Video: “When I needed help it wasn’t there…”
So says Canadian Shona Holmes, in reference to Canada’s single-payer (lack of) health care system.
When Shona found out that she had a brain tumor that was causing vision problems and intense pain and was possibly threatening her life, Canadian health care officials told her she had to wait six months to see a specialist.
Instead, she came to America for an expensive ($100,000) operation that relieved her pain and successfully removed her tumor and restored her sight. Still, her story, and the anguish she endured as the Canadian system let her down, will break your heart.
Where would she be if America had a single-payer system like Canada’s? And why are we considering moving to this type of system?
Rationing is how a closed, government-run health care system contains costs – human pain and suffering isn’t a factor in bureaucrats’ calculations. And these problems aren’t limited to Canada. Consider how England rations medical care.
What NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) has become in practice is a rationing board. As health costs have exploded in Britain as in most developed countries, NICE has become the heavy that reduces spending by limiting the treatments that 61 million citizens are allowed to receive through the NHS. For example:
In March, NICE ruled against the use of two drugs, Lapatinib and Sutent, that prolong the life of those with certain forms of breast and stomach cancer. This followed on a 2008 ruling against drugs — including Sutent, which costs about $50,000 — that would help terminally ill kidney-cancer patients. After last year’s ruling, Peter Littlejohns, NICE’s clinical and public health director, noted that “there is a limited pot of money,” that the drugs were of “marginal benefit at quite often an extreme cost,” and the money might be better spent elsewhere.
In 2007, the board restricted access to two drugs for macular degeneration, a cause of blindness. The drug Macugen was blocked outright. The other, Lucentis, was limited to a particular category of individuals with the disease, restricting it to about one in five sufferers. Even then, the drug was only approved for use in one eye, meaning those lucky enough to get it would still go blind in the other. As Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of NICE, explained at the time: “When treatments are very expensive, we have to use them where they give the most benefit to patients.”
NICE has limited the use of Alzheimer’s drugs, including Aricept, for patients in the early stages of the disease. Doctors in the U.K. argued vociferously that the most effective way to slow the progress of the disease is to give drugs at the first sign of dementia. NICE ruled the drugs were not “cost effective” in early stages.
Other NICE rulings include the rejection of Kineret, a drug for rheumatoid arthritis; Avonex, which reduces the relapse rate in patients with multiple sclerosis; and lenalidomide, which fights multiple myeloma. Private U.S. insurers often cover all, or at least portions, of the cost of many of these NICE-denied drugs.
NICE has also produced guidance that restrains certain surgical operations and treatments. NICE has restrictions on fertility treatments, as well as on procedures for back pain, including surgeries and steroid injections. The U.K. has recently been absorbed by the cases of several young women who developed cervical cancer after being denied pap smears by a related health authority, the Cervical Screening Programme, which in order to reduce government health-care spending has refused the screens to women under age 25.
I ask again: Why would we consider this type of system?
(h/t Patriot Room)