The market for health presents a number of market failures and equity issues which advocate a role for government in its provision. What role this is however, how precisely the government should attempt to tackle these problems is debatable. There exist a spectrum of approaches to both the financing and the provision of healthcare. Britain - along with Ireland, much of Scandinavia, Spain, Greece and Portugal - could be said to be as public as it gets. It's approach is that of public provision, allocation and finance through the tax system, with a small private sector operating alongside it. At the other (private) extreme, Turkey has no dominant source of financing its health care system and has in place a mix of public and private providers. In-between, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand each operate a mixed system of health care, financing it publicly (either through taxation or social insurance) but providing for it privately.
[...] However, although publicly provided, the British system does allow people to specify and change their doctor and hospital. Due to the information imperfections it is debatable how useful or possible any greater degree of consumer choice would be. On clinical issues neither system allows choice due to the imperfection in information. A claim also levied is that people living in remote areas may not have much in the way of choice. But this is a problem which all health care systems face so Britain can learn little here. [...]
[...] Privately provided systems overcome this barrier since patients can choose the doctor and hospital they go to and so (assuming there is not some kind of medical cartel operating) it is in doctors financial interest to provide as good a service as is possible in order that they receive business. When we further consider that UK doctors are employed by the government it could be argued that they in contrast often have an incentive to under subscribe, to be sparing about the treatment they authorize in order to keep government costs down. [...]
[...] Although Britain can be said to contain costs therefore in the sense that it spends less on health care than other countries, it may not however be minimizing costs however. It could be the case that the public are twice”; not only are they getting comparatively less spent on health overall, the money that is allocated to health care is not being spent efficiently. Value for money is the issue here, not health expenditure in general. There are reasons for believing the British system does provide this. [...]
[...] In what ways therefore can the NHS system of public production and finance be said to tackle these information deficiencies in the market for health care unsuccessfully? The problems of consumers lack of knowledge of healthcare and its prices are not solved in the sense that consumers are given this information in a more understandable and accessible way. They still do not know what treatment they should acquire for a particular ailment or how much a particular treatment ought to cost. [...]
[...] If we are able to isolate health cares role in this area of health in each of the respective countries and conclude that it is a significant one then Britain may be able to learn from the approach to health care of other countries. This is still dependant however on whether adapting Britain's health care system with reference to other countries comes at a trade off; greater success in one area of health may come at the cost of less success in another. [...]
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