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It’s Not Just Obamacare–Healthcare Systems Are Failing Everywhere

Politics / Healthcare Sector Sep 28, 2016 - 04:33 PM GMT

By: John_Mauldin

Politics

BY PATRICK COX : I’ve talked to many Canadian tourists who tell me that they’re having some medical procedure done while in the States. This is because the wait can be so long back home. As an uncouth American with borderline Tourette’s, I like to point out that their government health care doesn’t seem like such a utopian system after all. This typically provokes a defense of the Canada Health Act of 1984.


Back home, though, Canadians seem far more critical of the system. If you follow the internal Canadian debate, you’ll hear the word “crisis.” In fact, many Canadian healthcare economists warn that their system is headed for a major collapse. The aging population has continued to stress an already fragile system. This is the same system that many proponents of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, pointed to as a model.

Another model of national health care cited by fans of the ACA is the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Like the Canadian system, there seems to be one attitude for export and another for domestic consumption. You may recall the odd tribute to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. The NHS was portrayed as a sea of Mary Poppins bliss. At home, though, Brits had reason to complain. The UK was rated as having the worst patient care and lowest cancer survival rates in the Western World.

The NHS is in even worse shape now, and complaints are growing louder. According to the committee that represents UK hospitals, the NHS is on the verge of collapse. The former health minister Paul Burstow warned of this outcome two years ago. At the time, increases in the NIH budget were limited to the rate of inflation. But that did not allow for the increased cost of a growing elderly population. The NIH effort to find £30 billion in “efficiency savings” was already putting enormous strains on the system.

When a healthcare system is overloaded, it’s not just the aged who suffer. A Lancashire man operated on himself when he was put on a long waitlist for a surgery that he badly needed. With waitlists growing, the Royal College of Surgeons reports that financially challenged clinical groups are denying services to patients who are obese or smoke. Often, delayed treatment will increase medical costs in the long run.  

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the Affordable Care Act, which was inspired by the Canadian and British systems, is in deep trouble. Though I predicted it, it is worrisome when the act’s biggest supporters, including The New York Times, admit the program’s flaws.

The growing aged population is a huge financial burden

Obamacare doesn’t deal with the real source of rising healthcare costs: the increase in age-related diseases due to a growing elderly population. It is mathematically impossible to cut societal medical costs while at the same time providing adequate healthcare to a growing and increasingly expensive older population.

This is not just a problem with health care. Social Security and pension funds are running deficits, which will also worsen. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently said that he has lost the optimism that he has long been known for. The reason is that “we have a 9 percent annual rate of increase in entitlements, which is mandated by law.  It has got nothing to do with the economy. It has got to do with age and health and the like.”

Greenspan points out that politicians refuse to deal with the “third rail” of entitlements. I agree, but I think there’s a solution. Politicians claim that voters won’t accept delayed retirement. But the evidence shows that most people would like to work longer and save more to pay their own way. Zoya Financial reports that almost two thirds of Americans have to retire earlier than planned, largely due to problems with their own health or a spouse’s.

Anti-aging biotechnologies are in labs right now that could lengthen health spans and working careers. This would allow us to save our entitlement systems. But economists and politicians still have no clue about the biotechnological progress that has marked the start of the 21st century. This will change because it must… but I hope it happens soon.

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