Written by Jacob Jaffa |
The National Health Service is to Britain a little bit like a dearly beloved relative, perhaps a grandparent, coming to the end of their life. It gets sicker and sicker despite all the massive doses of ‘treatment’ (taxpayer money) we throw at it and we refuse to accept that the end is in fact near… until it happens.
Unfortunately, the simple fact is that there is no cure for what the NHS has got because its disease is its very nature: being a massive, universal, taxpayer-funded healthcare system. This is simply unsustainable and the only way we can save the health service we love – and we must save it after pumping so much money and time into it – is to change it.
I fully understand that the word “privatisation”, especially referring to the NHS, it is the detonator to any public figure’s political suicide vest. However, I am not a career politician (for which
I thank my lucky stars), and hopefully never will be, so can make the argument that needs to be made without worrying too much about my election strategy.
“… The word “privatisation”, especially referring to the NHS, it is the detonator to any public figure’s political suicide vest.”
Privatising the NHS is the only way to save it because proper free market competition, as with every good or service, drives prices down, encourages innovation and qualitative improvement and widens availability.
The controversy over this subject is driven largely by two factors. The first, and more basic, is the horror stories we hear from America of people left in spiralling debt because they could not get health insurance. Yet we conveniently forget that the US healthcare market is not anywhere near as free as it should be, for example insurance companies not being able to sell across state lines often creates near monopolies of a couple of large insurers in each state, as well as being one of the highest quality markets in the world, particularly in the field of medical research.
“… We conveniently forget that the US healthcare market is not anywhere near as free as it should be…”
Furthermore, attempts to increase the universality of American healthcare, namely Obamacare, actually drove prices up, with premiums nearly doubling between 2013 and 2017, by denying insurers the ability to refuse to issue coverage based on risk (which is what insurers are supposed to do). That is not a case of increasing cost to the taxpayer like it is here, that’s a price hike for individuals trying to find decent coverage. Combined with its dodgy constitutional status I think one could say Mr. Obama’s little project has not exactly solved the healthcare crisis.
The second factor that drives the hysteria against private healthcare is the mischaracterisation of healthcare as a right and not as a good/service. There is absolutely no legal right to healthcare in international law, only in individual nations, and nor should there be because it is a quantifiable, marketable good/service. Simply declaring healthcare to be a right does not make it readily available in the same way that declaring a right to privacy instantly protects one’s privacy.
“The second factor that drives the hysteria against private healthcare is the mischaracterisation of healthcare as a right and not as a good/service.”
If you don’t believe me look at South Africa which, despite having a constitutional right to healthcare, has one of the worst healthcare systems in the developed world. The only established right relevant to healthcare is the right to life, which only entitles you to basic life-saving care. Instead we should see healthcare as what it is: a good/service with finite availability and a market value which should be traded competitively within a free market in order to keep demand meeting supply and maintain affordable costs.
This returns us to the original point that the NHS is failing, costs are spiralling out of control and, because of the fallacies surrounding taxpayer funded healthcare, which is practically deified in this country, successive governments both red and blue cover their eyes and throw ream after ream of other people’s money at it to keep it staggering along, prolonging the inevitable.
“…Successive governments both red and blue cover their eyes and throw ream after ream of other people’s money at it to keep it staggering along, prolonging the inevitable.”
But there it a better way. If you look at some of the top national healthcare system, places like Costa Rica and Malaysia, or even emerging medical tourism destinations like Israel, they all have some form of mixed system which emphasise private, competitive insurance. In all three of these nations there exists a state funded system which provides only basic healthcare, mainly involving emergency and life saving treatment, which is, more often than not, paid for by a separate monthly tax rather than being wrapped in the murky depths of a national insurance equivalent.
Beyond this all other care comes on private insurance which is traded within a free market with very few restrictions, allowing insurers to be competitive and keep prices low, with average costs being at least half in Costa Rica than they are in the US, if not less. The best thing is that there are absolutely no restrictions in countries like this on mixing public and private health insurance because it’s what is intended.
To me it seems utterly obvious that the NHS is far from efficient, and mixed systems like the one’s in Costa Rica, Malaysia and Israel are better mechanisms to ensure high quality, affordable healthcare for a population. However, instead of modernising our NHS we cling desperately to its outdated, unsustainable model for nothing more than ideological, political reasons. It is time to put the politics aside and put the public first. We have to save our health service and to do that we have to let what we know as the NHS die with dignity.