News and Commentary

Socialized Health Care: England’s NHS To Withhold Care For Smokers And The Obese For ‘Routine’ Surgeries

Daily Wire Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro has repeatedly stated that health care has three primary characteristics: affordability, universality, and quality. It’s been shown time and again, in both theory and real life application, that all three characteristics cannot be found in a health care system at the same time. Two of these qualities can mutually exist in a given system, but the third, necessarily, falls by the wayside. The latest empirical evidence supporting this theory comes from the National Health Service (NHS) in England, which announced that smokers and the obese will be denied most surgeries until the patient’s lifestyle meets NHS standards.

According to The Telegraph, “In recent years, a number of areas have introduced delays for such patients — with some told operations will be put back for months, during which time they are expected to try to lose weight or stop smoking.” To make sure patients are truthful about smoking in their medical disclosures, doctors in the U.K. will now breathalyze those who require medical procedures, and smoker patients won’t be granted a referral for surgery unless “the circumstances are exceptional.” What exactly “exceptional” means remains rather murky.

Perhaps most devastating to those in favor of socialized medicine is the reason for the new restrictions. The Telegraph notes that representatives from the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in East and North Hertfordshire have stated that the measure seeks to encourage citizens to “take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, whenever possible, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment”(emphasis added). Both of the CCGs “are in financial difficulty, and between them seeking to save £68m during this financial year.” The CCGs, of course, deny financial considerations are driving the changes, claiming the standards are for their patients’ safety and long-term health.

The socialized health care system in the U.K. has chosen to favor Shapiro’s first two characteristics: affordability and universality of coverage. As expected, quality of health services is being impacted as necessary health care procedures are withheld, and despite claims of “universality” of coverage, rationing has limited the options for patients who require medical procedures but don’t meet the NHS’ current lifestyle requirements.

Rationing health care is nothing new in countries with socialized medicine. In 2016, The Fraser Institute found that in Canada, “specialist physicians surveyed report[ed] a median waiting time of 20.0 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment.” That’s an average wait time of about five months. The organization also notes that wait times are constantly increasing and “this year’s wait time … is 115% longer than in 1993, when it was just 9.3 weeks.” And that’s the standard trend-line of socialized medicine: care gets worse, wait times get longer, and the supposed “universality” becomes less and less “universal.”

Ian Eardley, a high ranking official in the U.K.’s Royal College of Surgeons, responded fiercely to the CCG’s decision saying, “This goes against clinical guidance and leaves patients waiting long periods of time in pain and discomfort. It can even lead to worse outcomes following surgery in some cases.”

He’s absolutely right. Socialized medicine consistently leads to rationing, and it leads to the growth of black market medicine when people are forced to seek alternative solutions for treatment of health issues. The economic inefficiency of government-run health care should be reason enough to reject nationalized health care. But economic considerations aside, just look at the practice of the NHS. Ask yourself if you really want government bureaucrats deciding whether you meet today’s or tomorrow’s arbitrary minimum requirements, lifestyle or otherwise, for health services. I know I don’t.