Obese Girls in the UK add to the Budget Problems of the already Cash-Strapped NHS

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

I’m sure they hear the same arguments in the UK as they hear in the US.  That we have to increase government spending on nutritional programs for the poor.  Especially poor children.  Because no child should go to bed hungry.  Yet at the same time the Mayor of New York City wants to limit the size of pop you can buy in a theater or from a street vendor because our kids are too fat.  And the First Lady of the United States wants kids to eat vegetables instead of food that tastes good because our kids are too fat.  So some in government are arguing both sides of the same issue to generate more government control and more government revenue.

In the UK they have even another metric to measure childhood obesity by.  And it’s a really sad one (see As obesity soars, girls of 11 are being given breast reduction surgery on NHS by Daniel Martin posted 8/27/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Girls as young as 11 are having breast reduction operations on the Health Service, figures show.

More than 100 girls aged 16 and under have had the surgery in the past five years after suffering severe back pain.

Health experts say some cases could be because children now tend to be significantly heavier than a few years ago, putting more pressure on their backs…

The surgery will cost the taxpayer some £5,000 a time, and critics will argue that the cash-strapped NHS should not be paying for such procedures when those with cancer and other serious conditions are not getting the drugs they need…

Over the past five years, 21,328 women of all ages have had breast reduction operations on the NHS. In the latest year for which figures are available, 2010/11, the total was 4,212 – almost 12 every day.

Clearly in advanced countries many of our kids are not going to bed hungry.  It is a sad benefit of an advanced country.  We can make food so plentiful, inexpensive and tasty that our poor have obesity problems.  I’m not sure what the economic circumstances are with the girls in the linked article but if they live in the UK chances are their families are paying a lot of taxes to support their welfare state so the odds are good they are not from a rich family.  Besides, if they were rich they’d probably pay top-dollar to treat their daughters in a private facility.  But that’s neither here nor there.  What’s particularly interesting in this story is the economics of it.

At current exchange rates £5,000 is about $7,935 US.  So those 4,212 surgeries in 2011 cost the taxpayers $33.4 million dollars.  Sounds like a lot until you realize the NHS annual budget is approximately $166.6 billion (see Figure A.1: Department of Health CSR settlement 2007 – announced opening position).  So these surgeries are only 0.02% of the NHS budget.  Which just staggers the mind.  But this to be expected when a national health care service pays for everything for everyone.  It’s incredibly expensive.

When the US passed their own version of national health care, Obamacare, the Democrats sent misleading budgetary information to the Congressional Budget Office.  Such as including tax revenue for ten years while including benefits for only six years.  Transferred some $716 billion out of Medicare.  And other accounting shenanigans.  So when the CBO scored Obamacare it came in at $940 billion over ten years.  Which was less than $1 trillion.  The magic number.  Because it would make Obamacare less costly than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But when you look at the budget of the NHS you just know they’re playing fast and loose with their numbers.

The US has approximately 5 times the population of the UK.  So they would have approximately 5 times the patients in Obamacare than they have in the NHS.  And approximately five times the cost of the NHS.  So if you multiply the NHS annual budget by five you get a likely cost of Obamacare for one year.  $833.1 billion.  Only slightly less than the original CBO scoring of Obamacare for a ten year period.  Multiplying this out over ten years brings it up to $8.3 trillion.  Making the original CBO score light by 886,256%.  An enormous mistake.  Or misrepresentation.  Of what it will cost to give everything to everyone.

If they don’t repeal Obamacare there won’t be any money left to prevent children from going to bed hungry.  But there should be a corresponding reduction in other health care expenses.  As hungry children won’t have an obesity problem.

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