National Health Care Systems

The Cato Institute has released Michael Tanner’s March 18 Policy Analysis titled, “The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World.” The summary states:

…[N]early all health care systems worldwide are wrestling with problems of rising costs and lack of access to care. There is no single international model for national health care, of course. Countries vary dramatically in the degree of central control, regulation, and cost sharing they impose, and in the role of private insurance. Still, overall trends from national health care systems around the world suggest the following:

* Health insurance does not mean universal access to health care. In practice, many countries promise universal coverage but ration care or have long waiting lists for treatment.

* Rising health care costs are not a uniquely American phenomenon. Although other countries spend considerably less than the United States on health care, both as a percentage of GDP and per capita, costs are rising almost everywhere, leading to budget deficits, tax increases, and benefit reductions.

* In countries weighted heavily toward government control, people are most likely to face waiting lists, rationing, restrictions on physician choice, and other obstacles to care.

* Countries with more effective national health care systems are successful to the degree that they incorporate market mechanisms such as competition, cost sharing, market prices, and consumer choice, and eschew centralized government control. …

After Tanner discusses meaningful and bogus ways to compare health care across nations, he takes a detailed look at specific countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Greece, Netherlands, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, and Canada. While I have not yet read the entire report, it promises to provide crucial information for Americans trying to grapple with existing problems with U.S. health care.