In yet another example of how wonderful socialized medicine is, a new report out of Britain is showing that the country’s single-payer NHS (National Health Service) has been rationing cataract surgeries.
“The Times newspaper said a survey by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO) found tens of thousands of elderly people are left struggling to see because of an NHS cost-cutting drive that relies on them dying before they can qualify for cataract surgery.”
It seems that the NHS was told two years ago to put a stop to the rationing, and yet they have carried on with it anyway.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, and in the United States, more than 3.3 million people each year have their sight restored with cataract surgery. While they are typically thought to be something that only the elderly deal with, approximately one to two percent of the surgeries are done on people in their 40s, my own husband included.
From this experience, I can explain some of the impacts on someone who is not also dealing with other age-related problems, and you can imagine that these issues would just be exacerbated by age. Cataracts can lead to impaired night vision as well as contrast vision. Impaired contrast vision can lead to problems such as having difficulty on stairs, which could lead to falls, especially problematic for older individuals; having trouble locating objects on similarly colored backgrounds; or having difficulty reading web sites that use “modern” designs with thin, light gray fonts on white backgrounds. Cataracts can also lead to something of a prism effect when looking at lights, reflections or the like, which is like seeing multiples of the object, sometimes many multiples. Cataracts also mute colors, sometimes to a significant degree. This, of course, is all a precursor to the cataracts’ eventual result, which is blindness, if not treated.
In the US, Baby Boomers are far more active than previous generations, and living longer, which makes them more sensitive to the changes in vision that cataracts present. Boomers are also using smart phones and tablets, which require a higher visual acuity than what previous generations needed to just read books, which they could obtain in large print format to make it easier. As a result of these generational changes, there has been an increase in younger people getting corrective surgery. The Mayo Clinic recently found that approximately 20 percent of cataract surgeries done in Olmsted County in Minnesota between 2005 and 2011 were on people under age 65. Anecdotally, some surgeons have noticed that they are seeing more patients who are in the 50 – 65 age range. These are people who are still living a very active and vibrant life, and want to maintain a higher quality of life than living with cataracts would afford them.
In the US, we have not yet succumbed to the progressive leftist hysteria for “Medicare for all,” a single-payer system that would be the equivalent of the NHS in Britain. For now, anyone can still choose to get cataract surgery, at any age, with no concern about being denied. This is, unfortunately, not the case in Britain. By rationing care, the British government is deciding who deserves a higher quality of life.
In fact, they are casting aside studies that show higher rates of depression in older adults who suffer from cataracts and associated vision loss, and leaving these people to suffer the mental and physical limitations that result when the most common surgery in the world is not afforded to them by their “benevolent” government. Millennials who are pushing so hard for such a socialized health care program in the US are pushing for their own grandparents to suffer a lower quality of life, leading to a host of problems that could include depression, blindness, falls that could lead to broken bones, an inability to drive, and more.
It is important that when we consider, or even lionize, certain policy positions, that we carefully consider all of the intended as well as unintended consequences. In this case, the NHS has shown us clearly what we can expect if we choose to usher in a single-payer system in the US. How many will be willing to sit back and accept it when the US government tells them that they won’t be able to have their cataracts removed because they don’t qualify under the rationing standards that must be enforced in order to attempt to keep the system afloat? This is the road that we are slowly but surely being marched down if we don’t speak up and put this nonsense to rest.