Although “rationing” of health care, like any scarce resource, is inevitable, there are a lot of good reasons for not allowing government to decide who gets what. First among them is the fact that individuals have a basic right to make basic life choices themselves.
Moreover, irrespective of the rhetoric of self-interested politicians seeking votes, government does not have the interest of patients first and foremost in mind. Indeed, in Great Britain the primary interest of the National Health Service these days appears to be saving money by reducing care.
The Government’s drug rationing watchdog says “therapeutic” injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.
Instead the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy.
Specialists fear tens of thousands of people, mainly the elderly and frail, will be left to suffer excruciating levels of pain or pay as much as £500 each for private treatment.
The NHS currently issues more than 60,000 treatments of steroid injections every year. NICE said in its guidance it wants to cut this to just 3,000 treatments a year, a move which would save the NHS £33 million.
But the British Pain Society, which represents specialists in the field, has written to NICE calling for the guidelines to be withdrawn after its members warned that they would lead to many patients having to undergo unnecessary and high-risk spinal surgery.
Somehow this doesn’t look like the sort of “change” most Americans were voting for last November.