Remember the fuss Barack Obama generated when he first raised the prospect of creating a national healthcare system in the US? Remember how, as the healthcare bill was debated, American eyes looked towards Europe and recoiled in horror and disgust at the massive and overwhelming burden Britain faces with its National Health Service? At the prospect of having their standards of service reduced to such a level?
It may surprise you, then, to learn that the US Government now spends more on provision of healthcare than does Britain’s. That’s right, the idea that by contrast with the UK, America’s healthcare system is largely reliant on private provision and payment is simply incorrect.
The costs of running various US health programmes – Medicare and Medicaid most significantly – is, at 7.4pc of gross domestic product, greater than the 7.2pc of GDP the UK Government spends on the NHS. By my reckoning, the US must just have overtaken Britain this year on this basis (the latest figures date from 2008), having risen worryingly fast in recent years.
So the obvious question is: is this disproportionate amount of healthcare spending justified? Is it backed up by results? Here, the evidence is even more disturbing, for based on two key measures of healthcare effectiveness – infant mortality and life expectancy, the US actually has worse outcomes than Britain.
Quite how the US manages to spend more public money than Britain, to spend more than the same amount on top of that in private cash, and still to have worse healthcare outcomes than the UK is a question best left to others. But the evidence on this is quite stark.
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