Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How England Saves Money on Health Care

I have argued that the main method by which nationalized health care systems, such as the National Health Service in the UK, saves money is simple: deny health care. Care is bureaucratically rationed out. Some people get it, some people don't and it often depends on the whim of untrained bureaucrats or by which "health district" you reside in. This story illustrates NHS health savings in action.

Expectant mother Carmen Blake had sudden and unexpected contractions indicating that her fourth child was about to be born whether she liked it or not. The contractions were strong enough that Carmen realized that she had virtually no time left and called the hospital for an ambulance. The hospital refused her an ambulance and told her to walk. Under normal circumstances that is not too unreasonable as she did live close by. But she was already in labor when she called. Blake recounts: "They said they were not sending an ambulance and told me I had nine months to sort out a lift."

Blake, with some friends also on foot, tried to walk to the hospital as instructed. But she didn't make it. The woman couldn't move any further. A passing woman, Helen Ivers, who is a physio-therapist ended up delivering the child on the sidewalk. Worse yet the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck so she wasn't breathing. Ivers said when she got there she shouted: "Where are the paramedics." Ivers said "When the baby's head came out I realized the cord was around its neck. Its all a bit of a blur but I think instinct kicked in and I just pulled it over the baby's head."

The friends had called the hospital which, now realizing that Blake was giving birth on the public sidewalk, thanks to their cost-cutting, finally sent the ambulance she had previously requested. The communications manager for the ambulance company said: "This was clearly a traumatic eperience for all concerned." I suspect it was more traumatic for Blake because she was refused an ambulance and then traumatic for Ivers who had to do the hospital's job on the sidewalk because the NHS was saving money.

A spokesman for the state-run hospital said: "We are disappointed that Ms Blake was not happy with the advice and care she received and will of course investigate any complaint." Wow! How compassionate! Note that they didn't apologize for telling a pregnant woman to walk to hospital. Instead they said they are disappointed that she isn't happy. And they again pretend they offered care, which they did not. Blake wasn't disappointed by care she received but by the absence of care requiring her to give birth in front of traffic.

At roughly the same time another expectant mother, Rebecca Molloy, turned up at an NHS hospital. She was 38 weeks pregnant and having contractions. The hospital told her that she wasn't ready and to go home, they were unwilling to admit her. (Too costly you know.) Three hours later Rebecca found herself on the floor doubled up in pain from contractions.

Husband Tony called the hospital for help but "could not get any response." (Perhaps the NHS staff were busy writing letters in defense of state-managed care in England because the criticism they received from opponents of Obamacare.) Left hanging by the hospital, Tony ran out and got the car to rush Rebecca to hospital.

When he returned she told him it was far too late and the baby was being born. Tony Molloy began delivering his daughter. The infant was ashen gray in color and not breathing. It too was born with the cord around its neck. Remembering birthing videos he had watched Tony removed the cord from the child's neck and slapped her on the back to start her breathing. Tony said: "She was grey and not breathing. I was talking to her, saying 'come on little one, breathe for daddy."

When the NHS hospital was asked by the media about their sending a very, very pregnant woman home, without being helped, the hospital spokesman said: "We would encourage the family to contact our patient advice service if they have any concerns over the care received." Actually wouldn't that be "over the care NOT received?"

There is no magic in cutting health care costs—just cut health care. That is how it is done in England and that is how it can be done in the US. You do get what you pay for. Pay for less, get less. It's not that hard to understand. So why does the Left believe that Obama is some messiah who can magically take "a loaf of health care," bless it, and pass it around so that everyone has as much as they want at no additional cost? When government controls health care it saves money by denying treatments and services to people.

Consider poor Ms. Blake. Had she lived in the US, she would have called the ambulance saying she was in labor. It would have showed up and the cost of that would be added to America's health care costs. She would have gone to hospital where she would have had the child, again racking up costs toward the US health care total. All that care, in the current debate, would be counted AGAINST America's health care costs and would be considered a bad thing.

In contrast, in the UK, she was told to walk to hospital, to save on ambulance costs. She delivered on the sidewalk with care given by someone not being paid by the NHS to deliver that service. All that added up to health care savings for the NHS. And, based on the tenor of the debate over Obamacare the costs show that NHS service is superior to health services in the US precisely because the NHS doesn't cost as much. Imagine how efficient the NHS would look if it had patients perform their own heart bypass at home! (Sort of the way NHS patients were forced to pull their own teeth because the government rationed dental care.)

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