In sickness...


Is universal health care firmly back on the agenda? Ezra Klein makes the case in the LA Times:

The U.S. healthcare system cannot, in its current form, go on forever, or even for very much longer — employers can't afford it, individuals can't handle it and the country's conscience won't countenance it. And change may come sooner than most think. Across the country there are unmistakable signs that the gridlock and confusion sustaining our sadly outdated system are coming to an end and that real reform may finally emerge, possibly even starting in California...

As for the British model, all I can say is that I've had very mixed experiences, as have most of my friends and acquaintances. Yet I ought to stress that my eldest son, who has a heart condition, has always received excellent care from the NHS.

For a little more perspective, I recommend this 2005 piece by the Fox News journalist David Asman. His wife suffered a stroke during a trip to London, and was treated at London's Queen's Square before being taken back to the US. As he followed her progress, Asman had a chance to consider the strenghs and weaknesses of both systems:

When I received the bill for my wife's one-month stay at Queen's Square, I thought there was a mistake. The bill included all doctors' costs, two MRI scans, more than a dozen physical therapy sessions, numerous blood and pathology tests, and of course room and board in the hospital for a month. And perhaps most important, it included the loving care of the finest nurses we'd encountered anywhere. The total cost: $25,752. That ain't chump change. But to put this in context, the cost of just 10 physical therapy sessions at New York's Cornell University Hospital came to $27,000--greater than the entire bill from British Health Service!

There is something seriously out of whack about 10 therapy sessions that cost more than a month's worth of hospital bills in England. Still, while costs in U.S. hospitals might well have become exorbitant because of too few incentives to keep costs down, the British system has simply lost sight of costs and incentives altogether.