When Americans examine socialized medicine and government health care systems, the two systems most frequently mentioned are the ones in Great Britain and Canada. They are, after all, English speaking countries and their societies are the most like ours here in the United States.
Much to the chagrin of socialists, the evidence has gotten out that the British and Canadian government health care systems are massively expensive (despite being “free”) to the taxpayer, bloated, and inefficient. Their waiting lists of months to years are fast becoming famous.
I lived under the British National Health Service for three years. I’ve seen it up close and I’ve been forced to use it. I also have Canadian friends who have told me about their system, and I’ve seen how they react to it. It isn’t good.
But another socialist nation often proffered as a successful example–though usually without a lot of strong conviction–is Sweden.
So how does Swedish socialized medicine hold up? Apparently about as well as socialism anywhere else: poorly.
According to the National Center for Policy Analysis and Sven R. Larson in “Lesson from Sweden’s Universal Health System: Tales from the Health-care Crypt,” published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (Spring 2008), they have the same problems with waiting lists, rationed care, and retarded innovation seen in Canada and the UK
- One Gothenburg multiple sclerosis patient was prescribed a new drug but his doctor’s request was denied because the drug was 33 percent more expensive than the older medicine; he then offered to pay for the medicine himself but was prevented from doing so because the bureaucrats said it would set a bad precedent and lead to unequal access to medicine.
- Malmo, with its 280,000 residents, is Sweden’s third-largest city to see a physician, a patient must go to one of two local clinics before they can see a specialist; the clinics have security guards to keep patients from getting unruly as they wait hours to see a doctor and the guards also prevent new patients from entering the clinic when the waiting room is considered full.
- Uppsala, a city with 200,000 people, has only one specialist in mammography; Sweden’s National Cancer Foundation reports that in a few years most Swedish women will not have access to mammography.
Economist Walter Williams also examined the Swedish government health care system, along with in a recent column.
Mr. D., a Gothenburg multiple sclerosis patient, was prescribed a new drug. His doctor’s request was denied because the drug was 33 percent more expensive than the older medicine. Mr. D. offered to pay for the medicine himself but was prevented from doing so. The bureaucrats said it would set a bad precedent and lead to unequal access to medicine.
Malmo, with its 280,000 residents, is Sweden’s third-largest city. To see a physician, a patient must go to one of two local clinics before they can see a specialist. The clinics have security guards to keep patients from getting unruly as they wait hours to see a doctor. The guards also prevent new patients from entering the clinic when the waiting room is considered full. Uppsala, a city with 200,000 people, has only one specialist in mammography. Sweden’s National Cancer Foundation reports that in a few years most Swedish women will not have access to mammography.
Dr. Olle Stendahl, a professor of medicine at Linkoping University, pointed out a side effect of government-run medicine: its impact on innovation. He said, “In our budget-government health care there is no room for curious, young physicians and other professionals to challenge established views. New knowledge is not attractive but typically considered a problem (that brings) increased costs and disturbances in today’s slimmed-down health care.”
He also re-examined much of what we already know of the British and Canadian systems
The head of the World Health Organization calculated that Britain has as many as 25,000 unnecessary cancer deaths a year because of under-provision of care. Twelve percent of specialists surveyed admitted refusing kidney dialysis to patients suffering from kidney failure because of limits on cash. Waiting lists for medical treatment have become so long that there are now “waiting lists” for the waiting list.
Canada’s government system isn’t that different from Britain’s. For example, after a Canadian has been referred to a specialist, the waiting list for gynecological surgery is four to 12 weeks, cataract removal 12 to 18 weeks, tonsillectomy three to 36 weeks and neurosurgery five to 30 weeks. Toronto-area hospitals, concerned about lawsuits, ask patients to sign a legal release accepting that while delays in treatment may jeopardize their health, they nevertheless hold the hospital blameless.
Our system here in the United States is far from perfect, but we would be insane to go from the frying pan into the fire by moving forward in the direction of socialized medicine.
Indeed, many of the problems we have are due to government involvement in health care. Through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and others, more than half the money being spent on health care comes from the federal government. And their regulatory control and interference in the health care industry is already egregious.
Unfortunately our new socialist government in Washington D.C. is bent on subjecting Americans to this terrible system.
Americans must do everything they can to prevent our government from forcing government health care on us. “Free” health care is very costly.