Sunday, March 18, 2012

Health care as a public good

Fareed Zakaria says private health insurance is inefficient and health care should be seen as a public good:  in the U.S., "an estimated 137,000 people died over seven years because they were uninsured," while in Britain (for now), "irrespective of what you afford, irrespective of your illness, you will be able to access health care."  Zakaria discusses the "health care behemoth" in the UK:
The NHS is Europe's largest employer, with well over 1 million people on the payroll. So you'd think it would be inefficient. 
T.R. Reid, a former overseas bureau chief with The Washington Post toured the world's health care systems for his recent book, The Healing of America. Reid says: 
"That seems sensible, right? The private sector can do things more efficiently?  It doesn't work in health care. The least efficient payers in the world are the American private insurance companies.  They have administrative costs of 20 to 30%.  That's a 30% tax on every dollar you spend on health care. Britain is totally socialized medicine [and its] administrative costs [are] 5%.  Canada is private doctors and public payers - 6% administrative costs. So it turns out, for some reason in health care, governments are doing this more efficiently than our private sector."
What is the reason?  Is it that the government need not strive to maximize returns to shareholders?  Zakaria has a program this evening on CNN, perhaps he will discuss it.

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