A record 5.6 million patients in the UK are currently on waiting lists for hospital care. This equates to nearly one in ten Britons.
Of this group, approximately 300,000 have been waiting for treatment for at least a year.
Those who can afford it are paying more and more out of their own pockets for private care. More than 20% of UK residents do so, according to a recent poll.
Britain’s National Health Service has long been a source of pride for the country. The organizers of the London 2012 Olympics made the NHS the focal point of the Games’ opening ceremony. But the country’s public health system fails to provide accessible, high-quality care. Its failures should serve as a warning to progressives who want to institute Medicare for All here in the United States.
Long wait times plague Britons with all kinds of health problems. Thousands of people have been waiting for eye surgery for over a year. Patients with suspicious lesions or debilitating back pain wait months before they can even see a doctor. An NHS dentist has told a man with a decayed tooth he will not be able to extract it for three years.
People with mental health problems are also struggling. According to a report by The Guardian.
Unfortunately, most of the 5.6 million patients on UK waiting lists are self-care. For example, opioid use jumped 40% among patients awaiting hip and knee surgery. Many will need “expert support to successfully overcome their addiction,” mental health expert Ian Hamilton argued in The independent.
Even cancer patients face life-threatening expectations. Nearly 330,000 people with cancer waited too long for treatment between March 2020 and February 2021, based on NHS targets. Analysis by UK charity Macmillan found healthcare workers would need to operate at “110% capacity” for more than a year to clear the backlog of cancer treatment.
Authorities expect things to get worse before they get better. British Secretary of State for Health and Social Affairs Sajid Javid recently said the number of people awaiting hospital care could rise to 13 million by fall 2022. No.10 Downing Street has said it would take Â£ 40 billion over 10 years to eliminate waiting lists. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has proposed to raise taxes to their highest peacetime level in British history.
These expectations for care are not new. In November 2019, two months before COVID-19 reached British shores, more than 4.4 million people were awaiting hospital care. Nearly one in four cancer patients waited more than two months to start treatment.
Progressives in the United States seem to think Medicare for All will be different, that it will not force American patients to wait like those in Britain. But in some ways, the pattern favored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Is even more radical than the UK system.
UK patients can pay for private care. Jayapal, Sanders and the company want to ban private insurance coverage altogether.
Democrats don’t have the votes to install Medicare for All now. So they are proposing a piecemeal approach through their $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which would lower the Medicare age of eligibility to 60; add dental, vision and hearing benefits to Medicare; attract millions more people to a new âpublic optionâ program similar to Medicaid; and make permanent the generous trade coverage subsidies adopted earlier this year.
Each change is popular in itself. According to a September poll, 60% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats support expanding Medicare and Medicaid eligibility.
But together, these changes are important steps towards a government takeover of the medicare system. And if that happens, millions of Americans will find themselves awaiting care, just like their peers across the Atlantic.