From an editorial Thursday in the Chicago Tribune:
Eleven-month-old Charlie Gard is desperately ill with a rare genetic disorder. He can’t breathe or move on his own. He’s blind and deaf. He suffers from epileptic seizures. Doctors in London say his illness can’t be treated effectively and that he likely will die soon after life-support is withdrawn.
Charlie’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, are fighting to bring their son to the U.S. for experimental treatment. They’ve raised $1.7 million on a crowdfunding website to do so.
But Charlie’s doctors, and the British courts, won’t let him go. Medical authorities argue that prolonging his life by keeping him on a ventilator could cause him pain. British authorities won’t even let the parents take him home to die.
Why does the British government have such wide authority over Charlie’s treatment? One big reason: Because the government funds a single-payer health system, picking up medical costs for British citizens.
This medical drama, no matter anyone’s opinion, foreshadows the difficult decisions to come if America converts its medical insurance system into a single-payer model. (Note that “single-payer” is a euphemism for government-controlled health spending and care.)
Single-payer advocates say such a system would be more cost-efficient. To the extent that’s true, it’s partly because single-payer systems often deny expensive, experimental treatments and drugs, forcing patients to pay out of pocket. Or patients can’t get those pricey, modern treatments.
Bottom line: Single-payer is no panacea. Free treatment isn’t free. Somebody – everybody – pays.