Current Events International Health Care Systems

Health Reform in the UK

Health Reform in the U.S. means more government involvement in health care.  More public insurance (expanding Medicaid), more government intervention in the insurance market (health exchanges), and government being a driving force for innovation (the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation).

In the UK on the other hand, “Health Reform” means more privatization, not less.  As reported in the Economist,

Last year the government produced a two-part blueprint for reforming the NHS. One part was a bid to introduce more choice and competition, by enabling private and voluntary providers to treat more NHS patients. That should not have been controversial: along with the cash it hurled at the service, Tony Blair’s government began to transform it from a publicly run monopoly to a state-funded market, in which both public and private hospitals treat NHS patients—the sort of system that exists in much of the rest of Europe. Until Gordon Brown took over and dampened reform, it was starting to have an impact: according to research by the London School of Economics into post-operative heart care, giving patients choice led to productivity increases that saved around 300 lives a year.

These changes, however, may never come to pass.  For instance, an attempt to “…transfer more control over budgets and the commissioning of care to family doctors (GPs)” was stopped in its tracks.  The scheme is now voluntary.

Nevertheless, I can make three key observations.

  • The U.S. is moving more towards government-run health care and the U.K. is moving towards private provision of health care services.
  • Despite this trend, the NHS still wields significantly more control over the health care system than any American agency.
  • Finally, no country is completely happy with their health care system.

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