M.D. Harmon: Nationalized healthcare, food and water optional

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Now that the battle over the nationalization of U.S. health care is fully engaged, with the outcome to be determined by whether or not the Republican Party controls all three branches of the federal government after Jan. 20, 2013, it’s worth casting a look elsewhere to see what might be in store for us if the GOP’s effort fails.

Progressives are more than fond of telling Americans how this nation’s health care system is a failure, with millions left uncovered by formal insurance and with the “poor and needy” continually left behind in the quest for a doctor’s attention outside of an emergency room.

And they are even more fond of pointing at the health care systems of other nations, saying that countries where medicine is primarily or entirely a creature of the state are far more efficient and effective than our own.

So, let’s ignore the fact that our own system of nationalized health care for the elderly, Medicare, reimburses doctors far less than the cost of the care they provide, shifting costs over to private patients and driving more and more physicians out of the system. Medicaid, the program that provides care for lower-income families through grants to the states, has also swelled far beyond projections.

And let’s ignore Medicare and Medicaid’s unfunded mandate for care, which was projected last March by the Senate Budget Committee to cost up to $82 trillion by 2075 — exceeding total projected tax revenues now used for all purposes — once the effects of Obamacare are figured into the equation.

Let’s look instead at one of the more well-established programs of socialized medicine abroad that our deeply caring leftists continually bring up as object examples of how medicine could and should be provided.

I refer to Britain’s National Health Service, a system implemented after World War II that has endured — and grown — to this day. If there is a sacred cow among government programs in Britain, the NHS is it. Even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was fully aware of its problems, was never able to address them in any meaningful way.

Today this paragon of medical provision is the object of headlines such as “Why NHS Is On The Critical List,” in the July 1 Sunday Express. Staff Writer Neil Hamilton begins his account by noting that “Twenty-one NHS regional trusts (out of 151 primary care trusts, which administer health care in a given area) face financial meltdown, with combined debts of 130 million pounds ($204 million). One, the South London Trust, is already bankrupt.”

Hamilton continues: “The NHS is the last Soviet-style nationalized industry. It gobbles up a sixth of Government spending and is exempt (from cuts) because it is such a political hot potato. Before global warming it was the nearest thing we had to a substitute religion.”

One reason is because it is so huge: “With 1.7 million employees, it is the fifth-largest employer in the world, behind the U.S. Department of Defense, the Chinese military, Walmart and McDonalds. It costs us 125 billion pounds a year ($196 billion).”

Americans used to huge federal expenditures may not think that’s a terrible amount to spend, but as the author notes, that “equates to 80 percent of all (British) income tax revenue.” That works out, he says, to $12,500 a year for the average family.

And perhaps this will sound familiar: “The NHS is in a pincer of rising patient numbers and relatively fewer workers to pay the bills.”

But, at least the care is top-notch, right? Let Hamilton give an example: “Recently I had to have a three-day heart monitor strapped to my arm to check my heart rhythms. It was a five-minute job but took 57 days to get an appointment. By the time it arrived, I had survived so long there was no need!”

And he adds, “The NHS does not provide an equal service to all, but instead treatment depends on where patients live, their income, age and, crucially, who they know.”

Pay special attention to this next sentence: “The many appalling scandals of mistreatment of the elderly are a national shame.”

Though Americans may never read about them, the British papers are full of such stories, far too many to be merely anecdotal. In July, an independent oversight agency, the Care Quality Commission, issued a report on care for the elderly in 100 facilities that concluded, as one online site digested it, “More than half of NHS hospitals fail to meet optimum needs for care for the elderly. A fifth are so bad they are breaking the law.”

Deficiencies noted including putting call bells out of the reach of patients, failing to feed them for extended periods, letting them lie in their own waste for hours (and in some cases, days) and failing to give disabled people needed help to eat even when meals were provided.

The government plans to implement a rule soon in which patients with non-acute conditions can be treated in private hospitals at public expense if they have been waiting more than 18 weeks to see a doctor.

Hospitals claim a lack adequate funding, but apparently there are many ways to cut a health care budget.

One of them was disclosed, and all of Britain was truly stunned, when a prestigious physician, Dr. Patrick Pullicino, a consultant neurologist and professor of clinical medicine at the University of Kent, said in a speech to the Royal Society of Medicine in London in June that, as the Daily Mail newspaper reported, “NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds.”

Pullicino was referring to a national treatment protocol called the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), designed “to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.”

The plan “can include the withdrawal of treatment, including the provision of water and nourishment by tube.”

Thus, patients are either starved or dehydrated to death.

About 130,000 people placed on the LCP die every year in British hospitals (29 percent of total system patient deaths), but Pullicino says that “far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP, and it has now become an ‘assisted death pathway’ rather than a care pathway.”

And he cited “pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients” as factors, the Daily Mail reported.

“If we accept the LCP,” Pullicino told his fellow doctors, “we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying  ”

And he concluded, “Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP. Patients are frequently put on the pathway without a proper analysis of their condition.  The determination in the LCP leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Now, it’s not the case that all other nations have health-care systems as bad as the British example. Both the Swiss and the Germans have public-private systems that appear to satisfy their citizens and keep costs within limits, although those citizens pay substantial taxes for their coverage.

And, let’s not forget, they are Swiss and German.

But if we want to see where our health-care planners intend to take us, we should remember they have touted Britain’s NHS to the skies.

However, a system where tens of thousands of people are forced every year into a “pathway” where food and water are optional treatments may not be one we want to imitate.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

19 COMMENTS

  1. The health reform law passed a few years ago and recently upheld by the Supreme Court sets up a system that’s nothing like the British National Health Service. It is based on the Heritage Foundation plan that’s been in place in Massachusetts, which has resulted in over 98% of the population having coverage and very strong health outcomes. And, contra Governor LePage’s recent remarks, there appear to be no Gestapo-like actions in the Bay State arising out of implementing RomneyCare.

  2. There are no suprises here. The goverment is the most ineffective and most expensive of choices in how to provide a service.  Private enterprise may have its weaknesses but provides a better and more effecient service. The one thing it does not provide is votes for those in high goverment office.  My experience in the military, transportation and with USP provided ample proof of that.  Why do we even argue about this?

  3. None of what Mr. Harmon says surprises me in the least. Even now in the U.S. if a loved one is in the hospital or a nursing home you’d better be by that bedside,monitoring their care!  Unfortunately ,more and more, Western society does not value the elderly,thus it’s “no big deal” to speed them on their way to the great beyond.  They are no longer useful.

  4. States rights are paramount! If a state such as Massachusetts wishes to have a “medical plan” and the citizens choose to establish such a plan, good for them!
    The Federal government, no so

  5. Amy, you are deluding yourself if you think that Obamacare won’t morph into something similar to the disaster that the English people are saddled with.  The CBO has already published findings that Obamacare is going to cost 1.76 trillion dollars, three times more that what the saviour Obama claimed it would cost.  And please explain to me the 16,000 new IRS agents that have been added to enforce collection of the Obamacare non-tax tax. The Obama campaign is out lying through it’s teeth that they never argued before the Supreme Court that the Individual Mandate was a tax. I just listened to an audio transcript of the oral arguements where saviour Obama’s Solicitor General did just that.  Obamacare will be a disaster for this nation and it’s people, and I can’t wait for it to die a quick and undegnified death, just as many people will suffer under this plan, after the November elections.

  6. Excellent point – although “RomneyCare” is actually a creation of the Mass. Legislature.  Without Romney’s attempts to soften the “penalties” (language in the bill) imposed, the cost to taxpayers would have been even more onerous.

  7. Allusions to intentionally putting patients at risk are the stock and trade of conservative spin doctors. That trick is getting old.

    The evidence favoring a national public healthcare model is overwhelming whether we look at the failure of our private system or the successes of our global neighbors. Finding deficiencies in any system is easy.

    Picking and choosing examples of deficiencies from one country or another portrayed by writers with an ax to grind proves nothing.

    The real danger isn’t from mythical “death panels,” but from a “pay-to-play’ national policy that simply denies access to medical care to those who can’t afford the cost of admission.

  8. You believe in a number of myths. On what the CBO actually said, see http://pollways.bangordailynews.com/2012/03/24/national/lying-about-or-misunderstanding-cbo-obamacare-budget-estimates/  

    By the way, the IRS will be mostly delivering funds to taxpayers. A family making $40,000 will get a $10,000 tax credit (not deduction — credit) under the law for purchasing insurance (should they not be otherwise covered). Under Romneycare, 1% pay the freeloader fee and estimates are for 1-2% under Obamacare.

    Moreover, why would you think a market-based approach akin to the one in Brussels, Germany and Switzerland (not to mention Massachusetts) would change to one like the British one? There are four main models of health care delivery in the world and they tend to change incrementally.  Obamacare built on the regulatory, funding and delivery systems already in place, while providing state-level marketplaces in which to shop for insurance, subsidies and a Medicare expansion.  This is what the Massachusetts exchange looks like: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/portal/site/connector

  9. Hi!

    The Canadian “sick care” system is no better. One waits, and waits, and waits, and waits. etc., etc., etc., etc.

    Take charge of your health NOW by eating nutritious foods, exercise, and most important of all, use vitamins and minerals otherwise you will be waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting for so-called health services when Obamacare kicks in.

    Good luck!

  10. As an R.N. of 39 years, you better believe the LPC is for real.  Unless family members are vigilant and put up a fuss about their loved ones; this will absolutely happen with Obama care.  Who are you trying to kid?  Get real.  It’s all about the money and once you run out and have no family to fight for you.  You die.

  11.  You make one good point, Kathleen. Under the current system, once you run out of money (or if you don’t have money to begin with), you die.

    That is exactly the reason a national universal healthcare system is needed.

    The harder problem, as you know with your experience, is that dealing with end-of-life scenarios is an complex problem. The Liverpool Pathway Care, however, is not a thoughtless or heartless concept as it is portrayed by Mr. Harmon via Pullicino’s comments. It is a well thought out shift in the nature and focus medical attention away from “cure” to “care” when death is imminent and inevitable.

    You are certainly familiar with DNR instructions which are very standard in our own medical community and have been for years. LPC is a very humane and natural extension of that concept.

    Who am I trying to kid? Nobody – least of all, myself.

  12. Well, all you liberals ( yes, even you with three names and three titles) as Liza Dolittle said, “just you wait, just you wait and see.

  13. I still don’t see the sense to this. Mandatory healthcare might be good for people but what happened to the people’s right of freedom of choice? I don’t see how that is fair at all.

  14. Actually, the DNR laws as they are written in many states, actually allows the patient’s family to over ride their wishes in their living will.  My daughter -in-law once worked in an ICU and had 4 patients on ventilators all with DNR requests in their living will.  Yes, Obama care will help with this kind of foolish expenditures, but what I’m talking about is the alert older patient put in  ANY (not one of their choice) nursing home, against their wishes (remember they have run out of money) and only have contact with poorly paid and trained care givers.  How long do you think that they will want to live?  They die.  If you don’t have long term care insurance and lots of money and family member young enough to out live you, you won’t be so flippant about old age and Obama, end of life care.   Oh yeah, and make sure you have a great lawyer, because the flood gates are going to open for an entire new legal specialty.  Maybe Obama will create some new jobs for all those unemployed lawyers and then our country will be in so much debt that Greece will look like a tiny headache.

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