Why Nationalized HealthCare is Wrong for Gunner

 
 

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Right now, Gunner can see his specialists and get tests performed at Children’s National at any time on a moment’s notice. If he is coughing, wheezing, or acting unlike himself, twe can call a 24-hour hotline to speak with the specialist on call and decide if we need to increase his breathing treatments, get a blood test taken, etc.


Since being diagnosed 3 months ago, we have spent hours at the doctor’s office and on the phone with CF nurses and doctors. Having the ability to see his specialists at a moment’s notice is helping to diagnose and correct problems immediately instead of waiting months. Access to CF specialists has been key in keeping Gunner healthy and helping him gain weight.


As any CF specialist will tell you, the lifespan for CF patients has increased dramatically in recent years because diagnosis is earlier and treatment can start sometimes immediately after birth. The earlier you can detect CF and start aggressively treating the disease, even if no symptoms are present, the longer you live.


How Nationalized HealthCare Would Hurt Gunner


  1. 1)Access to CF nurses and doctors would be limited because of funding issues and long wait lines, delaying treatments which  expand the life of CF patients

  2. 2)Access to life-saving drugs and tests would be limited by funding, when government funding runs out, drugs and tests are cut

  3. 3)A government-appointed committee would control healthcare decisions not doctors. This will hurt patients because the  government committee will be concerned about finances not individual patients.


After Gunner’s positive diagnosis in March, we started researching what a nationalized healthcare plan would do for Gunner and his CF treatment by looking specifically at the government run healthcare system of the United Kingdom.


What we found was alarming.








 

Nationalized HealthCare in Britain and Ireland


As you now know, the therapies needed to maintain a good quality of life for cystic fibrosis patients often are specialized and prolonged. Britain and Ireland both employ publicly funded health-care systems, respectively the National Health Service (NHS) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).


But these nationalized healthcare systems are finding problems to effectively treat all of their citizens. Throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, where high percentages of CF patients reside, the effectiveness of healthcare systems has been lacking.


HealthCare systems that are failing CF patients...


A recent article in the Irish Times lambasted the Irish government for “failing in their duty to care to vulnerable citizens” and calling it a “public scandal.” The article cites the lack of facilities and life expectancy rate, which is 10 years less than counterpart CF patients in the U.K. or the U.S. Read more.


In Britain, the situation is not any better. A recent study conducted by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust compiled a whole plethora of problems concerning the British NHS. The BBC reported that “all of the U.K.’s specialist CF centers were under-funded, with many-short staffed.” In addition, they reported:


  1.     None of the 38 specialist CF centers received sufficient funding to provide recommended  levels of care for patients.

  2.     Only 9 were able to employ even a half of the staff they needed – with one saying they have funding only to employ 8% of the required staff.

  3.     More than 30% of the patients surveyed reported difficulties in obtaining vital drugs and therapies.


To read the full report, click this link.


In a 2004 article published by the British Journal of Nursing (Vol. 13 #5), a survey found that that CF patients in some parts of the country were being denied adequate treatment and were being affected by a shortage of specialist nurses:


  1.    Nearly 66% of the CF nurses had seen evidence of treatments “denied on grounds of cost” and “nearly a quarter of those claimed that this happens very often.”


  1.    Even though the Cystic Fibrosis Trust suggested that there be one nurse specialist for every 50 CF patients, in reality the actual ratio is “closer to 1:100.”


To further complicate matters, the U.K. is suffering from a shortage of lung specialists that can help diagnose and treat serious illnesses like CF, emphysema, and lung cancer. The BBC reported that the shortage means that “many patients suspected of having lung cancer are seen by more general physicians.” And although general care is not necessarily bad, a lung specialist would be more up to date on the latest treatments and technology to help a patient. This has two implications:


  1.    Wait lines are longer than the government has promised; some patients wait up to 4 months to start courses of treatment.


•    1 in 20 lung cancer patient survives past 5 years in the UK compared to 1 in 10 in the U.S.


To read the full article, click this link


These examples mean a lower quality of care and thus life-expectancy for CF patients in the U.K. and Ireland and show a need to reform their healthcare system in a different way. So why is the U.S. trying to adapt a similar system?


While U.S. HealthCare may not be perfect...


While America’s healthcare system may not be perfect, we can look at examples in the world of where ineffective and bloated healthcare systems have spiraled costs and jeopardized the lives of patients by providin low quality care – or outright denying it:


  1. Rosie Barnes, chief executive of the U.K. Cystic Fibrosis Trust, writes in one editorial that due to pressure on NHS finances, “some people have not had access to specialist CF dietitians” and instead have to see general dietitians “better trained to tackle obesity.”


  1. In New Zealand, where healthcare is publicly funded, an article called “Health Authorities Debate High Cost of High-Tech Care” showed how a 25-year old woman with CF was criticized as “health budgets buckled under increasing demands” – costing NZ$13,000 a week.


  1. A family whose daughter has an incurable brain disorder and needs intensive treatment, fought desperately to keep her on a ventilator. Her fate will soon be decided by the NHS Trust. “We believe it is about money. Amber costs money  at the end of the day,” said her mother. Read more.

  2. A couple in the U.K. was denied “life-sustaining treatment” for their baby son that suffered from brain damage, respiratory failure, and a rare metabolic disorder. His parents argued that “[His doctors] think his life intolerable and that his disability is such that his life has little purpose.” A judge refused the couple’s permission to challenge the decision and they cannot appeal. Read more.


  1. Bill Murray, 57, of Alberta, Canada had to wait more than a year to see a specialist for his arthritic hip. But once his specialist told him that replacing his hip would be the best treatment, the government denied him on grounds that he was “too old” to enjoy the benefits of the procedure. Read more.


  1. Eric Rutherford, 61, suffers from a rare cancer called Myeloma and needs dialysis every week. He and his wife fought for a life-saving drug called Lenalidomide that they were not sure that NHS would fund. Eventually NHS did, but at the expense of cutting services for other patients that needed care – including those with chronic diseases. Read more.


In nationalized healthcare systems, patients end up losing adequate healthcare. Their families effectively are powerless to help them. To read more stories like these which highlight failings of so-called “universal” coverage visit this page.


Nationalization is not the way to go...


In the end, no health care system is perfect, but one must clearly see that going to an universal healthcare system will be detrimental and costly for Americans suffering from chronic illnesses such as cystic fibrosis.