Friday, July 13, 2007
Johnny Munkhammar: America delivers better health care than Europe
...Consequently, presidential candidates from both political parties have focused on the U.S. health care system, promising to bring health coverage to the uninsured. Most proposals involve more government, with new systems that are both paid for and run by the state.
But in Europe, we’ve already been down that road. So a word of caution is in order.
In my home of Sweden, for instance, patients in need of heart surgery often wait as long as 25 weeks, and the average wait for hip replacement is more than a year. Some patients have even been sent to veterinarians for treatment, and many Swedes now go to neighboring countries for dental care, despite having paid taxes for “free” dental coverage....
...In Britain, more than 1 million citizens who need medical care are currently waiting for hospital admission, and every year, the National Health Service cancels as many as 100,000 operations because of shortages.
Only about half of all British adults are registered with public dentists, as dental work is notoriously inadequate and roughshod. The reason? The U.K.’s dentists are paid on a per-patient basis, so their incentive is not to offer the best treatment but to treat as many patients as possible. Surgeries, complicated procedures and other time-consuming treatments are a waste of precious billing time, from the economic viewpoint of the dentist.
Meanwhile across Europe, efficiency in health care has plummeted. Whereas private-sector competitors have an incentive to adapt new technologies and reorganize, state-sponsored monopolies have no profit motive driving them to seek greater efficiency. So the taxpayers get less and less for their money.
In 1975, for instance, most Swedish doctors averaged nine consultations per day. Today, that number has plummeted to four. Much of this drop is the result of burdensome administrative tasks, as doctors now devote 80 percent of their time to paperwork. Needless to say, this greatly impacts the availability of care.
Doctors and health care staff across Europe also receive far less in pay than U.S. medical staff, as salaries are paid by the state and therefore used as a tool to cut costs. As a result, the United States attracts the world’s most competent doctors.
Further, European governments ration drugs to cut costs. Between 1998 and 2002, for instance, 85 new drugs were introduced in the U.S. market. Meanwhile, there were only 44 new drug launches in Europe.
In other words, European governments haven’t figured out a way to deliver health care for less money — they’ve simply figured out a way to ration care....