I’m shocked — SHOCKED! — that health care isn’t free!

rick-louie-gamblingAn interesting article from across the pond. 

The Independent  reports on the British health care system:

[Health Secretary Alan] Johnson plans to allow English patients to “top-up” their [National Health Service] treatment with additional drugs considered too expensive for the public to fund. His decision will have two immediate effects. In the first place, it will allow more people to receive better treatment – the fundamental objective of a public healthcare system. The second effect is less desirable. By allowing wealthier patients to top-up, the NHS moves away from universal, equitable, health provision and towards a two-tier system whereby two patients might share conditions, even doctors, but enjoy dramatically different qualities of treatment.

This unfairness will cause political problems for the Government. Greater public spending offers no quick fix; the willingness of the British public to fund healthcare through taxation is already at its limit.

Too expensive for the public to fund?  For years we’ve been lectured in this country by the chattering classes that it is a disgrace that we are the only industrialized nation in the world without universal health care.  I thought health care was supposed to be free.  So what is this “taxation” to which the article refers?  Could it be that the laws of economics, like the laws of physics, cannot be repealed by government fiat?

Then there is the “By allowing wealthier patients to top-up…”  So if you have the means and desire to improve your health with a more expensive treatment, the state should prevent you lest you suffer less or live longer than your less financially fortunate neighbor?

The American health care system has a lot of dysfunction and is in desperate need of reform.  But as we struggle to find ways to deliver higher quality health care to more people at lower cost, we should keep in mind that the health care delivery systems of other countries have dysfunctions all their own.  We should study health care delivery in other countries not just for the insights to be gained, but also for the mistakes to be avoided.

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