Annals of Government Medicine

James Freeman documents the inevitable failure of socialized medicine, this time in the U.K.–a story we have covered many times:

One of the world’s most celebrated socialized medical systems is doing what socialized medical systems do: limiting patient care. Pending work stoppages could mean that the worst is yet to come for patients of England’s National Health Service.

Doctors, who are low-level government employees in the U.K., are going on strike.

Josephine Franks reports for Sky News that senior doctors, called consultants in Britain, will be joining their less experienced colleagues in withholding treatment:

Consultants and junior doctors are set to strike for several more days this week and early next month, bringing more chaos to the NHS after several months of walkouts and delayed appointments…

A health chief said the NHS is in “uncharted territory” due to the strikes, with thousands of patient appointments expected to be cancelled.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said this week’s strike action “can’t become the status quo”.

Sadly it can.

The problems are inherent in government medicine. And, of course, doctors in the U.S. are increasingly public servants, too.

Turning doctors into unionized government bureaucrats brings a host of problems, including the fact that politicians, not patients, decide what doctors are paid. This is of course a problem in the U.S. as well. England is a sort of preview of just how badly government management can mangle the incentives to provide medical services—and the duty to provide care.

So why are doctors in the U.K. striking?

On the picket lines of the March strike, junior doctors told Sky News why they were striking and described having to borrow money off family for medical exams, watching colleagues leave for better paid jobs abroad and how they were struggling to pay rent.

Canada’s socialized system has a problem with “watching colleagues leave for better paid jobs abroad,” which are pretty much always in the U.S.

Freeman notes that Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) points to the U.K. as a model of government-controlled health care:

If anyone asks Mr. Sanders to comment, no doubt he will rail about the British government not spending enough, just as his answer to every question about U.S. health care involves a greater burden on taxpayers and fewer free choices for consumers.

But adopting the Sanders model for decades in the U.K. has led to a system that is now in constant crisis, with a plague of cancelled appointments and procedures.

And with doctors on strike because they can’t pay their rent. Socialist health care systems are absurdly inefficient, so they come under political pressure to reduce costs. How do they reduce costs? By underpaying the people they actually need, the doctors and nurses, and by limiting patient access to care. Their huge budgets mostly disappear into the bureaucratic maw, as with any government program.

This is the future that the Democratic Party wants for the United States.

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