Government-run health care has imposed huge costs on patients and businesses by denying treatments and medications, despite the fact that the National Health System ran a $4.67 billion surplus in 2007.
According to a report by the National Center for Policy Analysis, Great Britain lost $208 billion in the overall economy to illness and treatment, including $127 billion in potential earnings based on productivity, $81 billion in paid mental health leave, and $50 billion in direct costs to friends and family members tasked with caring for the ill.
Drag on Human Welfare
Analysts credit the more incentive-based American system for the lower overall cost and higher productivity found in U.S. health care, particularly in comparison to the government-centered British health care apparatus.
“The drag on human welfare caused by government-monopoly health care cannot be overstated,” said John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute.
NHS’s negative effect on the British economy, especially while the program itself is running a large financial surplus, is causing tension within the government.
“Financial incompetence is making it boom or bust in the NHS,” said Stephen O’Brien, the Conservative Party’s shadow health minister, “and this uncertainty does nothing to help patients and the hard-working medical staff. If money allocated to the NHS is not going on patients, then it should not be hoarded.”
“Such a system simply cannot create the right incentives to keep people healthy and on the job,” said Graham. “Although American-style, employer-based health care also has significant deadweight costs, at least the incentives to keep people healthy are better. This is one cause of higher American productivity.
“Every few years,” Graham noted, “the British National Health Service tries to reinvent itself, but it resists giving money back to the patients.”
Not Unique to Britain
An April Gallup poll showed only 7 percent of British citizens were very satisfied with their health care system. Twenty-five percent of those polled said they were extremely dissatisfied with their care, and 27 percent were somewhat dissatisfied.
Ed Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform, says government involvement in the U.S. health care system has already made it too much like Britain’s.
“The U.S. health care system spends too much money, gets too little value for it, and leaves too many people out,” Howard said. “There must be 50 ways to make it better.”
Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.
For more information …
“Great Britain’s Sick Note Culture” (March 18, 2008): http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=15717
“Doctors: Britain’s Healthcare System Sick” (April 23, 2007): http://www.physorg.com/news96567339.html