Advocates of Obamacare often point to Great Britain’s National Health Service as an example of a national health care system that works. But all is not rosy across the pond, as England is beginning to ration treatments for “non-urgent” conditions such as hip replacements, cataract surgery and tonsil removal in order to save money for the National Health Service. Unfortunately, under current law, Obamacare could lead to a health care system similarly plagued by long waits and reduced access to services.

According to a report from The Independent, some of the procedures being rationed include:

  • Hip and knee replacements only being allowed where patients are in severe pain. Overweight patients will be made to lose weight before being considered for an operation.
  • Cataract operations being withheld from patients until their sight problems “substantially” affect their ability to work.
  • Patients with varicose veins only being operated on if they are suffering “chronic continuous pain”, ulceration or bleeding.
  • Tonsillectomy (removing tonsils) only to be carried out in children if they have had seven bouts of tonsillitis in the previous year.
  • Grommets to improve hearing in children only being inserted in “exceptional circumstances” and after monitoring for six months.

Think that health care rationing isn’t possible in America? Think again. Under Obamacare, a board of unelected bureaucrats known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is tasked with reducing the growth in Medicare spending. With the powers IPAB has under current law, the Board can make changes—without congressional input—that would indirectly reduce seniors’ access to providers and services.

Under Obamacare, IPAB can set reimbursement rates for health care providers, irrespective of the true cost of care. The problem arises when reimbursement rates are set so low that providing services becomes unprofitable, leading to fewer providers offering care. Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, explained the result in a House committee hearing last week:

If the spending reductions in the law today were to take place, seniors could face long waits for appointments and treatments, and many would be forced to wait in line in over-crowded emergency rooms to get care, just as Medicaid patients do throughout the country today.

Americans are generally appalled to hear stories of rationing, but what many don’t realize is that under Obamacare, IPAB is empowered to take actions that could lead us down that very road. There is a better way to lower health care costs and deliver a higher quality of care: introducing competition and consumer choice through the reforms outlined in Heritage’s Saving the American Dream plan.