The British have had a nationalized health care system for decades, and almost as long a list of examples why it doesn’t work. Three years ago, we discovered that hospitals in the UK threw out viable kidneys for lack of physicians qualified to transplant them. Now we find out that a shortage of dentists has led Britons to perform free-lance extractions to avoid an excruciating wait:
A shortage of National Health Service dentists in England has led some people to pull out their own teeth — or use super glue to stick crowns back on, a study says.
Many dentists abandoned Britain’s publicly funded health care system after reforms backfired, leaving a growing number of Britons without access to affordable care.
“I was not surprised to hear those horror stories,” said Celestine Bridgeman, 41, of London. “Trying to find good NHS dentists is like trying to hit the lottery because the service is underfunded.”
The National Health Service provides care to the vast majority of Britain’s people, often for free. Unlike doctors who work for the health service, dentists work on a contract basis and can leave whenever they wish.
The situation shows what happens when government crowds out the private market, even when it allows some private participation. Most Britons, whose tax dollars fund the NHS, cannot afford to add private dental services on top of the burden. Thanks to so-called reforms, almost half of Britain’s dentists won’t take NHS patients, and the rest have either long waits or work too far away from the patients who need them.
In a free market, the compensation for dentists would be set by market forces. Shortages would not long exist, because any shortage would make dental services more valuable and would incentivize more students to pursue that specialty. As with the transplant surgeons, shortages occur because government caps compensation and removes the incentive to specialize at all — and with dentists, who can opt out of the NHS system unlike their physician colleagues, the private market becomes exclusive to only those who can afford both the tax burden of NHS and the fees for dental work.
What happens then? The rich get dental work. The poor buy pliers and Super Glue. Actually, I could be wrong. The poor might borrow the pliers.
Six percent of the survey sample treated themselves out of frustration, including one man who extracted 14 of his own teeth. Twenty percent of the sample could not afford dental services. An additional 35% blamed their lack of dental care on a lack of NHS options close enough to them. That means a majority of Britons have no practical access to dental care, thanks to their government-run health care system.