NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Patients Are Dissatisfied All Over The World

February 1, 2000

A survey sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health measured public opinion toward health care in five English-speaking countries. It found people in all five countries had roughly the same level of discontent with their system.

The 1998 Louis Harris and Associates survey covered the United States, which relies largely on employer-sponsored health care; Canada, with a single-payer government-run system; the United Kingdom, with a truly socialized system; and Australia and New Zealand, with hybrids of the above.

A majority in all five countries said their health care system needs to be changed:

  • In each of three countries -- the United States, Canada and Australia -- 79 percent of the population said their system needs either "fundamental change" or to be "completely rebuilt."
  • The same sentiment was expressed by 89 percent of New Zealanders and by 72 percent in the United Kingdom.

People who needed to see a specialist during the year were asked whether they had difficulty doing so. In Canada, 16 percent said it was "extremely or very difficult" and another 30 percent reported it was "somewhat difficult"; in the United States 15 percent and 24 percent; in Australia 14 percent and 21 percent; in New Zealand 17 percent and 18 percent; and in the United Kingdom 10 percent and 19 percent.

Nine to 11 percent of people in all five countries who were hospitalized said their "overall hospital experience" was "poor."

Despite superficial differences, in all five countries' health care system, somebody other than the patient is paying the bill. And all try to stretch their health care funds by controlling the supply of services -- limiting the number of providers, rationing the quantity of services allowed, creating waiting lists of patients or denying care outright.

Source: Greg Scandlen (Cato Institute), "Patient Dissatisfaction," Brief Analysis No. 311, January 31, 2000, National Center for Policy Analysis.

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