Health Care Here and There12 Jan 2007
The Economist blog Free Exchange on perceptions of health care:
Talking to Europeans (particularly non-Brits) about things like health care and welfare programmes is a treat. Most of the Europeans I meet seem to believe that huge numbers of Americans get no health care at all, while the rich few wallow in luxury. In fact, the biggest problems uninsured Americans face are not doctors refusing to treat them, but the fact that they use the incredibly inconvenient emergency room for most of their care, and that a really bad illness could force them into bankruptcy....
Americans on the other hand, the overwhelming majority of whom are insured, seem to believe that millions of Europeans die each year from lack of treatment. The reality is much less grim; a fair number of Europeans go without hip replacements and other quality of life treatments, and some do die on waiting lists, but many of those people would have died anyway, because they have nasty diseases with life expectancies measured in months. America caters, expensively, to their desire to live a few extra weeks or months; Europe does not.
The reality lies somewhere in between the extremes, as for most things. Germany seems to least avoid the worth of both worlds. Coverage is pretty universal, and waiting lists are rare. But health care reform has been discussed for decades. Today the coalition agreed for a third time on a compromise reform package, without ever having presented the first two to the Bundestag. It saves times and paper, I guess, when you shoot down your own proposals before they are formally proposed. My current experience with the health care system is a reminder of the different levels of care for public and privately insured (the public patients get to sign all sorts of waivers and pay cash for treatments that aren't covered, the private patients are waved on through).
I guess like Alwin always said, with health care you have 3 options. Cheap, fast, or good. Pick any two.