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United Kingdom Government Medicine The Almighty Buck

British NHS May Soon No Longer Offer Free Care 634

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-obama dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Coinciding with challenges in the rollout of the U.S. Affordable Care Act are challenges for NHS. The Independent reports, 'A National Health Service free at the point of use will soon be "unsustainable," if the political parties do not come forward with radical plans for change before the 2015 election, top health officials have warned. Stagnant health spending combined with ever rising costs and demand mean the NHS is facing "the most challenging period in its 65-year existence," the NHS Confederation said ... In a frank assessment of the dangers faced by the health service, senior officials at the confederation say that the two years following the next general election will be pivotal in deciding whether the NHS can continue to provide free health care for all patients. "Treasury funding for the service will be at best level in real terms," they write. "Given that demand continues to rise, drugs cost more, and NHS inflation is higher than general inflation, the NHS is facing a funding gap estimated at up to £30bn by 2020."' From The Guardian: 'Our rose-tinted view of the NHS has to change.' More at the Independent, Mirror, and Telegraph."
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British NHS May Soon No Longer Offer Free Care

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2013 @10:32PM (#45160729)

    Nevermind all of the single-payer health care systems of virtually every other country that are working fine...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2013 @10:42PM (#45160799)

    Keep some perspective. It still costs half as much per person (normalized to GDP/capita). Our medical industry increases its costs faster than inflation too, but when the free market raises prices and another 50k people lose coverage, it isn't news, it's business as usual.

  • by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday October 17, 2013 @10:45PM (#45160825)
    And that's assuming no GDP growth during that time. Actual GDP percentage will probably remain constant or rise only slightly. As a resident of a country (the USA) that spends more like 17% of its GDP on health care for outcomes that are no better (and arguably worse), I still think the UK is getting a great deal. Citations:
  • No comparison to ACA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Severus Snape (2376318) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @10:47PM (#45160839)
    The NHS is currently underfunded, just now the government in charge would love to abolish the NHS purely for ideological reasons. Since the global recession, politics in the UK has been fought over the issues of, public spending cuts, cost of living, the welfare state, immigration; the NHS has been shunned to the side and because of this has allowed funding to minimized. A (phony) promise was made by the government back in 2009 to protect NHS spending, an increase in spending was in fact claimed but the truth is polarising.

    It's privatisation in the back door, under fund it, make it under perform, all of a sudden privatisation becomes an easy argument to make.
  • by msauve (701917) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @10:53PM (#45160877)
    "And don't give me any free market drivel, even the highly modified 'free market' in the US hasn't worked out so well in terms of patient safety."

    There's nothing even approaching a free market in the US. You can't negotiate a price (possibly on some elective things, but not much), you can't bring your own aspirin, hell, they can't/won't even tell you what they're charging for their aspirin until you get your bill.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:21PM (#45161067)

    As a person who has lived in those countries, and in the US, the stories are greatly exaggerated by the republican side of the argument. In general, I would say I have been treated more promptly, and with less hassle in countries with socialised health care than in the US. The UK if anything has been best of all in this regard, as it involves absolutely no payment when you are treated, which takes a large chunk of stress out of the situation.

  • by reboot246 (623534) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:25PM (#45161089) Homepage
    Actually there is a free market success in the medical field. Laser eye surgery started out expensive and not covered by insurance. Now it's cheap enough to pay for out-of-pocket. I saw an ad just the other day for Lasik eye surgery for just $299.00 per eye. Not bad at all - cheaper than buying glasses in the long run.

    The free market works when you let it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @12:26AM (#45161399)

    "Like Canada where the government is laying off doctors and nurses and people are starting to get private insurance because the government isn't covering everything?"

    Cite your sources for this FUD.

    Signed, a Canadian who has not seen any of this.

  • by Splab (574204) on Friday October 18, 2013 @12:37AM (#45161459)

    Do you jerk off while spreading fud?

    Iceland isn't bankrupt, they unlike everyone else, took the healthy choice of defaulting on their loans, restructured and recovered. They are actually fairing better than pretty much anyone else right now.

    Why would France want to cover (illegal)immigrants (guess you left that out for your fud)? No-one else are doing so.

    Greece is going bankrupt for wholly different things, it's not their public health care that are destroying them.

  • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Friday October 18, 2013 @01:00AM (#45161567)

    It's still way cheaper that *public* healthcare in the US alone (medicare and medicaid), let alone the full costs of US healthcare, which are astronomical in comparison, but funding has been massively cut the last few years in real terms.

    The conservatives have strangled funding for the NHS deliberately for ideological reasons, while funding several expensive wars abroad, because they want to undermine it and then get rid of it piecemeal, as they did with dentistry in the 80s. This sort of story is the precursor to farming out care contracts to private companies, not because it's cheaper, but because of their belief in the free market and connections between the Conservative ministers and private industry, here are some of our recent health secretaries:

    Andrew Lansley [] - bankrolled by a private healthcare company.
    Jeremy Hunt [] - in his previous role had deep connections with the Murdoch companies he regulated.

  • by CycleMan (638982) on Friday October 18, 2013 @01:05AM (#45161595)
    Both parent and grandparent are correct. Sovereign currency issuers can give away newly-printed money and tax receipts (other people's money). But if they give away too much "new" money too often, the result is to decrease the purchasing power of everyone else's money, so this too is taking away "other people's" money. One example is in American higher education: it has been shown that when federal tuition assistance increases, colleges raise tuition. So if you get the maximum federal aid possible, you still pay about the same as pre-aid programs, and if you don't, you're paying more than before. My alma mater does not turn out students twice as smart as a decade ago, though tuition has doubled over that timeframe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @01:33AM (#45161731)

    Title misleading, NHS is not free, every employee or employer pays for it via NICs (National Insurance Contributions []), actually the 'contribution' might be even higher then the commercial health insurance rate elsewhere.

  • by pjt33 (739471) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:00AM (#45162185)

    The direct quote in the summary talks about doubts over

    whether the NHS can continue to provide free health care for all patients

    The title says

    British NHS may soon no longer offer free care

    The person who transformed the first into the second has serious problems with either English or logic. "We may have to charge some patients" isn't the same as "We may have to charge all patients".

    Your reference to "discontinuing free care" is ambiguous, but without qualifiers is easier to interpret along the lines of the title rather than of reality.

  • by Uberbah (647458) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:38AM (#45162335)

    That's bull shit.

    Ah, the chutzpa of the American winger. Call bullshit, then spout off a bunch of nonsense that's nothing but bullshit.

    And free government health care ends up not covering many expensive treatments, so only the rich get care.

    Bullshit. If that were the case, you'd be rattling off how this single payer country doesn't cover cancer treatments, and that one doesn't cover organ transplants. You don't because you can't.

    In the United States, federal law requires hospitals to provide everyone life saving care whether or not you can afford it.

    Bullshit. They only have to get you healthy long enough to get out the door. And their bill collectors will hound you as long as they are legally allowed to and quite possibly past that as well.

    So what Democrats are pushing for would lead to only the rich getting care

    Which Democrats are those? Certainly not the ones in the White House or in Congress, since they are the right wingers who first killed the possibility of single payer, then traded away the public option to the hospital lobby, and finally passed the Heritage Foundation plan/Romneycare.

  • Daily Fail (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dogtanian (588974) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:29AM (#45162525) Homepage
    Well, the "Torygraph" link is one thing, but...

    Up to 1,200 needless deaths, patients abused, staff bullied to meet targets... yet a secret inquiry into failing hospital says no one's to blame []

    Yeah, I'm not saying that there's no some truth in there, but I'd want to get the story from a more trustworthy source than the blatantly partisan, fact-skewing, lying-by-omission, wouldn't-trust-them-as-far-as-I-could-throw-them Daily Mail.

  • by philipmather (864521) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:41AM (#45162571) Homepage Journal

    You want first hand expirience? Go and break/twist something whilst skiing in Austria, I had to ski off a glacier with a broken rib due to certain circumstance but if you have the option of forking out for a ski-do lift off you will, or worse if you need a helicopter out of there you can forget "choices". Obviously it's "choices" that got you there in the first place to an extent but as an illustration of how quickly a fit individual can instantly lose all freedom of choice via nothing but bad luck and random accidents you get the point.
    The care afterwards was epic BTW, I obviously had insurance so walked into one of the private medical clinics, in one hour I'd had a technician do three x-rays, a doctor check me over and then handed over to a nurse for a quick bandage up. Back out to reception and they'd almost instantly burnt my x-rays to a CD complete with program for viewing them, written up my prescription and compiled the bill. Everyone spoke at least passable English as well.
    I've had the flashing blue-light treatment back home via an NHS ambulance as well and whilst it was good and everyone was nice, competent and helpful they were no where near as efficient as the Austrians but there again they were free at the point of need and a general treatment A&E.
    On balance I'll pay my (considerable) taxes all day long to have the NHS there thank you very much.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:51AM (#45162607) Journal
    You might want to check the renewal terms. Prior to ACA, it was entirely legal to charge someone for insurance, then refuse to renew their insurance (or jack up the price to make it unaffordable) after the first year where they make claims for something that is likely to require ongoing treatment. And then they have a preexisting condition, so they couldn't get insurance from anyone else either.
  • by iserlohn (49556) on Friday October 18, 2013 @06:05AM (#45162907) Homepage

    The NHS is free at the point of delivery, or in different words, free in at the time of need - which is what the care in healthcare is all about.

    No-one said the NHS is free. Someone has to pay for it in the end. The beautiful thing about the NHS is that is you don't have to worry. You don't have to worry money when you are sick, or when you loved ones are sick. You don't have to worry about co-pays, or what this insurance covers and what it doesn't. You don't have to worry about dealing with insurance companies or with your company on healthcare coverage. And on top of that, if you want 'luxuries' like jumping the queue, or private en-suites, you can have that as well, by buying additional private cover.

    What you said about NI funding the NHS is not entirely true. Only a very small amount of NI actually ends up in the NHS. The NHS is funded by and large by general taxation. It is budgeted according to need and is relatively efficient - around 8% of GDP is spent on healthcare in the UK, half of what is spent in the US, while covering 100% of the population.

  • by iserlohn (49556) on Friday October 18, 2013 @09:38AM (#45164591) Homepage

    The NHS is funded by general taxation. If the government is insolvent, then it's not just the NHS that has a problem.

    On the other hand, it's unlikely the the UK will default on its debt any time soon. First of all, Parliament is actually functional, you can't have a group of legislators holding to population to ransom by refusing to fund government. This is because the government is formed by a majority in the House of Commons, any time a budgetary vote is lost, confidence in the government is lost, Parliament is dissolved, and new elections called.

    In any case, what you said doesn't make any sense whatsoever? What's going to go up? Your insurance premiums? There isn't any? Taxes? Well it funds a lot more than the NHS. You don't seem to have any concept of the political atmosphere in the UK do you? People in the UK are, by and large, happy to pay taxes to keep their health service public - even the conservative here tread very carefully, any government giving any indication that the NHS might be harmed will get kicked of office instantly.

  • by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <`vincent.jan.goh' `at' `'> on Friday October 18, 2013 @10:49AM (#45165539) Homepage

    Yes, they are. By and large, all of those stories ARE just rumours.

    Canadians aren't exactly clamouring to emulate the US system. The Canadian woman that appeared in Republican commercials trying to smear our system had a non-threatening disorder that she felt was more serious than it actually was. She wasn't being refused care because we didn't have the capacity, she was being put on a waiting list because she could afford to wait while other people that had more threatening problems were triaged up the chain first.

    We have waiting lists, yes. There are times where the system fails, yes. These are problems that every system tries to work out. But people here get care, and they get it without going bankrupt. The best case scenario in the Canadian system is that you get timely care with minimal cost. The average case is probably that you got reasonably timely care with a bit of wait, but still at minimum cost. Putting aside the worst case scenarios of death or misdiagnosis which are endemic in any system that involves humans--including the American system--you may have to wait a long time for care, but you're STILL not on the hook for any costs.

    Many of the best case scenarios in the USA seem to leave middle class people with great care but crippling bills. The rich get off scott free, the poor simply don't get any care at all (or emergency room care, which is too little, too late, for too much).

    I can understand not necessarily wanting the Canadian system. There are actually plenty of examples of even better systems in the world. But the fact remains that Canadian outcomes and costs are, objectively, better at lower cost. Life expectancy is higher here, infant mortality is lower.

    But the current American system? A failed experiment. Try something else.

  • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:44AM (#45166189)

    Do you have to worry when your currency is collapsing because of out of control costs? Or when the death panel decides that you aren't worth treating?

    There's a fine line between satire and actually being crazy... I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're being facetious, but given the rhetoric going back and forth in the US lately, I just can't let it go....

    In response to your first question -- Canada has had a publicly funded single-payer health care system for nearly 70 years. If it was going to make our economy collapse, it would have done so by now. More than that, in 2008 when *your* economy fell into the shitter, we didn't have *any* banks collapse, and for several years, our dollar was worth more than yours. Your dollar *still* isn't anywhere near recovering to where it was before the 2008 collapse -- 10 years ago, $1 CAD was worth about $0.65 USD. Today it's $0.98. Clearly, a publicly funded health care system will *not* make the currency collapse....

    In response to your first question -- "death panels" don't exist. Never have, and never will. The decision on what kind of treatment options to pursue is made by both the patient and the doctor together, and nobody is refused care under any circumstances. Whether that care is palliative or therapeutic will depend on the individual case: just like in the US, sometimes it's better for your quality of life to give you meds so you can breathe easily and not suffer pain than it is to put you through another round of chemotherapy. The sad reality is that medicine *can't* cure everything, and any doctor worth his salt will tell you when the chances are slim/non-existant and give you the choice in how to proceed.

Everybody likes a kidder, but nobody lends him money. -- Arthur Miller