In the medical world, little news is worse than the C- family or a close friend, a cancer diagnosis turns your world upside down. Lots of uncertainties create fear and anxiety, from treatment options to outright survival.
It’s no different for the powerful, the connected, such as a U.S. Senator. Recently our Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet announced that he has prostate cancer and had surgery in April. He is tentatively planning on adding his name to the growing list of potential Democrat nominees to challenge President Trump in 2020 but is deferring a final decision based on how his cancer surgery went and whether he is cancer-free after treatment.
Many of his colleagues running for president support Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan, a single payer government run system. Bennet suggests an alternative, Medicare-X, which allows those with few “Obamacare” options to buy into Medicare by choice, not by mandate, a reasonable proposal which I have written about previously.
Fortunately, the Senator has excellent insurance through Congress, an option not available to the general public. He will have the choice of receiving cancer care at many excellent medical centers, whether he stays in Colorado or chooses one of the renowned cancer centers elsewhere in the country. How would the Senator, or anyone else for that matter, fare under a Medicare-for-All plan that most Democrat presidential candidates want to implement?
Look across the pond at the United Kingdom which has its own single-payer government-run medical system. A Forbes article recently examined their system, and the prospects for a cancer patient are not all that promising.
Start with the wait lists, quite normal with government-run health care. A quarter of a million British patients have been waiting more than six months for planned medical treatment under the U.K.’s National Health Service, with more than 36,000 waiting longer than nine months.
Some medical conditions can wait while others like cancer cannot. In the U.K., 25 percent of cancer patients don’t start their treatment on time, the worst performance since they began tracking this data 10 years ago. “On time” doesn’t mean tomorrow, instead it means within 62 days after referral. I’m sure Bennet would not want to wait until June to address his prostate cancer.
After waiting for treatment, what are the long-term results in the U.K. versus the U.S.? For prostate cancer, the five-year survival rate is 97 percent in America versus only 89 percent in the U.K. How many of those 8 percent would have survived with more timely diagnosis and treatment?
Another downside of Medicare-for-All is the elimination of private insurance when it competes with the public plan. It would truly be a government-run system for everybody. Interestingly in the U.K., private insurance is available, as is a robust private health care sector outside of and as an alternative to the government-run scheme, at least for those who choose and can afford private insurance.
Not so under the plan proposed by Sanders and supported by many of the Democrat presidential wannabes. It’s likely that members of Congress would exempt themselves from any system they force their constituents to live under, as is the pattern with much of their legislation.
It would be enlightening to hear Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or any of the other Democrat candidates explain how their colleague Bennet would fare with his cancer diagnosis under the health care plan they propose to push on all Americans if they make it to the White House.
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