The British NHS (National Healthcare Service) is an example of a government run system which can teach us a few lessons about the dangers of putting a bureaucratic and political machine in charge of health care. Some people have gone as far as suggesting that a single payer system in the United States is an ideal to strive for.
Here is an example to demonstrate why they are very wrong.
The Government’s drug rationing watchdog says “therapeutic” injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.
The recommendations come from a bureaucracy with the creepy Orwellian acronym, NICE (National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence).
Patients who will be affected by this order were recommended to try acupuncture and other alternative remedies instead. Actually, patients may have the option of taking opiates or undergoing spinal surgery. Both are terrible options if the cortisone shots are working.
Let us carefully examine precisely how politics and bureaucracy combined in an unholy alliance to produce this fiasco.
First, the politics:
The NICE guidelines admit that evidence was limited for many back pain treatments, including those it recommended. Where scientific proof was lacking, advice was instead taken from its expert group. But specialists are furious that while the group included practitioners of alternative therapies, there was no one with expertise in conventional pain relief medicine to argue against a decision to significantly restrict its use.
“Practitioners of alternative therapies not based on science” will do well since their representatives in the group just sent them a ton of business. Those alternative treatments will be covered on the taxpayers dime. By eliminating real doctors from having input in the decision, politicians can truthfully declare that they made a decision based on the best information available to them.
Second, the bureaucracy:
The NHS currently issues more than 60,000 treatments of steroid injections every year. NICE said in its guidance it wants to cut this to just 3,000 treatments a year, a move which would save the NHS £33 million.
Sure, people will suffer, but it saves money. A bureaucrat’s dream and everyone elses worst nightmare.
We can fix the system without destroying it.