In the debate over health care "reform," liberals point to models in England, Canada and other socialist countries as systems we should emulate, despite their abject failures and rationing. The next time a liberal tells you the Euros do it better, agree. Then add, "if you mean Switzerland." Switzerland?
Yes. It just so happens Switzerland has, perhaps, the best consumer driven approach to the health care marketplace. There are spots of consumer driven health care percolating here, such as "doc-in-box" services and clinics at chains such as Wal-Mart and CVS, which drive down prices for non-emergency care. But Switzerland is where it's at, according to Regina Herzlinger, the Nancy R. McPherson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, no less, and author of Who Killed Health Care? (and this Washington Post piece).
She was the featured speaker today at the Tuesday Morning Group monthly meeting in Richmond. Here's how it works there, in a nutshell:
There is a government mandate: All citizens must buy health care coverage, because neither the government nor employers provide any! The result is massive competition and more than 80 insurance companies in that small nation. (What is the U.S. down to? Six, not including the government?) Even nuns in the mountains have formed insurance companies.
The policies have high deductibles so people are not tempted to use their insurance when you have an earache. People are forced to more cost effectively spend on their health care. This creates competition for services, just like any other trade, such as computers, phones, restaurants or clothes: Health care providers line up to provide the best service possible, or a niche service that's needed, at the best cost possible to win customers. Because customers pay out of their own pocket, there's no haggling by insurance companies and government to determine a price in which doctors must settle for their service. Instead, doctors set their own prices and if patients don't like it, they go to someone else. Insurance is used for what it is really intended — serious illness or injury.
The result is health care costs are 5 percent lower in Switzerland than here and takes up only 11 percent of GDP, while it accounts for 17 percent here. Not only that, insurance companies rebate you half your money if you stay healthy. They also create reinsurance pools among themselves to minimize risk.
But if the Obama administration doesn't want to look to the one European country that does it right — better, in fact than we do it now — maybe he'll stop apologizing for America long enough to look to a country we supposedly had to apologize to. Dr. Herzlinger pointed to an experiment in South Africa, of all places, where an insurance company paid clients to stay healthy. It motivated them to eat right, live a better lifestyle and exercise. The result is that the percentage of certain illnesses are lower in the RSA than in the USA.
One last observation by Dr. Herzlinger: If you think outsourcing of certain jobs is bad now, wait until socialized medicine is approved by Congress and the Obama administration. She predicts jobs and services will get exported to India, Singapore, Brazil, Costa Rica and Argentina.