Aug 13 2009
In commenting on efforts to overhaul American’s health care system, we have tried to pull back the curtain and pay attention to those trying to clone the systems of Canada and Britain. But supporters of government-run health care frequently ignore the less-pleasant facts.
For example, many British women whose breast cancer mortality rates are nearly twice that of American women have been denied care in relative obscurity.
We suspect the concern in the U.K. (and the U.S.) over our editorial is similar to a diversionary tactic used here in the Colonies. When you don’t want to talk about some of the realities of government-run medical care, you change the subject. You may call elderly town hall protestors a coached mob.
It’s easy to ignore the fact that data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, hardly a right-wing organization, show that the U.K.’s heart-attack fatality rate is almost 20% higher than America’s, and that angioplasties in Britain are only 21.3% as common as they are here.
Or it’s easy to forget that in March, the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled against the use of two drugs, Lapatinib and Sutent, that prolong the life of those with certain forms of breast and stomach cancer.
So it’s no surprise to discover that while breast cancer in America has a 25% mortality rate, in Britain it’s almost double at 46%. Prostate cancer is fatal to 19% of American men who get it; in Britain it kills 57% of those it strikes. We are not making this up.
Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York and an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote on Feb. 9 on Bloomberg.com that in 2006, a U.K-based board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye.
As National Review Online’s Deroy Murdock points out, the Orwellian-named NICE just unveiled plans to cut annual steroid injections for severe back pain from 60,000 to 3,000.
“The consequences of the NICE decision will be devastating for thousands of patients,” Dr. Jonathan Richardson of Bradford Hospitals Trust told London’s Daily Telegraph. “It will mean more people on opiates, which are addictive and kill 2,000 a year. It will mean more people having spinal surgery, which is incredibly risky and has a 50% failure rate.”
And here we thought the first rule of medicine was to do no harm.
According to Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution, British patients wait about twice as long as Americans — sometimes more than a year — to see a specialist, have elective surgery such as hip replacement or get radiation treatment for cancer. In Britain, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.
The U.S. has 34 CT scanners per million citizens compared with eight in Britain. The U.S. has almost 27 MRI machines per million compared with about six per million in Britain. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40% higher than in America.
David Gratzer, a physician and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says the difference is that in the U.S., internists recommend that men 50 and older get screened for colon cancer. In the National Health Service in the U.K., screening begins at 75.
Avastin, a drug for advanced colon cancer, is prescribed more often in the U.S. than in the U.K., by some estimates as much as 10 times more.
As mentioned, British patients wait longer to see specialists. Gratzer notes that a clinical oncology study of British lung cancer treatment found that 20% “of potentially curable patients became incurable on the waiting list.”
The problem may lie in the NHS’ vast bureaucracy. As Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament from southeast England, stated:
“We have 1.4 million people employed by the National Health Service. It is the third biggest employer in the world after the red army in China and the Indian National Railways. Most of those 1.4 million people are administrators, (and) managers outnumber the doctors and nurses.”
Our criticism of the government-run systems that operate in Britain and Canada, and which Congress seems determined to have us adopt with few questions asked, is still valid. INVESTORS BUSINESS DAILY
British former member of European Parliament warns of the dire consequences of nationalized health care.