Government in charge of your health care is government in charge of your life.

Posted on December 19, 2010

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

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Well surprise, surprise.

The old adage of “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile,” holds true when speaking of government-run health care, at least it does in the United Kingdom.  It seems that if the British government covers a certain procedure (instead of a private insurance company),  it isn’t going to come free, and it will come with strings attached.

This story from the UK, where they have the National Health Service (NHS), is a case in point.  In what’s described as an attempt to lower patient waiting times for some (and annual costs for the government), the NHS is has outlined plans that push smokers and overweight patients off waiting lists for surgical procedures until they complete certain government programs addressing these pre-existing health concerns:

Under the plans drawn up by NHS bureaucrats in Kent, any smoker referred for “non-urgent” operations – such as hip replacements or cataract surgery – will not be allowed to join the queue until they have either given up smoking, or completed a 12-week course to help them ditch the habit.

Those who are seriously overweight will also be denied a range of operations until they have completed a three-month NHS diet programme.

Although every patient has a legal right to be treated in 18 weeks of being referred for treatment by their GP, the protocols agreed mean different rules could be applied for anyone with a body mass index of more than 30, or those who smoke.

Mrs Murphy said: “This is a clear way to keep these patients off the lists in order to cut costs, while the PCT can officially claim its waiting times have not lengthened.”

While the author is upset that the waiting times for those smoking and overweight patients may be extended by a number of months, the bigger issue not being addressed is that when you cede some control over your private life to government, the government won’t necessarily limit itself to what you’ve given over, but will instead try to expand its control because government is the one footing the majority of the bill.

The NHS claims the policies are justified because evidence shows a shorter and smoother recovery if these conditions are addressed first. But this is just a convenient excuse for the government to try to impose its desires upon a patient to change their lifestyle.  After all, weight reduction and smoking cessation programs are already available for those wanting to give them a try voluntarily.  Under these new guidelines, these programs would become mandatory.    It doesn’t matter if the patient has paid the requisite taxes. Now, additional requirements will be added in attempts to control a person’s behavior.   

It might just not stop with smokers and the overweight, either.  Policies like this could easily be expanded to deny procedures to people who drink too much alcohol, use illicit drugs, or are deemed not fit enough (anyone else thinking of the required daily exercises in Orwell’s 1984?).

Contrarily, a private insurance company wouldn’t deny someone a surgical procedure because they’re smoking a pack a day or are 20 pounds overweight, especially when the procedure isn’t even related to the “vice.”   Would an elderly smoker be denied a hip replacement until he stopped smoking? No, of course not.

Instead, smokers and others who participate in unhealthy habits are required to pay more in their premiums to offset the risk of related health ailments from these behaviors.  In this case it’s the person’s CHOICE to engage in that unhealthy behavior (and pay the extra cost), and conversely, they have the choice to try to stop the behavior if they wish.  In this instance, it’s up to the individual to be responsible for their own actions and the consequences that arise from them, the government has no say in the matter.

But in the nanny state of the UK, where everyone’s covered for “free,” the government knows best and they have no compunctions about forcing people to do the right thing whether they want to or not. 

Posted in: Britain