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Public? Private? Either? Both?

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:50am
A concluding chapter about health issues in the UK. Arriving at Heathrow Airport on Sunday, I saw the following advert whilst waiting in the immigration queue:

Private health? World Class Care.

It was a billboard for HCA Hospitals, a private company offering a variety of specialties side-by-side with the public National Health Service. The poster noted in small letters at the bottom, "GP referral may be required."

Not understanding the relationship of this parallel private system to the public system, I was further enlightened by this story by Sarah Lyall in the New York Times, which was sent by a friend upon my return. Here's a teaser quote:

Created 60 years ago as a cornerstone of the British welfare state, the National Health Service is devoted to the principle of free medical care for everyone. But recently it has been wrestling with a problem its founders never anticipated: how to handle patients with complex illnesses who want to pay for parts of their treatment while receiving the rest free from the health service.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, there seems to be a convergence between the health care systems in Europe and that in the United States:

I predict . . . that the systems will start to look more and more alike over time. Pressure in the US for a more nationally-determined approach. Pressure in Europe for more of a private market approach. It shouldn't surprise us to see this convergence. After all, the countries are dealing with the same organisms, both biologically and politically.
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