Thursday, September 22, 2005

Waiting Lists Not Inevitable

As soon as Health Care Week was announced, I started frantically looking for an article I read a few months ago about Universal Health Care, and particularly the idea that the health care "rationing" we hear about in places like Canada and the UK was not necessarily a inevitable problem caused by the system, but more a matter of funding. As it turns out, the article I was looking for was actually a blog post by James Kroeger, who also wrote The Republican Nemesis. You should read that as well, but here is an excerpt from the article on Universial Health Care:

In spite of roughly equal “health outcomes” (OECD), America’s private health care system costs Americans more than twice as much as the NHS costs the citizens of the UK. In 2002, UK citizens spent only about 8% of their GDP on health care ($2,160 per citizen). This compares to the approximately 15% of GDP that Americans spent on health care that year ($5,267 per citizen). While the Brits enjoy a quality of health care that is superior to that enjoyed by Americans in many respects (no insurance policy headaches, no frustrating discussions of “ability-to-pay” prior to the provision of health services, no paperwork hassles) the overall quality of their health service lags behind America’s in one important respect: they must put up with far longer waiting times for elective surgery.

What is wrong with the Socialized Medicine model practiced in the United Kingdom that causes these long waiting lists? Nothing. It is not perverse incentives or imagined “inefficiencies” that are to blame for the waiting lists; it’s the conservative legislators in Parliament who have used their influence and pressure to underfund the NHS. If the British were to decide tomorrow to start spending the same percentage of their GDP on the NHS that Americans spend on their inefficient private health care system, they would be able to dramatically reduce waiting times for those elective procedures. If you hire more doctors and build more operating rooms and support services, then you will reduce wait times. It’s just that simple.