Hot Air and the daily caller are excited to pronounce socialized medicine dead as the British NHS plans to contract with private hospitals and providers on top of socialized care. From The Caller:
Joseph A. Morris, a former Reagan White House lawyer who now serves on the board of the American Conservative Union, told TheDC that socialized medicine has turned out to be a threat to Britons’ health, and to their economy as well.
“Europe’s message to the world is no longer that the socialist dream of the cradle-to-grave welfare state is an easy achievement,” Morris said. “Rather, it is the shouted warning that it is a fool’s paradise. The bills are coming due and the only real alternatives — serious financial reform of government or national bankruptcy — are not pleasant.”
Morris added that the British government, “unlike the Obama administration, is hearing the warnings, identifying its greatest vulnerabilities, and trying to race ahead of the deluge.”
Well, yes and no. The British government is interested in passing a bill that would allow private providers to be contracted by NHS and ostensibly compete with NHS where NHS is lagging. It’s hard to tell from coverage exactly what provisions will ultimately be in this bill, although the overriding goal seems to be to introduce “competition” into the NHS. Although, it’s hard to imagine the NHS being more efficient with introduction of competition as the Brits spend roughly half as much per capita and a much smaller fraction of their total GDP on health care compared to the US.
But are our right wingers correct that this is the death of socialized medicine and should be a warning about Obama care?
Um no. This is a combination of egregious apples-to-oranges comparison and gross simplification. Their argument depends on a mis-characterization of virtually every other medical system in the world. By saying Britain allowing privatization into their single-payer system is “Europe” rejecting socialized medicine assumes that Britain’s health care system resembles any other system in Europe. It does not.
In fact, most universal systems are unlike Britain’s. Only Canada and New Zealand have similar, government-run single payer systems. Other socialist European paradises like France, Germany, the Netherlands etc., actually have very different systems. They rely on either insurers (with heavy subsidization for the poor), or other health collectives to pay for patient’s medical costs to private hospitals.
Further, the healthcare system envisioned by the health care reform act in this country is very, very far from being single payer, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when you look at it, it’s going to be much more like the Netherlands system than any other, and guess what, the Netherlands system has the best patient satisfaction rate in a comparison of metrics between their system, the US, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany and France. They tend to have shorter wait times, and are more confident in their system providing the best available care.
We don’t need a single-payer health system in order to provide excellent care to our citizens in a universal fashion. Even a public option like Australia’s isn’t necessary to provide excellent care to all.
Well regulated insurance companies with risk sharing and provisions to require good coverage for the chronically ill, combined with subsidized insurance for the poor is the the Netherlands’ system in a nutshell. Unlike the single payer systems, there are not the same wait times for procedures and their speed of care is comparable to ours. Only 5% of their citizens complained of access problems to their system because of cost, in the US it’s 37%. Finally, the Netherlands system costs less than 1/2 as much as the US system does, per capita, while covering all of its citizens.
The conservative rags are conflating this enormous diversity of systems, many of which rely solely on private insurers, with the single-payer British system. Then, after they’ve erected this straw man of a consolidated European nanny-state, they declare the privatization move by the British NHS a sign socialized medicine has failed. Even though this will actually just move Britain slightly more towards the mainstream of universal health care systems within Europe. Even if Britain’s system is in need of reform, it’s still providing care to all of its citizens at a fraction of the cost of our system. To declare universal health care is causing financial collapse of Europe is absurd. Every one of their systems costs far less than ours does. Socialized medicine is cost efficient, and it’s our system that is failing both in scope and cost.
If anything the opposite effect is true. The privatization of our main socialized medical provider, Medicare, has driven huge increases in costs of its administration. Medicare used to be administered in a highly-efficient fashion. Within three years of Bush outsourcing medicare billing costs increased by 30% per enrollee at the same time physician frustration with fighting for reimbursement with a myriad of new businesses administering the system made everyone completely nuts. There are things government does cheaper. The money side of administration of medical care is one of them. The single-payer systems have shown that there are problems with a fully government-administered systems in which government administers hospitals, employs the docs, as well as cover costs. The wait times, ignoring the hyperbolic anecdotes, are longer for elective procedures in two of the three single-payer systems. This makes them easy targets for comments like this from Hot Air:
And the Times of London knows if that happens, the NHS would be available to treat Lansley’s gunshot wound in as little as six weeks, so no worries.
Trauma is not affected by wait times, of course. This is a cheap shot. Like pretty much 99% of the content of these articles. In smearing the NHS for trying to introduce a small amount of privatization, all they show is their complete ignorance of healthcare systems in Europe. They show their willingness to lie about the reforms enacted to our system when they compare our future changes to Britain’s NHS. Finally, they show their astounding arrogance for dismissing all of these systems as “socialist”, when all of them provide excellent care, to all of their citizens, for half the price of ours.