European commentators on US healthcare are often misguided in their description of the American system as a ‘free market’ model – when that system involves significant levels of government regulation and funding. Equally, American commentators are often misguided in their accounts of ‘socialist’ healthcare in Europe. Europe contains a diversity of healthcare systems. Some, such as Switzerland are based predominantly on private insurance while others such as Germany and France combine elements of public and private funding and supply. The one European healthcare system that might genuinely be described as socialist is that of the United Kingdom. In the UK system of compulsory ‘free’ health provision, competition and the price system have been almost entirely eliminated from the patient-provider relationship, and even co-payment schemes which allow citizens to ‘top-up’ public funding with their own savings of the sort that are widespread in continental Europe, are prohibited.
Both European and American citizens have got much to fear from any move away from their current ‘mixed’ systems to anything approaching the UK model. The following extract comes from a report by an independent ombudsman charged with examining the quality of care for the elderly under the UK’s ‘National Health Service’. Having catalogued an appalling number of cases where patients were regularly starved of food and pain-killers, she concludes in the following vein:
“The findings of my investigations reveal an attitude- both personal and institutional-which fails to recognise the humanity and individuality of the people concerned and to respond to them with sensitivity, compassion and professionalism.
The reasonable expectation that an older person or their family may have of dignified, pain-free end of life care in clean surroundings in hospital is not being fulfilled. Instead, these accounts present a picture of NHS provision that is failing to meet even the most basic standards of care.”
This parlous state of affairs, it should be noted, follows a ten year period which has seen real expenditure on health care in the UK more than double. Where, one might ask, will Michael Moore choose to spend his retirement?