It is a bad sign when a nominally advanced Western healthcare system forces refugees to return to a war zone for basic care. Yet that's exactly what's been happening with Ukrainian refugees in the United Kingdom.
Refugees are reportedly returning to Ukraine to seek medical care after receiving inadequate care in the U.K. The fault lies with the U.K.'s National Health Service. As the Washington Examiner's Tiana Lowe outlines , the U.K.'s socialized healthcare system has one central challenge: It sacrifices access to effective care in pursuit of restrained costs.
But where the U.K. was previously able to muddle through by balancing delayed access against broadly acceptable service, the intersection of an aging population and insufficient long-term investment is now crippling the NHS. The cost is measured in human suffering. Access to critical treatments such as cancer services and heart surgery routinely comes only after life-threatening delays . Appointments to see primary care doctors in person regularly stretch to weeks, sometimes months. Underpaid U.K. doctors and nurses are going on strike.
To underline just how catastrophic this crisis has become, consider that ambulances may wait outside U.K. hospitals, with patients inside, for 20 hours because no beds are available. Patients are also waiting hours for ambulances and paramedics to respond to heart attacks. Sometimes, the chaos borders on the ludicrous. Take the recent BBC News report on how an 89-year-old man who had broken his hip and shoulder was "taken to hospital, strapped to a plank in the back of a van, after his granddaughter was told no ambulances were available." This surreal scene might have made for an uproarious Monty Python sketch, but as a real-life story, it isn't funny at all.
This experience offers a clear warning for the United States, especially for those who might be tempted by the healthcare mirage offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Along with their allies on the burgeoning Democratic Left, these politicians suggest that America adopt a "Medicare for All" system in which both America's standard of and accessibility to care would remain world-leading. What they leave out is that the only way to constrain costs in a socialized health system is to accept a much more stringent level of rationing than most in America are accustomed to or would ever accept.
This doesn't make the American system perfect. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the U.S. far and away leads the world in annual per capita healthcare spending at $12,318 , and such inputs can drain resources from more productive economic activity. But part of the reason it costs so much is that ease of access and quality of care make it quite expensive. There is, it turns out, a cost to going cheap on healthcare. It might force refugees to flee your country and return to a war zone just to receive treatment.
This stark example illustrates why a move to a Medicare for All system would not be in the national interest.
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