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    Saturday, December 7, 2019-11:46:18A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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OPINION | Medicare for All preview

AMERICANS who want a preview of coming attractions under Medicare for All should take a look at the annual “winter crisis” at Britain’s National Health Service that is starting early this year.

Data released recently showed the worst waiting times in 15 years in English emergency rooms. Hang onto your warm winter hats.

The NHS managed to treat only 83.6 percent of emergency-room patients within four hours in October, compared to 89.1 percent a year earlier and well short of the government’s target of 95 percent. The NHS winter crisis has become a national tradition like Guy Fawkes Day and the Grand National horse race, as the state-run system struggles to cope with a surge of illness during the colder months. Last winter’s four-hour admission rate bottomed at 84.4 percent in February 2019, and the winter before that the worst rate was 84.8 percent in March 2018.

This happens because the supply of doctors, nurses, hospital beds and the like hasn’t kept up with the rising demand from a growing and aging British population. NHS spending rises above the inflation rate, but that isn’t enough to fill the treatment and service gaps. The NHS also missed its target for 93 percent of patients with suspected cancer to be seen by a specialist within two weeks of referral by a family doctor. In September, 90.1 percent of patients saw a specialist within two weeks, down from 91.2 percent in September 2018. A bureaucrat or Sen. Elizabeth Warren might think that’s good enough for government work. But it’s definitely not for the nearly 10 percent of patients and their families who had to live with a suspected cancer diagnosis for more than two weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is anxious to keep the winter crisis from becoming a political liability in the Dec. 12 British election, and all major parties are promising more money for NHS. Past experience and recent waiting-time data suggest more will never be enough. Politicians who want a U.S. version of the NHS via Medicare for All should explain why they want Americans to catch this British disease.