The American health care system is broken and needs reform. On that point most people across the spectrum agree. But what kind of reform? The president and the usual gaggle of left-wing interest groups want to nationalize the system. The alternative is to return control over health care to patients.
Indeed, that’s what most of the rest of the world is doing, including the socialist models so beloved on the left. Writes my Cato Institute colleague Michael Tanner:
Finally, the broad and growing trend in countries with national health care systems is to move away from centralized government control and to introduce more market-oriented features. As Richard Saltman and Josep Figueras of the World Health Organization explain, “The presumption of public primacy is being reassessed.” The growth of the government share of health care spending in European countries, which had increased steadily from the end of World War II until the mid-1980s, has stopped, and in many countries, the private share has begun to increase, in some cases substantially.
Other countries are loosening government controls and injecting market mechanisms, particularly cost-sharing by patients, market pricing of goods and services, and increased competition among insurers and providers. Pat Cox, former president of the European Parliament, said in a report to the European Commission, “[W]e should start to explore the power of the market as a way of achieving much better value for money.”
There is even evidence of a growing shift from public to private provision of health care. If many of the proposals in Congress would push us toward more of a European-style system, the trend in Europe is toward a system that looks more like the U.S.
If there is a lesson that U.S. policymakers can take from national health care systems around the world, it is not to follow the road to government-run national health care, but to increase consumer incentives and control. The U.S. can increase coverage and access to care, improve quality and control costs without importing the problems of national health care.
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