Friday, August 11, 2006

Privatised health is soooo much better?

OK, some of those who know me believe I'm a old raving communist at heart.

Well, I'm not.

I just believe that market economics is just a tool and not a purpose and that having a vision for your society is more likely to get you somewhere than not.

This of course doesn't mean where you get to is necessarily a good thing.

The cathedral has its uses. So does the bazaar. Neither is inherently benign or malign.

I don't believe that everything should be treated as excluded good to be traded, even if you could. There are in my view some "rights" which are common to all.

The arguments don't normally centre around the obvious, but where one right collides with another e.g. "Freedom to choose where I spend my money" vs "Basic healthcare for all".

Well I'm in the "basic healthcare for all provided through taxation" camp as opposed to the "Freedom to to choose your own healthcare, and you pay for it".


Well, I fundamentally believe that access to healthcare should be based on medical need rather than financial position.

I do agree with some forms of independant "top up" services, which should not depend or drain resources upon the state system. However, paying for these does not excuse the obligation to funding the state system - this is an addition not a replacement for.

I also believe that the UK provides a remarkable healthcare system. Though there are lots of individual examples of horror stories but overall it's seems damn good. My one concern with it is the relentless drive to introduce market economics into a medical need based common good - this just seems like dogma over commonsense.

So I went looking for some comparative figures. OECD, GDP and other stats (I picked a series of years around 2002 where they all matched up) to compare our NHS against a bastion of privated health - the U.S.

This is what I found (though this was just a quick view, so take it with a pinch of salt - I wasn't going to spend my timing digging the details. You can if you wish - I'd be glad for some better data).

OECD Stats for worldwide ranking for provision and performance of healthcare.

UK: 18th
US: 37th

GDP spend on Healthcare.

UK 7.6% < $2K per head.
US 14.6% > $5K per head.

Potential years of life years lost by ICD categories through Healthcare.

women lose 2,947 per 100,000
men lose 4,815 per 100,000

women lose 3,836 years of life per 100,000
men lose 6,648 per 100,000.

Number of people excluded from Healthcare.

UK : N/A
US : 43 million +

So basically, on average.

US spends greater than $5K per head to provide the 37th best system in the world, with a greater potential years lost through healthcare than the UK and over 43 million with no healthcare.

Whilst UK spends less $2K per head to provide the 18th best system in the world with better life expectancy through healthcare over the US and everyone covered.

I was against privatised healthcare beforehand, a quick scan of the figures means I'm dead set against in now.

Of course I'm not saying that US healthcare is not better than UK, I'm sure it can be if you can afford it.

However, not everyone in the UK is fabulously rich.

That's the things about market economics, in order to work some people have to be excluded.