Health systems around the world are still struggling to recover from the Covid lockdowns.
“British ‘single-payer” health care program is cratering,” Bob Moffit of The Heritage Foundation writes in the Washington Examiner. “According to the BBC, there are 7.2 British citizens awaiting medical care, or almost 11% of the population.
“People suffering a heart attack face an average wait of 90 minutes for an ambulance, with some waiting up to two and a half hours,” The Telegraph reports. And after that, they may wait 12 hours or more on a gurney in the emergency department before receiving care.
The Economist investigates “Why health-care services are in chaos everywhere.” After postponing care for almost anything but Covid during the lockdowns, hospitals are now overwhelmed. “[H]ealth-care systems in much of the rich world are closer to collapse than at any point since the disease started to spread,” it warns.
This is a crisis. And it extends to our northern neighbor.
Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute writes of her native land that “Waits are interminable”—half a year or more between referral from a GP to treatment from a specialist, according to the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver think tank. Doctors and nurses say they are burned out and underpaid, and many are planning to quit, exacerbating the shortage.
And in the U.S., demoralization among medical professionals is becoming an acute problem. Physicians who have gone from private practice to contractors to employees now face what they say are impossible demands from their overseers.
Dr. Harry Severance writes for MedPage Today there are “accelerating feelings of frustration, burnout, and dissatisfaction” among physicians.
One doctor reported his “clinic administrator upped the cap on the number of allowable clinical patient evaluations, first from 4 to 5 per hour and more recently, up to 6 per hour.” Further, administrators expect the majority of interactions to be billed as a “level 3” or higher—patient visits that can take half an hour or more. (You do the math.)
In addition, doctors must take calls “in real time” from patients who have seen their lab test results online and want to speak with a physician immediately to explain and discuss. Doctors who don’t drop everything and take the calls are dinged.
But it’s not all bleak. Canada is turning to private sector options to help reduce the queue of some 200,000 patients waiting for treatment, Sally Pipes writes. Ontario is turning to “private healthcare facilities” (horrors!) to provide cataract surgeries and fund diagnostics and gynecological and other surgeries.
I write today about all of this because Sen. Bernie Sanders is bringing on a brigade of experienced staffers to help him prepare for another major push for Medicare for All now that he chairs the powerful Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
When I testified before Sen. Sanders’ Budget Committee last year in a similar hearing, the Democrats recounted endless failures of the U.S. health care system and the glories of socialized medicine. With Medicare for All, the Left insists nurses and doctors would spend almost all their time on patient care, not forms and paperwork. Administrative costs would virtually vanish by shutting down insurance companies and other private players. Health costs would plummet while life expectancy would dramatically increase as everyone has access to all the care they need any time.
Will any witnesses testify before Sen. Sanders this year about the serious problems in countries with even more centralized control over their health sectors?
Doug Badger and Bob Moffit’s excellent paper, which I discussed in last week’s newsletter, shows the calamities that resulted from the U.S. government’s response to the Covid epidemic. Why would they do any better tomorrow than they did with Covid and any better than other countries, such as England and Canada, that have even more experience in running health systems?
More government spending is not solving the problem in the U.S. Paragon Health’s Brian Blase and Paul Winfree report in Newsweek that in the U.S., “The federal government now spends more than $1.5 trillion annually on federal health programs, up from $825 billion 10 years ago.”
The more government is involved, the less the private sector can innovate and compete to serve patients better. This is even dawning on Canada, which in desperation is turning to private clinics.
The health care crisis will not be solved by sloganeering or wishful thinking. American ingenuity can provide 21stcentury solutions with our technology, creativity, innovation, and determination—if only we will unleash its potential.