A Messenger From The Future

How many times have you thought that it would be nice to have a message from the future so that you could avoid mistakes? 

Would the executives at Coca-Cola benefited from hearing from the future about the lunacy of changing their formula for their anchor product? 

Would the NASA launch team on 28-Jan-1986 have benefitted from a future engineer telling them of the dangers of an o-ring seal in the Solid Rocket Boosters after being exposed to sub-freezing temperatures the night before the launch?

Would operators at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant have benefitted from hearing about the dangers of non-nuclear secondary pressure relief valve?

Well, as luck would have it, we have a message from the future with regard to the United States’ implementation of Obamacare.  No, we have not mastered the art of time travel and received a message from the future but we have the next best thing – a message from an advanced western country that implemented a very similar system decades ago.

The United Kingdom instituted the National Health System (NHS) in 1946 but expanded greatly in the late 1990’s and over the past decade there have been numerous issues that America should pay attention to because this is our future under Obamacare.

In 2005 over 20% of the NHS hospitals were in the red and set to fail.

In 2006, Health Care professionals saw the government wasting money and not allowing them to use their skills as they deem appropriate.

“Large amounts of money have been invested into the NHS, and while it has certainly had a positive impact, it could have been spent much more wisely.

In 1948 paitients were granted the right to a high quality NHS free at the point of use.

Over the Course of the coming decades, I fear that this could become a very distant memory.”

In 2006, it was obvious that ‘rich’ patients (called private) got bumped to the front of the line and would receive better treatment as characterized by this nurse’s quote:

“I am concerned about the increasing role of the private sector in the NHS and worried that the private sector will ‘cream off’ the more profitable services.

The NHS could be reduced to little more than a logo.”

About half of patients on the NHS system have to wait a month to see a physician for their diagnosis.  If you have cancer, a month could mean the difference between life and death.   

In 2003/2004 only 51% of patient operations were carried out in the UK so that means that 49% sought treatment outside the country.

The Economist published a post recently that provides the most damning reason to avoid government sponsored healthcare. Economics are about motivations and when a hospital has to jump through many hoops to get a government sponsored healthcare system to pay for their services they’ll naturally move the private customers to the front of the line since they don’t require the red tape.  Read the following quotes from the Economist article below (emphasis mine):

“Private patients have long been treated alongside NHS ones: my own department sees a few private patients every week, and the care it offers to NHS patients does not suffer as a result. But if the proportion of private patients substantially increased, that could change.

The basic problem is that private patients are treated differently (in every sense) to those on the NHS. It doesn’t matter how stringent the rules are about care being assigned according to need and people not being allowed to jump the queue just because they have money, it doesn’t work out like that.

My department’s official policy, for example, is simply to see patients as soon as possible, with the most clinically urgent cases given priority. There are some spare appointments to fit in anyone who needs to be seen at short notice (inpatients, for example), and if a doctor wants a private patient seen then we will squeeze them in if we can, but we won’t bump anyone else down the list so the private patient gets seen quicker. Simple, relatively efficient and fair.

At least, that is the theory. And most of the time, that is what we actually do as well. But when they are treating a private patient doctors are more pushy than they are when treating an NHS patient. I would estimate that consultants are perhaps two or three times more likely to chase up whether a private patient has been given an appointment than if the patient is being treated on the NHS.

Sometimes, if my department is busy and the waiting time is longer than normal, a consultant will pop into the office and casually mention that they believe we might have a private patient of theirs on our list and they would appreciate it ever so much if we could find a way to get them seen promptly. Only rarely will a doctor overtly say they want a patient to be seen faster because he is a paying customer, but that is the direction I am being nudged in.

And sometimes, because it is the path of least resistance, the nudging works and a private patient is seen quicker than would been the case had we been left to our own devices. When the number of private patients is relatively small the impact of this on other patients is minimal, but if private patients constituted a substantial proportion of the people being seen in our department, the pressure to bump NHS patients down the list could be considerable.”

With all these warnings from England shouldn’t we be leery of handing over the health care of our citizens to a federal government that has shown it is incapable of managing even small projects?  We must heed the messages we are getting from England.  They are telling us something and if we are wise we’ll listen.

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13 Responses to A Messenger From The Future

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