Thursday, 13 August 2009


I love the NHS. I'm a free market kind of guy - I like my regulations light, my taxes low and my support nets smaller. But I know that the market doesn't always work, and when it doesn't, something has to fill that gap. Today, in America, the free market has failed to provide healthcare to many Americans, and indeed has become distorted and damaging to the US economy.

The lies that the anti-reform campaign have come up with regarding the NHS are astounding. From talk of 'death panels' to 15-year old statistics to claiming Stephen Hawking is an American, or at least not British. These aren't misquotes or forgetful moments, these are systemtic lies created to cloud the air. America needs healthcare reform like the UK needs financial regulation reform - without it, the economy will throttle.

Here are some numbers from the National Coalition on Health Care, which they collected from a series of studies:

  • The US spends 17% of its' GDP on health, and this may well rise to 20% by 2017. This is almost double the average among OECD countries (OECD figures).
  • Some 46 million Americans have no health insurance, around the population of Ukraine (UKRSTAT estimate). Studies show the main reason they have no cover is that it is too expensive.
  • Premiums for employer-based health insurance are rising fastest for the smallest firms, those with fewer than 24 workers found their health care costs rise by 6.8% in 2008.
  • Health care costs are now the fastest growing cost component for employers.
  • Around 1.5 million families foreclose on their homes every year due to healthcare costs.
  • Conservatively, many experts believe a retiring couple will need $250,000 in savings to meet basic healthcare costs - though $300,000 may be a more realistic figure.
  • According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, the US has $480 billion in excess spending each year - the same as the GDP of Sweden (IBRD) - on healthcare as compared to equivalent Western European nations with universal health insurance.
Now tell me the healthcare system in the US works. The market has become distorted and corrupted by the desire to make more money, instead of providing health care to the masses. The gaps that have opened are therefore in need of infilling with something, and the current health care bill would go a long way to doing this. It outlines a requirement for all Americans to have healthcare insurance, and lays down reforms to the US healthcare market to help acheive this, and drive down the cost.

An NHS-style system would clash with America's culture of independence and individualism. Yet, at the same time, her economy would be much improved with the addition of massive health care reform. The NHS came about in this country after a long political battle, and because of a world war. When the poor of the country came from the cities into middle- and upper-class homes, these voters suddenly found that poverty wasn't in their papers or the colonies. It was in their front rooms, it didn't know what a bath or a toilet was, it had never seen a cow or a sheep or a green field, it was sickly and thin and it was right there, for real, in the flesh. Maybe this is what America needs to shock it into action. It worked for us.

I don't agree that we should do away with private healthcare forever, nor that the state is the best tool. But, as I said before, when the market fails to work, something has to step in and make up the difference. Healthier workers work more, and work better. Companies can pay taxes relatively easily as compared to healthcare insurance programmes. The economy will benefit from better healthcare options. All they need is to get a hold of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment