Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Price (Waterhouse) is Right…

With the presidential election cycle already heating up, health care is again on the front burner, simmering in a handful of states that have passed “universal” care plans, and half-baked proposals popping up in DC.
[ed: We apologize for the preceding metaphor overdose. We’ll get serious now]
Of course our system isn’t perfect, but before we ditch it we should pay close attention to what other countries are experiencing. Once again, it’s critical to draw the distinction between health care and health insurance.
According to a new study released by Price Waterhouse Coopers (an international data services firm), just because a government provides (and/or pays for) health care, doesn’t mean that health care costs are any better managed. For example, even countries like France and Ireland (about which one of our regular commenters keeps asking us) are searching for solutions to their own health care crises.
By all accounts, commercial insurance carriers pay about 40% of health care costs here in the US. That’s twice what France’s carriers fork over, and almost 8 times the burden of English carriers. Yet, those same countries are stuck with a similar problem: spiraling health care costs. Even countries like Switzerland, Ireland and even Australia (all of which have much lower levels of private health care spending) face increasing costs, and increasing liabilities.
And of course, with all the press on medical tourism, the PWC study found, perhaps surprisingly, that the rest of the world turns to us for insights, experience, and ideas. According to PWC’s Paul Veronneau, “(t)here are a number of countries that are continually coming to the U.S.to understand how we do it.”
One interesting note which I found particularly relevant: the importance of wellness programs in addressing increasing costs was found to be more amenable to private, rather than public, funding. You don’t say.
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