Thinning the Herd

Scott Burgess has an op-ed in the UK Times today. He talks about how the National Health Service in Britain is in the midst of a financial crises so severe that they are removing every third light bulb to try and keep their electric bill down. Yet the government agency still funds alternative medicine as a viable option for their patients, even going so far as to shell out the cash for five homeopathic hospitals.

Scott wonders how this can be, and seems to think that it is an unnecessary drain on an already tottering system. I disagree, and I think that it is a very clever way for the British government to relieve the pressure.

You see, it is hardly unknown that these alternative treatments do nothing to help the patients that opt for them. Even if the snake oil doesn’t actually do any harm, the afflicted don’t get the treatments based on science that might just prolong their life. So those who embrace quackery tend to die sooner, which results in less patients demanding resources.

I really don’t think that the bureaucrats in charge of the British health system are so cold blooded that they have a scheme to hasten the deaths of the very people who they are supposed to look out for. Instead I think the funding for alternative medicine is more a political move, as the government attempts to head off criticism by providing something that a segment of the voting public demands.

But, scheme or not, the result is the same.

(HT to Glenn and The Corner.)

3 thoughts on “Thinning the Herd”

  1. “I really don’t think that the bureaucrats in charge of the British health system are so cold blooded that they have a scheme to hasten the deaths of the very people who they are supposed to look out for.”

    Probably true. The NHS does pay for smoking cessation services, despite the fact that it is not in any government insurer’s interest to reduce smoking rates:

    In this analysis, the federal government saves about $29 billion per year in net health and retirement costs (accounting for effects on tax payments). These include a saving in retirement (largely social security benefits) of about $40 billion and in nursing home costs (largely medicaid) of about $8 billion. Costs include about $7 billion for medical care under 65 and about $2 billion for medical care over 65; the remaining $10 billion cost is the loss in contributions to social security and general revenues that fund medicaid. (Note that medical costs already include offsetting savings for premature death and thus are much smaller in the aggregate than in the Rice estimates). The federal government also collects $5.6 billion in cigarette taxes. This calculation implies that smokers (past and present) currently save the federal government almost $35 billion per year.

  2. OT but UK related.

    Anyone hear of this book?

    by DC Alden

    Reviewed by Bryan Lowe

    As a fan of speculative novels and techno-thrillers, I was both pleasantly surprised and wary of Invasion, the ‘explosive new novel’ from DC Alden that ‘charts the fall of Europe and the rise of a powerful new Islamic state.’ Could this be another sop to liberal elitism? After all, a casual glance at the back cover informs us that Britain is initially attacked by teams of Islamic fighters who cause mayhem across the country, so we know immediately that the ‘bad guys’ are Muslim. But is Invasion merely a book that plays on the fears of many while at the same time assuaging those fears with an arrogant assuredness that a Muslim takeover of Europe is impossible?

    The answer is no. From the very first page, Invasion leaps forward into the twenty-second century, where the walled city of London basks in a Mediterranean climate. Britain is no more, the author tells us, and this depiction of England slaving under the yoke of Islamic rule is unnerving. The indigenous population are forced to live in slums outside the city while occupying only menial positions in a bustling London that boasts marbled mosques and landscaped memorial gardens built to commemorate the end of western civilisation. The prologue focuses on two men who are on a mission, one that will have a devastating effect on the Islamic rulers of this Arabian outpost.

    It’s at this point that the novel jumps back to present day, albeit a few years into the future. Harry Beecham, the British Prime Minister, struggles with a country whose economy is failing and whose future is now aligned with Europe rather than the US. America is politically isolated, banished from the Middle East after a new Islamic power rises to unite Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey and the North African states.

    Next on its agenda of conquest is Europe, already floundering in a sea of rampant immigration. It is from these immigrants that the shock troops of Arabia hide, waiting to receive the ‘go’ order.

    – – – – – – – – – –
    When the order comes, things are timed precisely. Simultaneously, power is cut across London and passenger planes are shot down over the city. Meanwhile, a truck bomb decimates Whitehall and armed gangs occupy strategic buildings. By the time night falls, the combined armies of the Arabian forces have moved decisively against Europe.

    The premise of the book is a little far-fetched in supposing that Sunni and Shia countries could ever unite to create a combined Islamic state. But given that premise, the author paints a convincing picture of Muslim Brotherhood: transcending sectarian violence to unite the Middle East under a powerful and universally revered ruler: the Caliph of old whose aim is the domination of Europe by Islam.

    That Europe falls so easily somehow rings true in this story, however implausible it may seem today. The author’s descriptions of a conquered Britain strike disturbing chords. As remnants of the British Army flee north to Scotland, the vacuum they leave is filled by Arabian troops; the ethnic populations of Britain’s cities throng the streets in welcome. It is under this new regime that events sound the tones of a requiem. ‘Potential troublemakers for example the surviving police and army personnel who failed to flee north are rounded up. Their tragic fate and final destination are intriguing elements in the plot.

    As for England’s prison population? Well, their destiny is truly a ghastly one, although one has some sympathy for the motives of their Arabian captors.

    Invasion reads like a thriller in the Clancy/McNab mould. But the sub-text is obviously a critique of Britain’s — and by extension Europe’s — failed immigration policies, the inability to stem a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism and the cringing subservience to political correctness that infects the culture of Europe.

    Given the possible risks, not many authors are willing to tackle this subject. Any number of unsympathetic depictions of Islam, fictional or not, have provoked threats and violent outbursts from Muslim communities. Even with that Ignoring the hazards, Alden has produced a thought-provoking speculative thriller in which Islam and the west enter into the direct conflict that so many people fear the future may hold.

    This is a fast-paced narrative that chills the blood as one contemplates the shadow of Islam falling across Europe.

  3. A couple of years ago I wrote a 7500 word paper comparing the alternative medicine regulation and funding schemes of various countries . Basically I suggested that countries with comprehensive universal health care could tolerate lax regulation on the alternative stuff (mostly I kept to herbal stuff and medical devices, but the same would probably apply to accupunture,etc). More or less, if people can get real, evidence basied medical care for free, they’re not very likely to decide not to go to the doctor and to kill themselves by a combination of alternative medicine and neglect.

    The actual government funding of the really weird crap (crystals, homeopathy, etc) is incredibly asinine, even if you give a bit of credit to the placebo effect, etc. Even NHS is pretty blunt about homeopathy being utter crap, as are all the UK authorities (British Medical Journal, Lancet, etc).

    Having said all that, its a little dangerous for us, as US residents to attack the NHS for this practice, as we do virtually the same thing in the US. The federal Medicare-Medicaid Statute specifically allows coverage for homeopathic drugs, and there’s a number of other little loopholes as well.

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