Legendary Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger underwent successful heart surgery last week, days after announcing the postponement of an upcoming North American tour.
The British citizen secured cutting-edge treatment, receiving a transcatheter aortic valve replacement. The surgery took place only days after Jagger complained about chest pains.
Americans keep hearing that the United Kingdom’s healthcare system, the National Health Service, uses outdated technology and has lines so long that even the New York Times has noticed. And, treatment of older patients has been so poor that even the paper of Britain’s political Left, The Guardian, has noticed.
So, how was British citizen Mick Jagger, 75, able to avoid the wait times and secure the latest technology?
Jagger hopped on a plane, went to New York, and paid cash for the surgery.
Unfortunately, for most citizens of the UK, flying to the United States and paying for surgery out of pocket is not a viable option. The appeal of socialized healthcare was supposed to be that it provided free (or low-cost) treatment, and that the treatment was equitable, meaning that treatment decisions were made without considering the patient’s personal wealth or fame.
The case of Mick Jagger shows that the NHS fails to keep either of these promises. A public healthcare system is not free if the patient will be dead by the time a surgery date is available, and it is not equitable if wealthy patients can simply avoid the system.
Jagger is not alone in fleeing a socialized healthcare system in order to receive faster and higher-quality care. Canada’s CTV News reported that an estimated 63,000 Canadians left the country in 2016 to obtain heath care in a different country. One can assume that a large number of these Canadians traveled because they desired care that was either not available from Canada’s socialized healthcare system, or because the wait times were too long.
Among those who have traveled in past years includes the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, the equivalent of a governor of an American state, who had heart surgery in Miami in 2010.
Americans can be thankful that their healthcare system, while expensive, offers high quality and short wait times. Let’s hope that politicians don’t import failed systems from other countries.