Imagine that your two best friends are British and Canadian tobacco addicts. The Brit battles lung cancer. The Canadian endures emphysema and wheezes as he walks around with clanging oxygen canisters. You probably would not think: "Maybe I should pick up smoking."
While that response would be highly irrational, the fact that America even is considering government medicine is equally wacky. The state guides healthcare for our two closest allies: Great Britain and Canada. Like us, these are prosperous, industrial, Anglophone democracies. Nevertheless, compared to America, they suffer higher death rates for diseases, their patients experience severe pain, and they ration medical services.
Look what you’re missing in the U.K.:
— Breast cancer kills 25 percent of its American victims. In Great Britain, the Vatican of single-payer medicine, breast cancer extinguishes 46 percent of its targets.
— Prostate cancer is fatal to 19 percent of its American patients. The National Center for Policy Analysis reports that it kills 57 percent of Britons it strikes.
— Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data show that the UK’s 2005 heart-attack fatality rate was 19.5 percent higher than America’s. This may correspond to angioplasties, which were only 21.3 percent as common there as here.
— The UK’s National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) just announced plans to cut its 60,000 annual steroid injections for severe back-pain sufferers to just 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 having spinal surgery, which is incredibly risky, and has a 50 per cent failure rate."
Things don’t look much better up north, under Canadian socialized medicine.
— Canada has one third fewer doctors than the OECD average. "The doctor shortage is a direct result of government rationing, since provinces intervened to restrict class sizes in major Canadian medical schools in the 1990s," Dr. David Gratzer, a Canadian physician and Manhattan Institute scholar, told the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee on June 24. Some towns address the doctor dearth with lotteries in which citizens compete for rare medical appointments.
— "In 2008, the average Canadian waited 17.3 weeks from the time his general practitioner referred him to a specialist until he actually received treatment," Pacific Research Institute president Sally Pipes, a Canadian native, wrote in the July 2 Investor’s Business Daily. "That’s 86 percent longer than the wait in 1993, when the (Fraser) Institute first started quantifying the problem."
— Such sloth includes a median 9.7-week wait for an MRI exam, 31.7 weeks to see a neurosurgeon, and 36.7 weeks to visit an orthopedic surgeon.
Thus, Canadian Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps wrote in her 2005 majority opinion in Chaoulli v. Quebec, "…this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care."
A public option is just the opening bid for eventual nationalization of American medicine. As House Banking Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D — Mass.) told SinglepayerAction.Org on July 27: "The best way we’re going to get single payer, the only way, is to have a public option to demonstrate its strength and its power."
President Obama seconds that emotion.
"I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately," Obama told a March 24, 2007 Service Employees International Union healthcare forum. "There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision (single payer) a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out." As he told the AFL-CIO in 2003: "I happen to be a proponent of single payer, universal health care coverage … That’s what I’d like to see."
Government medicine has proved an excruciating disaster in the U.K. and Canada. Our allies’ experiences with this dreadful idea should horrify rather than inspire everyday Americans, not to mention seemingly blind Democratic politicians.
(Deroy Murdock is a columnist and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.Murdock(at)gmail.com)