The Joy of Government-Run Healthcare: The UK’s Gilded Bureaucrats and Dying Patients [It’s already happening in America IE: When in the hospital your family Dr. is out of the Picture! Lots of older people leave under Hospice Care] [Not saying that Hospice Care isn’t the Best in the final days]

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                                July 4, 2012
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The Joy of Government-Run Healthcare: The UK’s Gilded Bureaucrats and Dying Patients

By Daniel J. Mitchell

7/4/2012

I’m not sure whether this is a post about America’s dismal future if Obamacare is allowed to take root or whether this is a post about bureaucrats ripping off taxpayers.

But I do know that it shows that the insiders take care of themselves quite nicely when the government seizes more control of a nation’s healthcare sector.

Here’s a report from the UK-based Telegraph about how bureaucrats at a Scottish branch of the National Health Service are bilking taxpayers.

National Procurement, a branch of the NHS National Services Division, arranged for staff who are deemed to be “regular users” of cars for business to get the cars through a taxpayer-backed vehicle-leasing scheme. …Figures provided by National Procurement in response to a Freedom of Information request showed that…one in eight members of staff, had used the 4x4s and convertibles to drive to work. Much of the insurance, petrol, road tax and leasing is funded by the state.

And we’re not talking cheap automobiles. Keep in mind, when you read this next passage, that £25,000 is almost $40,000.

One employee was leased a £27,000 Mercedes, while three other workers have been driving £23,000 S-line Audi A3 sports cars. Another employee received a £28,300 Audi TT. Since the beginning of this year, five new cars have been leased to staff, including a four-door BMW worth more than £30,500. Other leased vehicles include another Audi sports car worth more than £25,000 and three Range Rover Evoques costing up to £29,500.

So how do they work this scam? Simple, they take needless trips.

…staff have had to clock up a minimum of 5000 business miles during office hours to qualify for the scheme. …A department source told the Herald newspaper that some members of staff were using their leased cars for 80-mile round trips between National Procurement’s two offices, in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, and South Gyle in Edinburgh, even though there are adequate video conferencing facilities at both locations.

One hopes that this scandal in a Scottish branch is an exception and that most bureaucrats don’t behave in a similarly reprehensible fashion.

But given the bloated size of the National Health Service bureaucracy, it’s more likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is an entitlement culture in most government bureaucracies, and I would be shocked in the paper pushers and memo writers hadn’t figured out how to manipulate the system

And since there are more than 1.6 million of them, the magnitude of the fraud is presumably enormous.

The obvious follow-up question is whether taxpayers in the United Kingdom are getting some good value from this army of cosseted bureaucrats?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here are some chilling excerpts from a story in the Daily Mail.

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday. Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia… There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP. Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

Here are a couple of horrifying examples.

Professor Pullicino revealed he had personally intervened to take a patient off the LCP who went on to be successfully treated. He said this showed that claims they had hours or days left are ‘palpably false’. In the example he revealed a 71-year-old who was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy was put on the LCP by a covering doctor on a weekend shift. Professor Pullicino said he had returned to work after a weekend to find the patient unresponsive and his family upset because they had not agreed to place him on the LCP. ‘I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,’ he said. ‘His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family,’ he said.

In other words, government-run healthcare in the United Kingdom is a great scam if you’re an insider. But not such a good deal if you’re someone who needs, well, healthcare.

Sort of makes you wonder what Paul Krugman was thinking when he wrote, “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.”

I guess the English newspapers are making up stories to denigrate their own nation. If you want to see more of these “false” stories, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.Be the first to read Daniel J. Mitchell’s column.  Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.

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