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UK Socialist Health System Proposes Surgery Ban for Obese and Smokers

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In the late 19th century, great American novelist and freedom-lover Mark Twain is said to have told a British audience that rumors of his demise had been greatly exaggerated. Although this is a misquote, it certainly fit his image as a wry and witty wordsmith.

It is also the kind of sentiment that contemporary British leftists might employ to gloss over the fact that their stodgy old National Health System (NHS) is in complete bankruptcy and utter operational collapse.

As MRCTV noted in May, the 1940s darling of utopian socialism, the NHS, is now £2.5 billion in the hole, rife with long waiting periods for elective surgeries, and as of May, it has begun instituting even more draconian cuts in services to try to stop the hemorrhage of cash. The situation is so bad that a life-saving cancer drug that is being called a “miracle cure” will not be provided by the NHS because the NHS is out of dough.

On the heels of that news, we now have a headline that has caused a stir being heard all the way across the pond. According to the BBC, the Vale of York subsection of the NHS has proposed a new “cost-cutting” policy of refusing to perform elective surgeries on obese patients and smokers.

According to the report, the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group of the NHS recently proposed a rule that would allow the regional NHS group to deny surgery to anyone who was officially considered “obese” (having a body mass index over 30). If, within a year, the patient had shed 10 percent of that weight, then the decision could be reconsidered.

For smokers, the York mandate would force them to quit, or else see a delay of at least six months.

Ah, collectivism. Politicians say it will help everyone, but when the expenses grow, the cutbacks and rancor begin, even as the system continues to take everyone’s money.

As one might expect, this proposal in York caused some outrage. Since the classification “obese” currently applies to a quarter of the U.K. population (and is a slippery, adjustable term based on chimeric BMI numbers, not fat, weight, or cardio-vascular status), more than a few York area residents voiced opposition to the idea. After all, they’re being taxed every day to support the NHS, yet, despite the cash they shell out, they can be denied surgeries, and denied based on arbitrary BMI codes created by government bureaucrats.

Hearing the chorus of opposition to the proposal, the heads of the NHS stepped in, and now, it will be “reviewed.” But one can see the writing on the wall.

The NHS is broke. Its bureaucrats and the politicians and citizens who support it appear desperate to hide the truth that a collectivist system does not have the capability to cut costs through productivity gains and competition. By its nature, it is supposed to serve “everyone equally,” which means it inspires demand disconnected from the costs to patients. There is only one trend for a system like this. Costs rise. When costs rise, the system managers attempt to cut costs by cutting payments to doctors and/or cutting services. They try to hide this as much as possible, but the cuts are inevitable. As a result, an NHS spokesperson responded to the uproar over the York proposal and subsequent review by higher-ups with this cheery, yet forbidding statement:

Reducing obesity and cutting smoking not only benefits patients, but saves the NHS and taxpayers millions of pounds. This does not and cannot mean blanket bans on particular patients such as smokers getting operations, which would be inconsistent with the NHS constitution.

Despite the reassuring latter half of the statement, the first sentence is the key. The only way a collectivist health system cuts smoking or obesity rates is by using force. It forces people to pay for the system; it forces people to pay for anti-smoking ads and anti-obesity campaigns, and it forces people to adjust their behavior or else face consequences such as those proposed by the Vale of York NHS gang.

Markets actually incentivize individuals, individuals who choose -- freely choose -- their health coverage from a market of competitive health insurers and medical providers. These market participants compete to lower costs and beat their rivals. Government systems don’t have to compete, they merely take and mandate.

Welcome to utopia. Please take a number and wait.

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