In the United Kingdom, like many other parts of the world, public health care is the norm. In the United States, opponents of health insurance reform here often point to the UK's system as flawed and spread nightmare stories about waiting lists, rationed care and other problems. Click here for our health care tool kit, featuring fact sheets, links and other useful information.
But are those allegations true? Leading UK newspaper The Guardian today published an article featuring interviews with some of Britain's health care workers to address the topics. Click here for the entire article. Here are some highlights:
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley has claimed that U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, 77, would not be treated for his brain tumor if he was in Britain because he is too old.
The newspaper reports that this is just not true, according to Britain's Department of Health. "There is no ban on anyone of any age receiving any treatment," said a spokesman. "Whether to prescribe drugs or recommend surgery is rightly a clinical decision taken on a case by case basis."
An e-mail circulating in the U.S. claims that in England, anyone over 59 years old cannot receive heart repairs, stents or bypass because it is not covered as being too expensive and not needed. The Guardian reports that this is totally untrue.
"Growing numbers of patients over 65 with heart conditions are having surgery, including valve repairs and heart bypass surgery," says Professor Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation's (BHF) medical director. For example, the average age at which people have a bypass operation has risen from 58 in 1991 to 66 in 2008.
San Francisco-based thinktank Pacific Research Institute has been saying that in Britain, breast cancer kills 46 percent of patients, compared with 25 percent in the U.S. They claim prostate cancer kills 57 percent of the Britons it strikes, compared with 25 percent of American victims; and that Britain's heart attack fatality rate was 19.5 percent higher than America's in 2005.
Breast cancer does claim more lives, proportionally, in the U.K. than in the U.S., but no where near the difference some claim, according to the 2002 database run by the World Health Organisation's cancer advisers. For example, 19.2 of every 100,000 Americans die of breast cancer disease, compared to 24 percent in Britain. With heart attacks, 40 percent of Britons who suffer one die from it compared to 38 percent in the States.
The National Center for Policy Analysis claims that the British health care system is infamous for denying state-of-the-art drugs to cancer patients. But the newspaper quotes government officials as saying that's not accurate and the system is constantly being reviewed for improvements. "The vast majority of new cancer drugs are made available to patients with notable exceptions, such as the likely rejection of several new kidney cancer drugs," said Allirajah of Macmillan Cancer Support. "However, the Nice process does need reforming to ensure decisions are made more quickly and patients' quality of life is taken more into account."