December 1, 2009
"These delays in the patient presenting with symptoms and cancer being diagnosed at a late stage inevitably costs lives. This situation is unacceptable..."
- Britain's National Cancer Director Professor Mike Richards,
quoted in BBC News article discussing government-run health care in the U.K.
While Democrats claim their government takeover of health care would improve care and lower costs, recent reports from both sides of the Atlantic have reinforced the message that government-run health care results in delays in both screening and treatment that can prove costly-even deadly:
- The "cancer czar" for Britain's National Health Service (NHS) recently admitted that failure to detect early-stage cancers costs up to 10,000 lives per year in Britain. This "unacceptable" situation stems largely from the fact that over 90 percent of patients are diagnosed with cancer due to the onset of symptoms, rather than early detection and screening.
- An official NHS analysis of cancer outcomes demonstrates that of the "big four" cancers-breast, colon, lung, and prostate-England's government-run health plan significantly lags behind other European nations. And those European outcomes themselves significantly lag American standards: A Lancet Oncology article published in September 2007 revealed that for 10 of 16 specific cancers, American patients had statistically better outcomes than their European counterparts.
- This week's NHS reports follow on a June study outlining how up to 15,000 lives could be saved every year if patients in Britain's National Health Service received the same quality care that patients in the United States obtain. For instance, one woman noted that her 74-year-old mother had to travel overseas to receive a proper diagnosis: "It was only when she went back to visit family in Iran and saw a doctor there that she was diagnosed. They did a scan and found a large lump in her fallopian tube. When she came back to the UK, doctors found the cancer had spread to one of her lymph glands. It was the size of a tennis ball. She then had a six-week wait before having a hysterectomy and then chemo."
Given the dynamic in Britain-where even a country famous for its "rationing watchdog" the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published a report advocating for more cancer screening-many may question why American bureaucrats on the United States Preventive Services Task Force have publicly advocated for a less aggressive approach to breast cancer screening. Some may ask questions about whether this strategy will lead to the kind of cancer outcomes currently plaguing government-run health care in Great Britain-and why Democrats want to empower this board of unaccountable bureaucrats with the ability to determine what "acceptable" treatments should be covered by health insurance.
For additional information, contact:
The House Republican Conference Policy Office