Who doesn’t love free stuff? Better yet, who doesn’t love free stuff that you actually need?
It’s an enticing notion: get the stuff that you need, without having to pay for it! It’s the idea that has motivated many naïve people to support radical political parties around the world. Life is tough. Things don’t always work out the way you planned. So, if there’s some kind of safety net, provided courtesy of the government, why not take it?
Except there’s always a price. Things branded as “free” are never free. While it looks good on paper, government-funded handouts come with myriad problems. Quite often the politicians trying to sell you these programs don’t know about the problems, or refuse to talk about them.
Take, for instance, free health care. Sounds amazing, right? If I get hurt or sick, I don’t have to worry about co-pays, premiums, or heavy bills. I don’t have to pay into expensive insurance every month, even when I don’t need it. It’s very reassuring to think that no matter what, the government’s footing the bill.
Except there are many catches when it comes to government subsidized health care. We are seeing that with Obamacare. While not “universal health care,” the insurance market created by Obamacare is offset by government spending. But the program makes it so hard for the medical industry to turn a profit, that providers have been dropping out for years. In some parts of the country, they have only one provider. In some cases, they have none at all.
But maybe that’s just Obamacare, right? In other countries with true universal health care, there aren’t any “markets” or exchanges. Everyone gets coverage because the government says so.
Massive tax burdens aside, there are other problems with this system. You see, when something is offered for free, the hordes come out. Even if people don’t need significant medical attention, they’ll demand it, because they know they don’t have to pay for it. Stub your toe, get free aspirin! Have a cold? Don’t bother with chicken soup—get straight to the doctor and demand an hour of his time.
The cases start piling up. Before you know it, you have more patients than you know what to do with. Add to that life or death situations; you have a huge burden on your health care system.
What are you to do? The only logical solution is to create a bottleneck, whereby people have to wait incredibly long times before they can get their needed surgery or procedures. Cases that could be handled within a matter of weeks are delayed for a very long time.
That’s just what U.K. citizens are dealing with right now. Waiting times for basic medical attention are stretching out longer and longer. And some people can’t afford to wait.
The number of patients waiting too long for routine operations is at its highest level in almost a decade, NHS figures reveal.
More than 400,000 patients have been waiting at least 18 weeks for procedures including hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery.
This is the highest number since September 2008 and prompting experts to warn that hospitals were going backwards… A total of 409,342 people had waited longer than 18 weeks in August 2017, the highest number since September 2008 when 470,983 waited this long. (Via Daily Mail)
Imagine waiting over four months just to get needed surgery. Patients are suffering, enduring difficult situations including cataracts, problems with their hips and knees, with no promised solution. These people can’t just go to another doctor to get the help they need; they are forced to wait interminably long times for procedures that could have been done much sooner.
To put it into perspective, I know someone who recently went in for a routine checkup. The doctor concluded they need a minor procedure. In less than three weeks, the surgery was scheduled. Had there been a delay or problem, they could have found another surgeon whose schedule was clear.
Three weeks versus four months. You don’t need to be a doctor to figure out which is better.
But you might be crying out, explaining that medical coverage in America is expensive. Not everyone can afford the costs of life-saving or life-improving procedures. And you’d be right. Medical care is expensive. I never said nothing should be done to improve the situation. But even with high medical costs, things are often better in the United States.
I had a friend who once suffered from kidney stones. If you’re familiar with the condition, you know it’s an incredible pain. Even the female nurse told them it hurts more than childbirth. Even though they didn’t have insurance, they were still admitted to the ER, got pain medication, and were examined. The bill—though high—was cut in half and they paid it off over a series of months. Not a great situation, but it’s better than being refused coverage, or having to wait to receive care.
As it looks now, the U.K. fears wait times are only going to get worse.
Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: 'Our concern is now that waiting times are starting to go in the wrong direction.
'With growing demand on the system and difficulties in moving patients from hospital to social or residential care, it's easy to see how quickly things could deteriorate.
'We cannot let all the good work we've done be so easily undone.
'As things stand, the NHS is not well prepared going into this winter to prevent mass cancellations of operations.' (Source: Daily Mail)
Things can get so bad that operations are cancelled, simply because of the burden hospitals and doctors face. As winter approaches and more people suffer from sicknesses and injuries, that number might get worse.
You can argue for universal health care until you’re blue in the face. But when it comes to dealing with the well-being and survival of citizens, waiting times that long are unacceptable. Especially when you consider how different it is in the United States. The slow pace of anything funded and run by the government does not belong in an industry that saves lives. I don’t want my doctor’s office—as slow as it already is—to become the DMV. I don’t want to think about my family having to wait months, when they’re suffering right now.
The worst part is that there might not be a perfect solution to the rising costs of healthcare. Neither the markets in America, nor the NHS in England are the right answer.
Be sure to share what you think about the current state of health care. Do you enjoy universal healthcare in other parts of the world? What is it like? Has it worked out for you? Let us know in the comments.