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With Obamacare, will Americans have to wait eighteen weeks for an operation?

In the aftermath of the new health care law, many Americans are wondering how the law will impact their coverage and their ability to receive high quality health care.

On April 16, 2010, Tom Shales of the Washington Post reported on the recent Prime Minister debate in the United Kingdom.  He specifically highlighted Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s campaign pledge regarding the quality of care received by British residents through their country’s government-run National Health Service:

“Questions about the National Health Service contained details that could well give the jitters to Americans already worried about recently approved health-care reform. Brown vowed that henceforth, all necessary operations would be performed within 18 weeks of diagnosis, which didn't sound very speedy and made one wonder how long the wait is now.”



Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke about this issue on the Senate floor.  Excerpts include:

“So here you are, you've had your opportunity to see a cancer doctor, you've had your test, you have your diagnosis, and what is the best that the people of England are being promised by their Prime Minister? The best that they can expect is to have an operation within 18 weeks.

“The question here is, how many Americans, how many members in this body, how many people across this country are going to see that as satisfactory?

“Because that's where we're heading with this health care bill that's now signed into law. How many people want that? 

“This story once again demonstrates that coverage does not equal care, because everyone in Britain has coverage. But they sure can't get care. Then you ask yourself: does it really matter? Does 4 1/2 months, 18 weeks of waiting for your cancer surgery really matter?

“American cancer patients have a higher survival rate for every major form of cancer than patients in Canada and in Britain. American women have a 35% better chance of surviving colon cancer than British women. American men have an 80% better survival rate for prostate cancer. American survival rates are also better than France. And you can go on and on with this, Mr. President, but it is imminently clear, imminently clear, that the timing on when one gets their care is critical.”