The United States shouldn’t imitate the United Kingdom’s nationalized healthcare scheme
In this April 26, 2017 file photo supporters of single-payer health care march to the Capitol in Sacramento.
It’s time for the United States to abandon national healthcare schemes.
It’s been over a decade since Obamacare was passed by Congress, and during that time families’ healthcare premiums have risen by thousands of dollars. Over 2 million people are left without healthcare as they are neither impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid, nor wealthy enough to afford insurance. Nevertheless, activists and politicians continue to tout state-run healthcare, crying that healthcare is a human right, and that nationalized medicine is the most equitable path to achieve it. Even now Biden’s Administration is negotiating a deal with Big Pharma to bring down the price of certain prescription drugs—a deal that will inevitably lead to higher taxes and minimal savings for Americans.
Advocates of socialized healthcare ought to glance across the pond to see just how equitable state-run medical programs really are. The best example of their ideal system––the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK––shows how a government-run medical system does more harm than good.
All’s Not Well Across the Pond
The NHS has been lauded as a top healthcare system globally. Supporters praise it for being efficient, safe, quick, and free (subsidized by taxpayer money but who’s counting that?). But it’s not efficient, safe, or quick; it’s anything but.
From nursing strikes caused by understaffing and poor working conditions, to waiting times of over a month just to see a general practitioner, the NHS is proving to be more of a headache than a socialist godsend.
Over 10,000 patients are waiting 18 months for procedures or general appointments. Since July 2023, 7.68 million people have been waiting for consultant-led care, including cancer treatment. 390,000 people have waited over a year for medical assistance, and only 62% of cancer patients received first treatment within 2 months of an urgent referral.
The situation is just as bad for emergencies. Need an ambulance? You’ll be waiting an average of 32 minutes just for EMS to arrive, and that’s down from the hour and a half wait last December. What’s more, UK hospitals have begun to look like 3rd-world clinics, treating patients in hallways due to lack of beds, space, and staff.
Most frighteningly of all, the NHS legally has complete control over your healthcare options and your body. Take the case of a 19-year old female patient suffering from chronic kidney damage due to a rare mitochondrial disease. She’s been petitioning the NHS to permit her to attempt an experimental treatment in Canada. The presiding hospital has described her as “actively dying.” Despite the potential upside of experimental treatment, the UK Court of Protection denied her request, noting that, “she does not believe the information she has been given by her doctors,” and therefore cannot be held responsible for her own healthcare. The 19-year old adult patient told her doctors: “I want to die trying to live. We have to try everything.” She now has to wait to die; her body is not her own anymore.
This isn’t a one-off event, unfortunately. The high-profile 2017 case of Charlie Gard showed the world how the NHS deals with children suffering from fatal illnesses. The parents of Gard, an 11-month old with a rare mitochondrial disease that causes progressive muscle and neural damage, were denied permission to attempt nucleoside bypass therapy in the U.S. The hospital noted that the treatment was experimental and not worth investing NHS funds into. A similar case is going through the High Court this week.
This is the glory of state-run medicine: You are left at the whims of a bureaucracy whose main concern is budgeting taxpayer funds. Health comes second and patients have little say over treatment options. The Court decides their fate for them.
This shouldn’t be surprising. The NHS has nearly complete control over all medical processes, treatment plans, wait times, and hospital organization. It has the final say on how funding will be allocated and to whom. You do not have control over your healthcare in the UK; you do not have control over your own body. The State does.
The United States’ healthcare system is moving in that direction. Government-run healthcare plans already control how much you pay—imagine what they will do once they have complete control over hospital procedures and budgets, as the NHS does. If we continue to allow the government to wrest more choice out of our hands, we’ll soon have an America where the government decides when, where, and why you can be treated.
We need to honor personal medical choice and diversity of options. We need only look at the UK’s system to see what happens when the State has our “health and safety”––and money––in its hands.
Connor Vasile is a law student and Young Voices contributor who writes on American politics and economics. You can find him on Twitter @connor_vasile.