Sunday, 3 March 2013

Healthcare: they order these things better in the US

British doctors have set the alarm bells ringing again, over the government’s alleged drive to privatise more of the NHS.

Many fear that privatisation might make the NHS look more like US-style healthcare, with its strong and flourishing private sector. So it probably makes sense to take a look at what happens in the US and see whether its superior model isn’t one we could usefully emulate over here.

Time to revitalise the NHS with US healthcare dynamism?

Certainly, the US enjoys healthcare benefits that are denied to Britain. For instance, Kayser Permanente, one of the biggest health insurers, in its most recent report declared $1.6 billion of ‘income’ (it’s a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation), and that’s not the kind of thing we can point to in the UK. Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the biggest insurer of them all, with a monopoly presence in certain States, makes about 18 cents on every dollar of insurance it sells.

As well as the business benefits, some of the US healthcare performance figures are staggering too.

In Britain, we lose 4.56 children in their first year of life for every 1000 live births. The United States are well ahead, at 6.00.

On maternal mortality, the number of mothers lost in childbirth, Britain stands at 12 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies, but the US is achieving nearly twice that level: 21.

It’s true that life expectancy is very little different between the two nations, though here again Britain does on average impose around eighteen months longer in this vale of tears on its citizens (overall life expectancy stands at a little over 80), whereas the US releases them slightly earlier to travel to a better place (about 78.5).

The US also frees over 50 million of its citizens from the burden of carrying health insurance. Such people, unlike their British counterparts, don’t have to visit family practitioners when they are first ill (after all, they can’t pay for them); instead they have the luxury of waiting until they are really sick, at which point they will receive state-of-the-art treatment of their immediate symptoms in one of the world’s greatest hospitals, where no-one will waste their time trying to treat their underlying condition (for which they can’t pay either).

What’s most staggering of all is that the NHS costs Britain nearly 10% of its Gross Domestic Product, whereas the United States has so far limited expenditure on healthcare to less than 18%.

The poor old NHS clings on to outdated notions such as comprehensive healthcare, free to all at the point of care. In the light of the striking evidence assembled here, who still wants to protect it against the enlightened ideas our fine government wants to bring in from the US?

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