Acton Institute Powerblog

Ted Cruz highlights the dangers of EU healthcare systems in debate with Bernie Sanders

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In an age of sound bite orations and 140-character manifestos, the nation received a rare treat from CNN this week. On Tuesday night, Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders debated the merits of national healthcare reform for two hours. The format gave both sides the opportunity to make substantive arguments, and Ted Cruz did not disappoint.

The Texan pointed out that Senator Sanders, an advocate of Scandinavian socialism, has suggested the United States adopt policies more akin to European welfare states which, Sen. Sanders says, spend less than the United States on healthcare:

He often points to Canada, the United Kingdom; he says, “Why do we pay more?”

Well, there’s a reason we pay more than those countries. We get a lot more and a lot better health care.

Let me give you some basic facts. … The United States, population-controlled, delivers three times as many mammograms as Europe, two-and-a-half times the number of MRI scans, and 31 percent more c-sections. We provide more health care.

Not only that, in the United Kingdom, for example, [there are longer] wait times. In 2013, you waited 72 days for cataract surgery; you waited 89 days for hip replacement, 95 days for knee replacement. There are 3.7 million people in the United Kingdom right now on a waiting list, waiting for health care. …

A 2001 report noted that 39 percent [of women] over 80 in the United Kingdom received surgery for breast cancer, compared to 90 percent of the women under 50. And that men and women under the age of 55 were two-and-a-half times more likely than those over 75 to receive cancer treatments.

Although true, this list hardly scratches the surface. I note on the Acton Transatlantic website that the NHS faces such pressures the British Red Cross says it constitutes a “humanitarian crisis.” I pull together some of the relevant data:

The NHS has missed its goal of a four-hour wait time – from the moment a patient enters an accident and emergency (A&E) department to hospital admission or discharge – every month since July 2015. Unable to meet their chosen benchmark, Health Minister Jeremy Hunt responded by suggesting the government lift the four-hour target for most patients.

Long stays in crowded emergency rooms are not limited to the UK. Across the Atlantic, a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that 10 percent of Canadians had to wait 28 hours to get a hospital bed in 2014.

By contrast, the average wait time in the United States was just over two hours in 2010-2011, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  …

After canceling a record number of urgent surgeries in November, NHS officials announced they had canceled all non-urgent surgeries between December 16 and January 16. In Kent, the moratorium has been extended until April.

And according to Dr. Kristian Niemietz of the UK’s foremost free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), tens of thousands of Brits have died who would have survived had they been treated in another nation’s healthcare system.

CNN believed the topic is important enough to merit two hours of broadcast time. To the British people, it is a matter of life and death. People of faith will want to understand the real dangers of socialized medicine before endorsing well-intended principles that harm those made in God’s image.

Read the details here.

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.


  • In order to attack Bernie’s idea of Medicare 4 All, Cruz kept pulling out scary stories from the UK. This was REALLY lame.

    Firstly, the UK is unique among countries in that the entire healthcare delivery system is owned and operated by the Government. The Government owns all the hospitals, and the doctors and nurses and EMTs are all Government employees. That is obviously NOT what Medicare 4 all would be. Secondly, the Tory govt in UK has underfunded the NHS for years, so naturally you will have some problems. Thirdly, despite all that, 64% of Brits are either “very or quite satisfied” with the NHS.

    BUT THAT IS NOT THE PROBLEM. The problem with Cruz’s argument is that he had to go all the way across the Atlantic to dig up some scary stories with which to attack Medicare. This is obviously because he could not find any negative stories or “facts” about the Medicare service.

  • Robert Luke Peacock

    Consider that US healthcare doesn’t cover everyone; the spend is more per head as it is, even though less heads are served as a percentage of the population, so take that difference in cost per head, and increase it by the percentage of Americans without access to healthcare.

    The NHS is in crisis at the moment, but that is because it is not being funded well enough, because bits of it are being provisioned to private providers which fragment the service and offer little accountability, and also, the service provided is UNIVERSAL.

    In the UK, there are also private providers, so like in America, if you have lots of money, you can pay to get preferential service, as in reduced waiting times, but of course the private providers are like leeches and will only provide the most profitable services.

  • Emma Ambrose

    I live in the U.S. but am a British born citizen. My co-worker is having her wages garnished because of the cost of her husband’s back surgery. Our company pays $630 per worker, per month for insurance. This makes no sense to me. I do not visit the doc for preventative care for anything unless I absolutely have to as even with insurance, the cost is ridiculous. I read figures that the U.K has a longer life expectancy than the U.S.

    I would take my chances any day with longer wait times in England and pay for my fellow citizens in the U.K so that everyone has access to healthcare. Also, the figure that there are 31% more cesareans in the U.S. is not something to be proud of, it also means you have a higher child mortality rate.