PJ Media

The U.S. Should Be More Like ... Great Britain?

Just when the U.S. government launches a health care takeover against the will of the people, Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is scaling back. While the U.S. shifts towards nationalizing health care, the UK’s new government coalition announced plans to decentralize the NHS and move towards more privatization.

Last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed huge spending cuts to the health care system. And, just days ago, he announced even more cuts.

One of the biggest changes coming to the British health care system is a plan to transfer power from bureaucrats to doctors and patients — the opposite of the ObamaCare plan. Essentially, the NHS will scrap its top-down system of health care and give money to general practitioners, allowing them to buy services from hospitals and health service providers.

The NHS plans to give hospitals the freedom to privatize, and will remove the revenue cap on private patients. The British government believes that shifting control to the patient/doctor level, and allowing for more privatization, will increase health care quality while lowering costs. These ideas are in direct opposition to the opinion of Democrats in the U.S.

British officials are also eliminating the financial managers who determine how the NHS spends their budget. Instead, they’ll turn to doctors for decisions on how the $159 billion budget will be spent. This shift would eliminate layers of bureaucracy and reduce management costs by 45%. Officials estimate a savings of $30 billion to the health care budget by 2014. The saved $30 billion will go back into the private sector.

While the British government plans to place health care decisions in the hands of the people, the U.S. government is moving in the opposite direction. ObamaCare shifts power from the patient/doctor level with the establishment of more bureaucracy, like the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Under ObamaCare, the IPAB has the authority to make Medicare spending decisions, and to turn those decisions into law without congressional approval.

Contrary to British findings, U.S. Democrats insist that more government involvement will reduce health care costs. But the UK’s nationalized health care spending rose at a higher rate than the increases seen in the U.S. privatized system. Britons spent three times more on health care last year than in 1997 — a significantly higher percentage than the increase seen in the United States between 1997 and 2009.

Consistent with the British evaluation that health care spending increases more with socialized medicine, the latest estimate is that ObamaCare will increase health care costs by an extra $310 billion in the first 10 years. Health care costs under the Democrats’ plan are projected to represent a higher percentage of GDP than pre-ObamaCare projections.

Health care is not the only industry in Great Britain receiving a scaled back makeover. Determined not to become the next Greece, the British government is looking to cut $130 billion from its budget over the next five years. Industries receiving cuts range from government regulatory agencies to the arts.

While British officials are taking the necessary steps for deficit reduction, pledges to reduce the United States’ $13 trillion debt have amounted to empty promises. With Obama’s approval rating plummeting, discretionary spending cuts could destroy what little support he has left — unions and leftist radicals don’t appreciate decreases in government spending.

In the UK, the government is moving ahead with budget reductions regardless of opposition. Some in the British media have already started a full force fear-mongering campaign. They are warning Britons that spending cuts will cause playgrounds to be scrapped and theaters to go dark, and that the Supreme Court may not be able to function.  Some are even predicting near-apocalyptic conditions where charities could collapse, the military may be less effective in fighting al-Qaeda, and families could become homeless.

It’s no surprise that unions are the biggest opponents to British spending cuts. But public opinion is turning on UK unions.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “private-sector workers have less sympathy than ever for the grievances of their public-sector counterparts, who are being paid more taxpayer pounds for doing increasingly less, while threatening country-stopping strikes in face of government cuts.”

Unfortunately, the campaign funding by U.S. unions has Democrats paralyzed with regards to cutting public spending.

Although the United States was founded on the principles of liberty and limited government, those principles seem to be embraced more by the new UK government. It’s ironic that those who came before us fought and died for freedom from the British, but 234 years later it’s the U.S. government that should take a cue from Great Britain on the lessons of liberty.