The Horrors of Socialized Health Care

Imagine a modern, first-world country where there is such a shortage of dental care that patients are reduced to pulling their own rotting teeth. This country is the United Kingdom—where ordinary citizens encounter primitive and barbaric dental care practices and experience nightmarish ordeals.

You’re probably wondering how can this be? Before we explain, please read one Scottish man’s horrifying account of dental care in Scotland.

As you read the horrors that this Scottish citizen is going through, please remember that this is a national phenomenon he is describing. See for example this news account.

The United Kingdom provides public, socialized dental care. Socialized care creates shortages and reduces both quality and the rate of innovation.

One of the most basic principles of economics is that if you reduce the price of an item or service below its market price, a shortage of that item is created. In health care, we see this phenomenon in the emergency rooms of hospitals. It is commonplace for patients who are not paying for their care to show-up in emergency rooms with illnesses that do not require emergency medical attention and frequently do not require any medical attention at all. You can wait a long time in an emergency room—there is a shortage of emergency room services.

In the United Kingdom, teeth are still routinely filled with poisonous mercury amalgams. To a citizen of the United Kingdom, innovations, like laser dentistry or one-step dental implants, would be possible only in a science fiction story.

As I read accounts of United Kingdom dental care, I felt compassion for those who go without basic necessities. Be it food, shelter, or medical care, there are still too many deprivations all over the world.

The economically illiterate believe these deprivations can be solved with more government involvement. As I read accounts of UK citizens queuing-up for substandard dental care, I remembered accounts of citizens in the former Soviet Union queuing-up for substandard food.

I thought of our own socialized educational system. We usually don’t think of it as socialized—instead, we call it public education. But the same principles operate. We pay through the tax system and then, except if you are fortunate enough to have extra income to buy your child private education, you’re forced to use the public school no matter how low the quality is.

Consider inner-city families whose public school doesn’t even provide a basic level of safety for the children. Telling the parents that they should send their children to private schools is an inconceivable possibility.

Similarly, for poor or middle class United Kingdom citizens, private dental care is just not possible. The gentleman whose account you read earlier is clearly thoughtful and caring. I have exchanged views with him on his blog and on my own. Despite all of the suffering that he is experiencing, he still seems to believe that the failures of socialized care are due to to failures in implementation. He does not see that the failure of socialized care is due to a faulty concept.

This is not unlike the former Soviet Union, where the answer to their food problems was always a new five-year plan. It is not unlike the United States, where the answer for the failures of the public schools is always seen to be more money.

In this rush toward socialized services, many imagine that they will get top-notch care while paying less than they do right now. Nothing is further from the truth. For most, the “price” will go up in many ways—new taxes to fund a new healthcare bureaucracy, shortages of services, stagnation of innovation, and reduced quality of care.

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12 Responses to The Horrors of Socialized Health Care

  1. prospectus says:

    The problem is a lack of socialized healthcare. The cutbacks in the socialized system over the past 20 years and the creeping privatization of healthcare are the reason the people are treating themselves. If there was a socialized dental system as there used to be in the UK, it wouldn’t be happening – and it didn’t until socialized dental care became unavailable.

  2. prospectus says:

    I think you might not realize that private treatment is available in the UK. It is, though. For those lucky enough to be able to afford it, they can go private.

  3. My piece points out that “lack” is an inherent feature of the socialized system.

    I do realize that private care is available in the UK. As I point out saying so is of little consolation for those who can’t afford it. As I mention there are private schools in the US but most can’t afford those either.

  4. prospectus says:

    “My piece points out that “lack” is an inherent feature of the socialized system.”

    However, it is only a recent feature of the socialized system in Britain. It is because Britain is turning away from socialized medicine, not because of its existence.

  5. I’m not sure what you mean by “turning away”. I don’t think that you are claiming that the UK is spending less on health care? One news story says that “Annual expenditure will soar from a massive $180 billion this year to $220 billion by 2010.”

    You must then mean that those who have money are turning away. What else would we expect? Similarly in the U.S. those who have the ability to pay are turning to private schools.

    The problems I wrote about are not limited to dental care. How about hospitals. “A recent independent report cites staff who didn’t wash their hands, contaminated bedpans, uncleaned beds, blood splattered walls, puddles of urine and a lot more.” See
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/10/19/london/main3386222.shtml

  6. prospectus says:

    By turning away from socialized dental care, I meant that dental work in the National Health Service no longer exists for the most part. If you want it done, you get it done privately. If you can’t afford it, you don’t get it. Quite a nice free market system.

    As for the filth in some hospitals – again, the market cannot wash its hands (pardon the pun). When my mother was a nurse, cleaning staff were part of the hospital staff, and accountable to the nurses and matrons (as they were then known). Now they are sub-contractors, brought in because they offer the cheapest rates – often by employing low paid and very badly trained staff, with predictable results . That is free market competition in action, not socialized medicine.

  7. It looks like we are viewing the same facts through a different lens and there will be no meeting of minds.

    Saying it “no longer exists for the most part” would be welcome news to UK citizens if they could get a tax refund for the money they paid to fund it.

    What you describe–shortages and filth are not outcomes of free-markets but are outcomes of interferences in the free-market.

    When I order up a shirt from a catalog company such as L.L. Bean I expect good value for my money. If L.L. Bean violates my trust I go elsewhere. With NHS you can’t go elsewhere except if you have the money to do so.

  8. prospectus says:

    Exactly as with L.L. Bean. According to the figures I can find, in the USA around 15.2% can’t afford (ok, possibly some can but choose not) to go elsewhere for healthcare.

    The positive side in the UK, though, is that people don’t lose their homes to pay for medical treatment, and there isn’t the situation there is in the US, with around one in six having no health insurance cover because they can’t afford it.

    Anyway, perhaps we’ll never agree, as you say, so before I leave it at that, can I just add that I’m using the two countries as case studies, not bashing anyone.

  9. Bob Gast says:

    In following this thread (an intersting one I might add), I wanted to suggest that a key factor that drives the cost of health care that “prospectus” refers to is the current regulatory environment of health insurance and medical licensing (controlled by the AMA). Of course, we all know that cost and affordability is a problem. Innovation fueled by free market capitalism historically has always provided the solution to unsolvable problems. And yes, new problems are created that need to be solved thru further innovation. This is the chain of progress and advancement that we have witnessed since capitalism became a practiced and sustained economic system in the last century or so.

    However capitalism cannot exist without the principle of self-responsibility. Too often, people confuse greed or mis-conduct with the principle of free market capitalism. Moreover, the transfer of individual responsibility for choices has been largely transferred to the government in such a manner as to preclude the market from functioning properly. This has created a pyramid scheme that results in higher costs and taxes, less innovation and less choice for consumers and protects service provders from less than quality offerings in the market.

    As currently constructed the regulatory and licensing environment of health care, act to monopolize the supply and entry of innovators into the market. When the public’s right to make choices and be responsible for those choices is taken away and in it’s place we have a “big brother” approach that determines what our choices can be we do not have free market in the first place. In fact, a case can be made that “big brother” is preserving the monetary interests of the health providers rather than the overall populace in it’s approach to regulation. Therefore, it is a little bit of a straw man to look at the current environment and say the free market is not working.

    Bob G.

  10. prospectus says:

    Last post from me, then I’ll leave you to it.

    “Therefore, it is a little bit of a straw man to look at the current environment and say the free market is not working.”

    In a sense, yes. But I don’t believe that the ideal free market can ever exist. It’s also very simplistic (if not disingenuous) to use MRSA and lack of access to socialized medicine as an argument to say that socialized medicine isn’t working.

  11. k c bhatt says:

    The situation seems to be bad for people with dental problems, which could be avoided in most cases by peoper cleaning, in the first place.
    Interesting site sir.

  12. Timothy says:

    If I was a young Brit who either had (a) capital, (b) a desired skill-set or (c) great education, why stay in the UK? With a substandard social health/dental netowrk, high taxes, and political correctness, why stay? If you see unchecked immigration and massive hate speech from the imams, why stay?

    I’d leave.

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