Do We Really Want Government Run Health Care?

My friend Richard sent me this letter from his friend Tom who is a barrister (lawyer) in England.   They are amateur astronomy buds.   Tom has lived with the National Health Service all his life and knows first hand the dangers of socialist medicine.

A nationalised health service would be a disaster of a magnitude it would be hard to exaggerate.   The same with energy and transport, but the health thing is the worst of the lot.   Believe me, we’ve had it since the late 1940s.   Both the main parties over here know this country can no longer afford the National Health Service.   But neither wants to be the one to abolish is, because such a move would be electorally suicidal.

The problem is that there is an inexplicable sentimental attachment among many ordinary people to the NHS.   I think they’ve got into a kind of dependency attitude towards it, and they’re blind to its faults.   You know very well that a nationalised health system is catastrophically inefficient, both medically and economically, as well as being incompetent and ruinous of individual dignity and responsibility.   You know all that because it’s obvious to anyone.   I know it for another reason, which is that I’ve grown up with it and have lived with it all my life.   Believe me, it isn’t as bad as it’s painted – it’s far, far worse!   Worse  than you can ever imagine.   I don’t know exactly how much of my own income tax goes to the NHS budget, but it certainly comes to many thousands of pounds a year.    Healthcare  now accounts, I believe,  for nearly 20% of all government expenditure.   At a conservative  guess, I must be personally  contributing something well in excess of £5,000 per annum in taxes (probably nearer £10,000).   In return, I get waiting lists many months long, filthy hospitals with a frighteningly high incidence of MRSA and other crippling or even fatal superbugs, and I get treated like a piece of dirt myself.

Because, like a lot of people, I am simply not prepared to put up with that, I have taken out private health insurance for myself and my family.   It’s a group scheme, so there’s an element of subsidy involved, but even so the difference is dramatic.   I actually pay just over £150 per month – say £2,000 per year – for that insurance.   In return, I get treatment within days if not hours, plush, spotlessly clean private hospitals, brisk, friendly and efficient service, the best quality treatment from top specialists, friendly and respectful staff, free coffee and newspapers during the very few minutes I may be kept waiting, and a vanishingly small incidence of hospital superbugs such as MRSA.   All in a private hospital less than ten minutes from my home!

Need I say more?    The NHS  wasn’t always like it is now, and that’s the very danger you face now.   The supporters of nationalisation will explain that their system will be far better than ours.   It probably will be, for the first few years – it will ‘coast’ on what’s left of your present system.   Ours was OK when the present system was originally set up.   But socialism breeds failure, corruption  and misery, and the time will surely come when Americans bitterly regret having nationalised healthcare.   It isn’t just the chronic inefficiency and incompetence of the whole thing.   There’s a principle involved, namely individual freedom and responsibility.   Americans shouldn’t need any lessons in those precious things!   A national health ‘service’ will inevitably corrode your personal independence and human dignity.   You will become a nation of serfs, dependent on your government for the basic necessities of life.   Before you know where you are, the sturdy qualities that brought you independence and astonishing success on the world stage will have been squeezed out of your population.   You will end up like a kind of oversized Sweden.   What a thought!

Except that I happen to believe you can’t destroy a nation like America in that way.   You will, of course, bounce back.   But it could take many decades to do so, and it could lead to untold damage in the interim.   Over here, I suspect that even the Labour party recognises that if it stays in power (which it won’t) it will have to get rid of the NHS and replace it with some kind of insurance system.   There’s a major demographic reason, in that a rapidly aging population means that you have fewer and fewer taxpayers supporting the healthcare of more and more non-taxpayers.   The Conservatives, who – barring disasters –  should easily win the next general election are more motivated to get rid of the NHS, since they never liked it in the first place, but the political obstacles are huge even for them.   It would be a terrible irony if we ended up replacing our failed system at the very time that  Americans foolishly decided to  embrace it!

You won’t end up in the dustbin of history.   But you may well leave your foreign friends wondering why you’re trying so desperately hard to climb inside it!

All the best,

Tom (Teague)