NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 11, 2009

In Great Britain, the life of a dog is a whole lot better than that of a human's, says Theodore Dalrymple, also known as Anthony Daniels, a British physician.

As a British dog, you get to choose your veterinarian.  There are no waiting lists, no operations postponed because something more important has come up and no appalling stories of dogs being made to wait for years because other dogs come first.  No feeling that one more patient will bring the whole system to the point of collapse.

Nevertheless, there is one drawback to the superior care British dogs: they have to pay for it, there and then.  By contrast, British humans receive health care that is free at the point of delivery.

The latter is the fear that haunts Americans.  That is the ideological driving force of health care reform in America, says Dalrymple:

  • The United States spends a greater proportion of its gross domestic product on health care than any other advanced nation, yet the results, as measured by the health of the population overall, are mediocre.
  • Even within the United States, there is no correlation between the amount spent on health care per capita and the actual health of the population upon which it is spent.
  • The explanation usually given for this is that physicians have perverse incentives: they are paid by service or procedure rather than by results.

Though reform is needed, there is one kind that American should avoid: one that is imposed uniformly upon the whole country, with a vast central bureaucracy, says Dalrymple.

No nation in the world is more fortunate than America in its suitability for testing various possible solutions.  The federal government should concern itself very little in health care arrangements, and leave it almost entirely to the states, concludes Dalrymple.

Source: Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels), "Man vs. Mutt," Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2009.

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