the high cost of high-quality healthcare

The UK is unusual in that nearly all its spending on heathcare is done by government, through the National Health Service (NHS). It is unusual also in that its government spending (7.7% of GDP) and total spending (9.7% of GDP) on healthcare is near the bottom of the G7 high-income countries. Only Italy ranks lower.

FT columnist Martin Wolf thus concludes that British healthcare is surprisingly efficient. At the same time, UK citizens are ageing and are demanding more and better healthcare.

[T]here is no reason to suppose far better healthcare could be provided to all without also spending more. ….

[If government refuses to spend more,] [p]rivate insurers would need to fill the growing gaps. But they would fail to cover many people, either because of poverty or prior medical conditions. This would move Britain into the US system — a regressive, immoral and grossly expensive option.

An alternative might be a shift into compulsory social insurance, as in Germany. But this is a tax by another name. …. Going through the complexities of re-badging a tax-funded system into one that is also in effect a tax-funded system is altogether senseless. ….

The conclusion is quite simple: the best way for the UK to meet the pressure is to raise taxes in the most efficient possible manner.

Martin Wolf, “The expensive truth about high-quality healthcare“, Financial Times, 23 February 2018 (gated paywall).

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