple of years ago and my lefty British co-host got all agitated when I said the British system was worse for patients.
And on a completely serious note, the point of this post is not to say the United States has a perfect system. I hope that’s obvious from my opening paragraph. And nor am I asserting that the UK system is universally bad. In my limited understanding, British doctors and nurses do a fairly good job with basic medicine and emergency medicine.
But any system is likely to deteriorate and suffer adverse effects as government takes a larger role. I’ve had fun over the past few years with anecdotal horror stories about government-run healthcare in the United Kingdom. But as you can see from all the links in this post, I sometimes share those just for the enjoyment of mocking Paul Krugman.
The academic study linked above is far more important if you want to assess the damage of giving politicians and bureaucrats even more control over healthcare.
That’s actually a good rule for just about everything. As shown in this poster, if you ever think the answer is more government, you’ve asked the wrong question.