Is my healthcare system better than your healthcare system?

Not too long ago, musicman posted the question – Where is Jeremy Hunt and what is he doing? One can only hope, as Michael Portilo claimed, that Jeremy is a ‘doer’ not a thinker, and that he is pushing the reforms through quietly in the background. Only time will tell what he has been up to and if the ‘huge task’ that was handed to him is steam-rolling ahead to become the greatest NHS change in history.

On the other side of the ‘pond’, bigger political reforms are taking place. On the healthcare front, many hope that Barack Obama’s new term in office will bring about better healthcare accessibility to a wider population. ‘Obamacare’ or the Health Care for America plan aims to change the current healthcare system that is mostly controlled by private insurers, to extending healthcare access to all Americans. As of 2010, 16% of the US population (49.9 million people) were without health insurance, and they would simply go without medical treatment, unless a charity or uncompensated care can pay for it. To put it into UK context, this is proportionately equivalent to the population of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales not having access to healthcare. At the moment, only 28% of Americans have access to healthcare under government programmes, this generally includes the elderly, disabled, children, veterans, and those deemed below an income threshold. And there are only a handful of American states that have adopted the universal healthcare system (with the state of Vermont being the only one that has established a UK-like single-payer system), however the hope is that the new healthcare reform will ensure better access to healthcare for all, whether insured or not.

It is interesting to see the different healthcare systems of the UK and US, and comparing them to what I have back home in Malaysia. Just as the UK, Malaysia adopts a two-tier public-private healthcare system; all citizens have access to public healthcare, while private healthcare co-exists and is available to those who can afford it. Where we differ is the gap between the two: private healthcare in Malaysia offers fast and higher quality of care with the aid of more advanced tools, while public services face a significant shortage of facilities and expertise. I am looking forward to see the transition of the American healthcare system, and perhaps this could provide some key learnings for the Malaysian system.

We are witnessing a major change in the US, and the UK is still in the midst of it. Perhaps we should all look at France, the country with the best performing healthcare system in the world, as rated by the World Health Organization, and learn a thing or two from them. Factors that put them at the number one spot are: relatively low expenditure, high patient success rates and low mortality rates, and high consumer satisfaction.

It would be interesting to see in the coming years how the healthcare reform in the US unfolds, and if the proven universal healthcare system will improve the wellbeing of the American population, or financially limit the government. In the UK, whatever you think of Mr Hunt and the NHS reforms, we should consider ourselves fortunate to be able to benefit from high quality healthcare that is available to everyone. After all if the most powerful country in the world is looking at us with a view to implementing a similar system – we can’t be doing too badly.

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Want to find out more? Please click on the hyperlinks throughout the blog and the suggested reading below:

Healthcare System in France – Healthcare in France, Wikipedia

Healthcare System in Malaysia – Healthcare in Malaysia, Wikipedia

Healthcare system in the United Kingdom – Healthcare in the UK, Wikipedia

Healthcare system in the United States – Healthcare in the US, Wikipedia

Healthcare for America – Information on President Obama’s healthcare reforms plan

World Health Organization: The world health report 2000 – A report on health system worldwide by WHO

2 Comments

| NW1er

Really good post and one that aligns with a very important philosophical question: in a utilitarian healthcare framework (as per NHS), how do decision makers reach distributive decisions (i.e. access) when there is a lack of comparable and robust data (i.e. health economic modelling for mass and rare diseases). This is a question I plan to explore further. Watch this space.


| PR Mum

People in the UK take the NHS for granted. Despite all of the changes afoot, we are very lucky to have free, high quality healthcare available to all.


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